Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: June 21, 2021

Jun 21, 2021

It's the first Fish Report of the season! Data from Port Moller show a big push of fish might arrive in the Nushagak this week. But managers will wait to open fishing there until 100,000 sockeye have escaped up the Wood to protect the district's king run. On the East Side, Egegik's out fishing, and people in Naknek are getting ready.

A tender in the Nushagak District. Sunday, June 20, 2021.
Credit Izzy Ross/KDLG

Welcome to another summer of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report!

The Fish Report is on air every weekday night at 6 p.m. with a replay at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. We’ll bring you the numbers at 6 p.m. on the weekends.

If you’d like to get in touch or give some perspective, give us a call 842-2200 or send an email to fish@kdlg.org.

To get a message out to the fleet on this show, email fish@kdlg.org.

Peter Pan Seafoods announces 2021 base price for Bristol Bay sockeye

Peter Pan Seafoods shook up the fishing world this weekend when it announced its base price for this summer’s Bristol Bay sockeye. It’s the first time in over two decades that a processor has told its fishermen what they would make before the season starts. KDLG’s Izzy Ross reports on the fleet’s enthusiastic reception, and the reasons behind the company’s unusual move. 

Catches from the Port Moller Test Fishery show a strong push of fish headed toward the Nushagak River. As we mentioned earlier in the program, Port Moller’s genetic test results show that an estimated 59% of the fish they sampled are heading toward Nushagak District. According to the most recent samples, 41% of those fish are heading to the Nushagak River. 

But until sockeye escapement up the Wood River passes 100,000, the district will remain closed, says Fish and Game Management Biologist Tim Sands.

That’s because of the Nushagak's extremely low king run.

“King numbers are very low, they are half of what we were last year and looking to be one of the worst king runs ever. It's terrible,” he said.

So far, the Wood River’s sockeye escapement is at 13,700. And Sands said escapement is still slow.

While the Nushagak River’s sockeye escapement is ahead of in-season goals, managers remain focused on the Wood River threshold.

Sands said waiting for Wood River escapement is just one of the measures managers may take to ensure that as many kings as possible escape upriver. Last week, he laid out other conservative management measures.

“Conservative management is: We’re gonna wait longer to have our first opening, we’re going to have shorter openings for both the drift fleet and the set net fleet. We’re going to try to make sure we have gear out of the water every tide, if we can skip tides we’ll skip tides,” he said.

Sands said the most effective way to protect kings during the sockeye fishery is to stick to the district’s management plan. 

Egegik is fishing, and Naknek is getting ready

Egegik is the only fleet to harvest fish so far -- yesterday’s catch was 53,000 fish for a total of 135,500.

Egegik fishermen will be out on the water Tuesday. Set netters there have an eight-hour opener from 8:15 a.m. - 4:15 p.m. Drifters have a six-hour opener, from 8:45 a.m. - 2:45 p.m.

To get some perspective from an East Side district that’s off to a slower start, we caught up with KDLG's Mackenzie Mancuso, who is in Naknek.

This summer, commercial vessels don't need to be registered with the DMV

There has been a lot of confusion around commercial boat registration this year.

Many fishermen are unsure whether or not they still need to register their vessels with the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has been a requirement for a few years; Senate Bill 92, passed in 2018, required the additional registration.

But a new state house bill has put that on pause. As KDLG’s Stephanie Maltarich reports, fishermen have one less thing to cross off the list.

Messages to the fleet

From Elaine: Wishing the awesome crew on the new f/v sugar mama a very successful season. Hope she lives up to her name

The Gunnison Valley wishes their sea legged friends, Frances and Jeremy, all the best on the open water! ANd a special hello from Lidl the weiner dog!

From the F/V Independence, Brent apologizes in advance.

The Numbers

Bristol Bay’s total run is at 282,000.

Nushagak District

The total sockeye escapement in the Nushagak District is at 96,728.

Nushagak River

The Nushagak River's escapement is now at 83,582 sockeye. The Chinook run is at 4,932.

On Friday, the Nushagak River sonar counted just over 5,504 sockeye, and 161 kings. On Saturday, the sonar counted 14,739 sockeye and 123 kings. Sunday brought around 4,830 sockeye and 587 Chinook.

Some big Port Moller catches and genetic samples indicated that the Nushagak District might see a push of fish in the next few days -- we get to those numbers later in the show. 

Area Management Biologist Tim Sands said that he knows everyone is excited about those numbers, but fishermen in the Nushagak District won’t be able to fish until 100,000 sockeye escape up the Wood River, due to poor king salmon escapement up the Nushagak. Right now, Wood River escapement is relatively slow.

Wood River

The current total for the Wood River is 13,740 fish. As of 6 a.m. today, 594 fish passed the tower. 

Looking back at the weekend numbers, on Friday, the tower crew counted 4,872 fish. On Saturday, 3,198 fish swam through, and on Sunday 1,704 more were counted.

Egegik

Egegik is the only fleet to harvest fish so far -- yesterday’s catch was 53,000 fish for a total of 135,500. 

Egegik’s total run is 49,392. 

On Thursday, when the tower began counting, 3,648 fish swam up the river. Friday brought in 7,644, and Saturday’s escapement was 8,694.

Sunday saw the district's largest push so far, as 29,406 fish swam past the tower.

Naknek

The Naknek River tower began counting on Saturday with an initial report of 234 fish. It counted 240 fish Sunday for a total of 474 fish.

Chignik Weir

Over at the Chignik Weir, the count for Saturday was 6,732 sockeye, bringing the season total to 51,996 reds. 

Chignik’s escapement this season is about the same as it was this time in 2019. And it’s higher than last year and in 2018, when Chignik’s early run was at around 14,000 fish.

Last year was the lowest sockeye run on record for the Chignik River.

Area M

Area M’s fleet caught 337,400 sockeye on Sunday. Its total sockeye harvest is 2.3 million. The Chinook harvest was 87 yesterday, for a season total of 1,700. The pink harvest was 315,600, for a total of 2.2 million.

Port Moller Test Fishery

The crews on the F/V Pandalus and the F/V Ocean Cat were able to fish stations 6-22 on Sunday. Fisheries scientist Scott Raborn said the catches suggest strong runs for the Nushagak District sometime between June 22-26 – that’s assuming a seven-day journey between the test fishery and the district.

Stations 2 and 4 caught no fish.

Station 6 caught 42 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 15 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 104.

Station 8 had a big day: It caught 79 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 64 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 252.

Station 10 caught 44 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 50 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 201. This follows a massive catch on Saturday of 222 fish in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 44 in the 5 1/8. The catch index that day was 389. 

Station 12 caught 38 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 2 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 86.

Station 14 caught three in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and seven in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 21.

Station 16 caught two in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and one in the 5 1/8. The catch index is eight.

Station 18 caught seven in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and nine in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 34.

Station 20 caught no fish in either mesh size.

Station 22 caught one in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and one in the 5 1/8. The catch index is four.

Stock Composition

Port Moller’s second stock composition estimate came in today. The fish were sampled on June 17 and 18.

It shows 59% of the fish sampled were heading to the Nushagak District, and 41% was headed to the Nushagak River. 

The first estimate was based on fish sampled from June 14 - 16. That first estimate showed 46% of the run headed to the Nushagak River. 

Egegik is up by 7% percentage points from the first stock composition estimate -- the second estimate showed almost 28% of the sampled fish were going to Egegik.

16% of the run is headed to the Wood River. 4.3% of the fish sampled are headed to the Alagnak. 3.6% are going to the Naknek, 2% to the North Peninsula, 1.5% for the Ugashik, 1% to Togiak, .9% to the Igushik, and .7% to the Kvichak.

You can sign up to get Port Moller updates sent directly to your email. You can also get updates via text message to your cell phone, 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 Team

On our news team this summer, Stephanie Maltarich and Brian Venua will cover the West Side. Mackenzie Mancuso is our East Side reporter. Tyler Thompson and Izzy Ross will hold down the fort for everything else.

L to R: Brian Venua, Tyler Thompson, Izzy Ross, Mackenzie Mancuso, and Stephanie Maltarich.
Credit Brian Venua's camera

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.