Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: June 23, 2020

Jun 23, 2020

Kings in the Nushagak are late, and the Wood River sockeye run is not as early as it has been in recent years. Egegik’s harvest and escapement are a chunk below what they were at this time last year.

Boats in the Dillingham harbor. Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
Credit Izzy Ross/KDLG

Check out the numbers on our daily numbers page, or at the bottom of the page.

Twelve new cases of COVID-19 at OBI seafood plant in Dillingham mark largest single-day case count

Twelve new cases of COVID-19 were announced yesterday by the City of Dillingham -- the community’s largest single-day case count. 

OBI Seafoods confirmed that the 12 positive cases of COVID-19 in Dillingham are workers at its Wood River seafood processing plant. The individuals are asymptomatic. All of the workers were in the same cohort when they tested positive on the sixth day of quarantine and moved to isolation facilities at the company’s closed campus in Dillingham. Ocean Beauty and Icicle Seafoods recently merged operations, creating the new company OBI Seafoods. 

OBI says it is working with state and local healthcare providers to conduct contact tracing investigations, and the company has contacted other employees who may have come in contact with the individuals. 

OBI is testing all employees before they get to Dillingham. That’s followed by two more rounds of testing while in quarantine.

In April, Dillingham’s city and the Curyung Tribal Council asked the governor to consider closing the fishery, citing the region’s limited health care capacity. 

Free walk-in testing is available to the community at Capstone Clinic in the Dillingham harbor. Those experiencing any symptoms can call their healthcare provider or the question line at the hospital at 907-842-9440. That helpline is also available to support anyone in Dillingham who has questions or concerns.

The Chinook run in the Nushagak River this year seems to be running late and there are yet to be any sockeye openers for the Nushagak District. 

“Right now, we’re just kind of in the 'wait' mode," said Tim Sands, management biologist for the west side. "Mostly we’re waiting on kings; we’re trying to be very conservative towards kings because those are definitely late. Nushagak sockeye are doing fine, the Wood River sockeye is more towards normal versus the last three years when it was super early. Everything but the kings are looking OK.”

Subsistence fishermen in the area say they haven’t been catching as many kings as they have in past years either, and the sonar counter is showing low escapement as well.

Looking at when we’ll see a commercial opener, Sands says he’s counting on the Wood River.

“We’re going to wait at least until we have 100,000 sockeye up the Wood River. That could happen tomorrow, or it could take several more days. It all depends on how fast that Wood River escapement increases,” he explains.

Subsistence catches of sockeye as well as a survey flown by Fish and Game on Sunday indicate that escapement is increasing, and that growth means we could see a commercial opener sooner than later. But Sands says escapement has fluctuated more than usual.

“We went from about 5,000 a day to 13,000 on Sunday but on Monday, it dropped back down to 11,000. It didn’t continue to increase like we’ve normally seen in the past,” he explained.

Sands says today also seemed slow based on the tower count and subsistence nets. Fish and Game ran another survey, but he says there probably won’t be an opener this evening or tomorrow.

Fish and Game manages the run to ensure the fishery is as economically profitable as possible, which means letting fishermen tap the sockeye run -- even if the king count is low.  

“The king escapement is what’s forcing us to wait for the 100,000 sockeye up the Wood River," he said. "But once we have over 100,000 sockeye up, we have to consider some fishing to control the Wood River Sockeye escapement. The king escapement is the driving force behind waiting but at some point, we can’t just let all the sockeye go to protect the kings.”

Chinese state media claimed last week that coronavirus was found on chopping boards used for imported salmon. Those rumors halted European salmon imports to China. While that could affect the market for Alaska salmon, experts say this season, coronavirus is creating much bigger problems. KDLG’s Sage Smiley took a look at how the pandemic is affecting the salmon market.


Pandemic throws a wrench in salmon market

 The Fish Market: This summer we’re going to take a look at different factors affecting the market with the folks at the McDowell Group in our fish report segment -- the Fish Market. The McDowell Group compiles a weekly salmon update, supported by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. This week we caught up with Garrett Everidge, an economist with McDowell.  

Messages to the fleet: 

To Ty Babb

F/V Homeward

Happy Birthday  Ty 

Good fishing would be your best present. Good Luck.

Stay safe out there. 

Lol, Mom

  If you’d like to get in touch or give some perspective, give us a call 842-2200 or send an email to Numbers:Nushagak

No openers yet in the Nushagak District -- that’s because of the low king run. The daily count for kings on Monday was 369 bringing the total count today to 10,979 fish. The number of sockeye counted at the sonar site was 15,337 bringing the total count to 73,905 fish. Chums were counted at 434 bringing the total count to 11,011 fish. 

Cumulative escapement for sockeye is about 30,000 fish behind where it was on this day last year. 

Wood River

As of 6 a.m. today, the Wood River crew counted 1,836 fish.

Yesterday’s Wood River escapement is 11,022 bringing that total to 48,390 fish -- just about half-way to Fish and Game’s escapement goal of 100,000, which they use as a marker for when to open fishing in the Wood.


The Igushik tower did make its schedule on Monday -- it arrived yesterday morning, but we don’t have any numbers from there yet. 


12,534 fish have escaped up the Egegik river so far, for a total escapement of 33,966. The total run is at 114,427 fish. The daily catch there was 23,000 fish, bringing the total harvest so far this season to 80,461.

That harvest is almost 150,000 fish below Egegik’s harvest at this point last year. Escapement last year had just reached 50,000 in Egegik. 


The daily escapement in the Naknek/Kvichak was 4,086 bringing the total count to 17,922. Harvest there was just 2,900. That total is now at 3,006.

The Egegik drift fleet has caught 85% of the total harvest so far, while set netters have caught 15% 

In the Naknek-Kvichak, drifters have harvested 64% of the total catch, Naknek set netters have caught 31% and Kvichak set netters have caught 5%.


The fleet in Togiak has caught 100 fish yesterday, bringing the cumulative total to 124 fish  

Chignik Weir Counts

The Chignik run is still extremely low. As of 10:00 a.m. this morning, 370 [366] sockeye had passed through the Chignik Weir. Yesterday’s count was 3,300 [3,312], bringing the total count to 29,500 [29,496]. The total early run now sits at 29,149 and the late run is 347.

Area M

Over at Area M, the chinook harvest is at 2,150. The fleet has harvested 226,800 sockeye. The pink harvest is up to 1.3 million, and chum are at 365,000. Coho remain at just over 200. 

Port Moller

The Ocean Cat only fished three sets at the Port Moller Test Fishery yesterday.

The largest was station 10, with a catch index of 98. Station 8 had an index of 18, and station 12 had an index of 17.                                                                                                                

In an email this morning, technician Scott Raborn said they should be able to provide summary catch indices from today’s fishing this evening.

Permit registration on June 23 9:00 a.m. and June 25 9:00 a.m.

Taking a look at permit and vessel numbers now, we’re seeing some increases in both categories on the west side.

As of today at 9:00 am Nushagak had 274 permits -- around 39% of the bay’s total permit count. The district has 228 vessels. Those numbers will go up to 304 permits and 249 vessels on Thursday. The number of D-Boats is currently 45 and will go up by nine -- to 54 D boats --on Thursday morning. 

Registrations in Togiak went up to 25 permits and 25 vessels. 

Egegik had 278 permits -- that’s almost 40% of the total permits in the bay right now, right up there with Nushagak. That’ll decrease by 4 permits on Thursday at 9 a.m., to 274. There were 224 vessels in Egegik, and that will go down to 220 on Thursday. There are 54 D-Boats today, and that stays the same on Thursday. 

Correction: In the 6 p.m. broadcast, we said Egegik's permits would decrease by 58, to 220 permits at 9 a.m. on Thursday. In fact, they will decrease by 4, bringing Egegik's permit count on Thursday to 274.

As of 9:00 am in Naknek-Kvichak, there are 119 permits -- about 17% of the total count in the bay. There were 104 vessels as of today at 9 am. Those numbers will go up to 125 permits to 109 vessels on Thursday. The number of D-Boats is 15 and it will go up to 16 on Thursday morning. 

Finally, in Ugashik, there are 7 permits and 6 vessels, and it will remain the same on Thursday. There is 1 D-Boat in the Ugashik, which will remain until Thursday. 

Overall, the bay will see an additional 33 permits on Thursday, and 22 more boats will join the fleet. There will be 10 more D boats.