Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: June 24, 2020

Jun 24, 2020

Fish and Game announced the first opener for the Nushagak section this evening, as the Wood River approaches the 100,000 fish escapement mark.

Boats in the Dillingham harbor. Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

After the show, Fish and Game announced that set netters have an opener in the Nushagak District -- both the Igushik and Nushagak sections -- for 12 hours, from 3:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on June 25. Drifters have a 5-hour opener in both sections from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on June 25. Commercial fishing closes in the Igushik section at 11:30 p.m. tonight. Subsistence fishing in the Nushagak section closes at 11 p.m.

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


There are 47 active cases of COVID-19 across the Bristol Bay region. There are no hospitalizations. 

The Bristol Bay Borough has announced 8 new positive test results of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the borough’s total active case count up to 16. Active cases are people who have not yet tested negative and are still in the region. 

The Camai Community Health Center announced in a press release that all 8 individuals are seafood industry workers. They are asymptomatic, isolated, and have been in quarantine since their arrival to the bay. These cases were identified as part of a processor community protection plan. 

KDLG reached out to the clinic and to borough officials to try and confirm which processor the cases are in, but both declined to comment. 

The City of Dillingham announced 12 cases on Monday, all of which were at OBI Seafoods’ Wood River plant. The Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation reported two additional cases as of June 23. That brings the total number of cases in the Dillingham Census Area to 16. Those are all non-resident cases. 

Numbers from BBAHC show the Lake and Peninsula Borough reported 1 new resident and 8 new non-resident cases Tuesday, bringing the case total in Lake and Pen up to 15. 

In Dillingham free walk-up testing is available to the community at Capstone Clinic at the 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. In the Bristol Bay Borough, testing is available at the Camai clinic at 907-246-6155 or at the Leader Creek Clinic at 907-246-4064.


As we head towards the end of June, we’re checking in with people out on the water, those working on shore, and those people who are somewhere in between. KDLG’s Kendra Kapotak talked to Dillingham's harbor master and a fisher in Ekuk. 

We’re going to linger at the Port Moller Test Fishery for a moment this evening. The Test Fishery is doing some research in the Nushagak District, and some stormy conditions are messing with the test fisheries early season operations. 

Tyler Thompson caught up with Executive Director Michael Link of the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute and data analyst Scott Raborn.


THOMPSON: To kick things off, Michael can you tell us what you’re up to in the Nushagak District? 

LINK: Sure, it is a combination of pre-season test fishery to gauge the abundance of sockeye building up in the district, so that’s one focus until commercial fishing is underway. The second purpose is to look at the effectiveness of different size gillnet mesh to capture the fish in the district. So the small and large fish, we are experimenting with some different mesh sizes and we’re trying to identify what the optimal mesh size to capture fish in the district in proportion to the abundance. 

THOMPSON: So what inspired this research in the Nushagak?

LINK: All this work stemmed from refinement of the net out at Port Moller trying to come up with a net that was more representative of the passing fish, a couple years ago in the Nushagak with those really big runs we had, a lot of small fish, a very large fleet fishing continuously and yet it really couldn’t stop the Wood River run. 

We had a very large escapement while we were harvesting the larger fish in the Nushagak at a high rate. We couldn’t muster a high harvest rate on the wood river we got a big number in the escapement, it was at that point when we put two and two together and said how best to stop all the runs so you are not overfishing the weaker stock I.E the Nushagak and under harvesting the Wood River. 

So that’s where this is going and has some sensitives around it because obviously smaller fish are not worth quite as much as bigger ones, the selectivity curves are unique in that the smaller gear still catches bigger fish, the big gear doesn’t catch little fish. 

Because of that phenomenon it’s better to error on the side of getting down into their so you can hit those two ocean fish getting the effectiveness of the net, you don’t forgo the larger fish at a high rate by going smaller, but you dramatically improve your ability to harvest little fish, so it’s not a tradeoff of strictly big fish or little fish, its catching more fish if you can get the mesh size optimized. 1:22

THOMPSON: What are some of the early takeaways from this year’s survey?

RABORN: Historically the most prominent mesh size in the Bay has been five and an eighth inch mesh. Probably the most interesting result so far this year the 4.5 is out-fishing the 5.8 inch mesh about 2.5:1. We saw that last year but it was only after the commercial fishery had opened and the test boat was fishing on a fish that had already been filtered by the fishery. Last year that ratio jumped to 2.5 to one, but during closures it dropped to 1.5 to one. Given there’s no real fishery going on this year so far, to see that ratio that high is interesting because there’s probably a lot of one two fish around. :52

It will be interesting to see if that pattern keeps up, especially given the results so far. Thank you again for joining us today Mike and Scott.

The Port Moller Test Fishery has also dealt with less than ideal conditions to start the year. A surge of storm cells prevented the test fishery from getting out to several stations.

“That I haven’t seen," said Link, who has monitored the project for 20 years. "I think there was one year recently, 2011 or so and we lost three or four days to weather. It was a bad storm but it was kind of a single event. This thing just kind of ran on. The transect is large, the outer stations are 150 miles from Port Moller and that’s a lot of running when you’re doing 10 knots.”

Those storm conditions resulted in several days of un-fished stations last week. Raborn said that can have major impacts on research.

“You can’t get stock compositions from samples that you don’t have," he said. "You can interpolate what the catches might have been with statistical models but that doesn’t work all that well. It’s the whole reason for the second boat at Port Moller because we couldn’t interpolate catches at the outer stations reliably. Whether it’s inside or outside stations you never know at Port Moller when a band of fish will be at particular station if you didn’t fish that day you’ll never know. So any data up through this point will be really suspect more so than usual.”

But there is some good news for the test fishery: 

Both fishing vessels, the Americanus and Ocean Cat, were able to fish stations two through 20 yesterday. If conditions continue to improve, these early season setbacks “will be in the rearview mirror.”

It’s Weather Wednesday with Rick Thoman, climate specialist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Thoman says Bristol Bay could be looking at a warm, wet summer. 


We had a couple questions from listeners. A caller asked whether there was a waste oil rig at the Dillingham harbor. The answer is yes, there is. 

Paul asked “What is a D boat?” This is from one of our fish reporters: 

Hi Paul! Most boats fish under only one permit, and can fish with 150 fathoms (or 900 feet) of gear. A D boat is a boat that has 2 permit holders, which allows them to fish with 50 fathoms extra gear, or 200 fathoms, which is 1,200 feet of gear. That doesn’t mean one person can have two permits; there have to be two permit holders, fishing on the same boat. 

A fisherman friend who captains a D boat told me permit stacking helps get gear out of the water, and has the advantage of letting people fishing D boats legally fish with and carry more gear on their boats. He says that fishing with those 50 extra fathoms of gear increases his production by a quarter.

D boats are not allowed in the Togiak district or in special harvest areas. 

If you have questions --- email us:


Messages to the fleet:


Hi just want to send well wishes to all the fishermen and crews. Kill lots of fish! Good luck stay safe. 

Raymond and Cyndi Beck 

To Capt. Doug Morgan, F/V Miss Emma


Doug. Big Rave Friday. Where'd you leave the pacifiers?



Nushagak District

No commercial openers in the Nushagak section yesterday -- the total harvest for the season so far is 14,288. The Igushik section was open, but there was no harvest change from June 22. Daily escapement across the district was 24,572. A total of almost 147,000 fish have escaped so far. The total run there is now 161,155. 

Nushagak River

The Nushagak River sonar counted 412 kings, bringing the total to 11,391. The crew counted 13,646 sockeye. It counted 246 chum, bringing that total to 11,257. 

Wood River

As of 6 a.m. this morning, the Wood River crew counted 1,752 fish. The total is now 60,642. Fish and Game is waiting until escapement up the Wood has reached 100,000 sockeye before opening commercial fishing there. 

Igushik River

The first numbers are in from the Igushik tower. The crew counted 426 fish yesterday, and 1,368 as of 6 a.m. this morning, bringing that total to 1,800. 


Harvest in Togiak yesterday was 232, for a total of 362. No escapement numbers from Togiak yet.



No openers in Egegik either -- the total catch there is at 87,126. Escapement yesterday was at 13,488, and the total is now 47,454.


Egegik District fishermen are in the middle of an 8 hour opener that ends at 9:15 p.m. this evening -- and just a reminder today is Wednesday, June 24.



The daily catch in the Naknek-Kvichak was 12,000 yesterday, bringing that total up to 15,132. Escapement was 7,272 for a total of 25,194. The total run so far is now just over 40,300. 


The Naknek Section is currently open to the drift fleet until 9:30 p.m. this evening. The Naknek-Kvichak District is in the middle of a 7 hour set net opener, which also ends at 9:30 p.m.



And finally, no harvest or escapement in Ugashik yet this season. 


Assessment projects are scheduled to begin operations later in the week.

Ugashik District will open to both set and drift gillnet gear for 10 hours tomorrow -- that’s Thursday, June 25 -- from 1:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m.


Egegik’s drift fleet has harvested 85% of its cumulative total of 87,100 fish. The set netters have harvested 15%. 


The Naknek-Kvichak drift fleet has harvested 60% of the total catch of 15,100 fish. Naknek set netters have harvested 35%, and Kvichat set netters have harvested 4%.



5,943 sockeye passed through the weir yesterday. As of 2 p.m. today, 5,160 fish had escaped. The total run so far is at 40,233. The early run is at 39,565. The late run total is at 668.


Zero chinook passed through the weir yesterday. Only six kings passed through the weir as of 2 p.m. The chinook run is now at 24.


Area M

Over in Area M, the South Peninsula harvest for chinook is now at 2,230. Sockeye harvest is at 268,919, and coho are at 227. The fleet has harvested 1.5 million pinks, and chum harvest is at 409,800. 


Permit registration on June 24 9:00 a.m. and June 26 9:00 a.m.


On to permit and vessel registration now. There were a total of 781 permits and 653 vessels in the bay as of 9 a.m. this morning. That will go up to 850 permits on 707 vessels at 9 a.m. on Friday. There are 127 D boats, and that will go up to 142 D boats on Friday. 


The Nushagak has the most permits in the bay -- 43% of the total permits in the bay are in the district, where 338 permits are operating on 278 vessels. Those numbers will go up in 48 hours, to 360 permits on 297 vessels. There are currently 59 D boats in the Nushagak, and that will go up to 62 at 9 a.m. on Friday. 


In Togiak there are 29 permits on 29 vessels. Those numbers stay the same through Friday morning. 


Egegik’s numbers are going up a bit in 48 hours as well. As of 9 a.m. today there were 271 permits on 219 vessels in Egegik. That’s just over a third of the total permits in the bay, and those numbers bump up to 289 permits on 233 vessels. The number of D boats goes from 52 to 56 


In the Naknek-Kvichak, there are 135 permits on 163 vessels. That’s just under one fifth of the total permits operating right now, at 17%. Naknek-Kvichak numbers are also going up to 163 permits on 141 vessels. The D boats are going from 15 to 22. 


And in Ugashik, there are 8 permits on 7 vessels. One permit will join the Ugashik fleet on Friday. There’s one D boat there, and that will increase to 2 on Friday.


Port Moller

PMTF Stock Composition Status:

Over at the Port Moller Test Fishery, the boats were able to set at stations 2 - 20 today. They caught a total of 164 fish, which provided a stock composition estimate. Those results should be available late Thursday or Friday.


In yesterday’s catch, the largest index was from station 10, which had an index of 87. Breaking down yesterday’s numbers:


Station  Index

Station 2  had an index of 2 -- 1 fish in the 5 ⅛ inch mesh.

Station 4  had an index of 6 -- 2 in the 4 ½ and 2 in the 5 ⅛. 

Station 6  had an index of 23 -- 10 in the 4 ½ and 6 in the 5 ⅛.

Station 8  had an index of 37 -- 19 in the 4 ½ and 5 in the 5 ⅛.

Station 10 had an index of 87 -- 42 in the 4 ½ and 23 in the 5 ⅛.

Station 12 had an index of 25 -- 8 in the 4 ½ and 8 in the 5 ⅛. 

Station 14 had an index of 19 -- 1 in the 4 ½ and 14 in the 5 ⅛.

Station 16 had an index of 19 -- 13 in the 4 ½.

Station 18 had an index of 14 -- 1 in the 4 ½ and 8 in the 5 ⅛.

Station 20 had an index of 1 -- 1 in the 5 ⅛.