Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: June 15, 2020

Jun 15, 2020

Activity is a bit slow across the bay, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about. The Nushagak sonar crew started counting June 6, while the east side is still waiting for the run to pick up as counting towers and test fisheries start up this week.

A few people gathered for the Blessing of the Fleet on Kanakanak Beach. Sunday, June 14, 2020.
Credit Tyler Thompson/KDLG

 


Hello Bristol Bay, and welcome to the Fish Report!

On our news team this summer we’ve got the west side covered by Kendra Kapotak and Tyler Thompson, and Sage Smiley is back covering the east side. 

Catch this show at 6 p.m. weekdays with a replay 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. We’ll bring you the numbers at 1:30 p.m. on the weekends.

This week the report will be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We’ll report the numbers on the weekend. Daily shows start next week. We’ll also be bringing you news in the mornings and at noon every weekday. 

 

We want to know what you think and what’s happening where you’re at. If you’d like to get in touch or give some perspective, give us a call 842-5281 or send an email to fish@kdlg.org.

If you’d like to get a message out to the fleet on this show, perhaps to say hi from back home or wish them luck, send your messages to the fleet to fish@kdlg.org.

Check out the daily numbers here

Nushagak

The unapportioned count through June 14 is 10,912 fish. There were 1,890 fish counted yesterday. According to biologist Tim Sands, subsistence fishing has been very slow on the Dillingham beaches. Sands said that because the sonar crew has caught very few kings, any apportionment information will likely show the run is well behind the expected number. Windy weather forecasted for tomorrow may help boost the run.

 Chignik Weir

At the Chignik River, 1,295 escaped past the weir on June 14. The escapement so far is at 7,269. That is just above the 2018 numbers at this date, but below last year’s count. In 2017, escapement at this date was over 100,000 sockeye.

 Area M

Over in Area M, as of June 13 a total of 814 chinook were harvested at the South Peninsula -- the South Unimak and Shumagin Islands. The sockeye harvest is at 48,108, silvers are at 224, the pink harvest is at 537,721, and chum are at 95,945. 

The South Alaska Peninsula commercial salmon fishery opened for set gillnet, drift gillnet, and purse seine gear at 6:00 a.m. Monday, June 15 and closes at 10:00 p.m. Thursday, June 18.

 

Commercial salmon fishing in the Dolgoi Island area is currently closed and will remain closed until further notice.

 

Port Moller

The first numbers are in for the daily catch index at the Port Moller Test Fishery. On June 14, the research vessel Ocean Cat caught 8 fish in the 4 ½ inch mesh, and 5 fish in the 5 1/8. Station 14 had the largest index at 23. But so far this season, station 10 has had the highest overall counts, with an index of 60 both Friday and Saturday.

The Ocean Cat crew were able to fish stations 4-16 (7 stations). In an email update, technician Michael Link said it will start at station 16 and work south today.  If there are enough fish today, the team will try to come ashore to ship the samples. Otherwise, they will stay offshore of Port Moller to continue test fishing.

According to Link, the catches have been light and almost all offshore of the historically fished stations. He says weather conditions have been calm, and visibility into the water is high.

A second research vessel is currently running along the South Peninsula. It left Saturday night from lower Cook Inlet after a two-day mobilization. Incoming weather may complicate its arrival and fishing at the test fishery.

 You can sign up to get test fishery updates sent directly to your email, and this season, you can also get updates via text message this year to their mobile, InReach, or satellite phone! Text PMTF to 833-612-1053. For email updates, shoot a message to michael@bbsri.org with the subject heading “Please add me to the PMTF email list.”  

The commercial fishery is just getting underway. This year’s sockeye forecast is above average at almost 49 million fish. Heading into the summer, biologists are concerned about another species -- kings. Tim Sands is the Area Management Biologist for the west side of the bay, and he says it's still too early to tell how the run will turn out, but subsistence fishing hasn’t picked up yet. 

“Not a lot of people are catching kings in subsistence nets, and that’s very concerning," he said. "We don’t think once we do apportion our counts up at the sonar camp that we’ll have many kings that have gone by. Now we haven't had any real wind to move kings around. So I’m hoping that the forecast comes through and it blows really hard tomorrow, and hopefully that’ll push some kings through the district.”

 

In 2019, the Nushagak River did not meet the lower goal range of 55,000 -- it totalled out at about 40,000 kings, about half of the inriver goal of 95,000. Fish and Game says it will manage the Nushagak District more conservatively this season in order to reach the escapement goal for kings.

In news on land, visits to the Fish and Game office in Dillingham may be longer than expected this year. Only two people at a time are allowed into the building. Sands is encouraging all people seeking assistance to check online for help before coming to the office. 

 

“We’ve got a pretty good response. People are getting their subsistence permits by email. You can't get them online, but you can get them by email, and email karen.brito@alaska.gov. She’ll send you the form, you can fill it out. Keep it all on your phone, you never have to print it out. So that’s really helpful I think for people," Sands said.

Subsistence fishing in the Igushik Section of the Nushagak District closed at 4:00 a.m. this morning. The remainder of the commercial fishing district and Dillingham beaches remain open to subsistence, and subsistence is also open during commercial fishing openings.

Commercial fishing is open to set netters in the Igushik Section only 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, and from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, June 17.

Permit holders have to fill out District Registration Cards and file them with Fish and Game before they begin commercial fishing.

Informational updates and announcements are available by calling our recorded message line at 842-5226.

Three seafood workers test positive for COVID-19 in Bristol Bay/Lake and Peninsula boroughs

The comings and goings of fishermen and boats in the Bristol Bay Borough will be severely restricted this summer to mitigate the possible spread of COVID-19. KDLG’s Sage Smiley read through some of the processors’ plans to break down how this season will look.

 

The Dillingham boat harbor is not doing business as usual this summer, either. Around 500 boats come in and out of the harbor throughout the fishing season for repairs or to take breaks between fishing openers.

 

But a new set of safety rules changes that. They’re aimed at reducing contact between people in an effort to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19. Fishermen can’t stay in the harbor or use the floats, docks or bulkheads for more than a couple hours at a time, and they have to ask for permission from the harbor master to use the facilities. If someone needs to extend their stay for repair work, they have to bring their boat out of the water and move it to the boat yard or another work area.

 

The Coast Guard is back in Bristol Bay to perform dockside examinations for the fishing fleet. But it’s taking extra precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dockside exams start today; here's what the Coast Guard is doing differently this season

Playing us out is the annual Blessing of the Fleet. It’s a bit different than the usual blessing due to COVID-19 concerns, but Mike Davis, Deedee Bennis, Gregg Marxmiller, Bernina Venua and Pastor Luisa Hanson hosted the intimate blessing on the shore of Kananak Beach.

If there is a name you didn’t hear, that number is 907-843-1275 or you can email dlgblessingoffleet@gmail.com.

Correction: The lower escapement goal for kings in the Nushagak River in 2018 was 55,000, not 95,000 as originally reported. 95,000 was the inriver escapement goal, and the range was 55,000 - 120,000.