Bristol Bay fishery Monday July 20 update

Jul 20, 2015

A million more fish caught in Bristol Bay yesterday - and another million sockeye counted at the towers in seven rivers.

Boats are readied for winter and gear is loaded to ship south at a boatyard in Naknek on July 19, 2015.
Credit Molly Dischner/KDLG

DILLINGHAM:  Bristol Bay fishermen caught a million sockeye on Sunday, bringing the total catch this summer to almost 33 million.

The total Bristol Bay sockeye run is now estimated at about 47 million fish, near the pre-season forecast, which called for about 53 million fish.

The strongest catches Sunday came out of the Naknek-Kvichak District, where 535,000 fish were caught. Egegik fishermen caught 264,000 Sunday, and Ugashik fishermen landed 188,000.

Sunday’s Nushagak harvest was 108,000; no fish in Togiak.

Sunday’s catches showed a decline compared to much of the past week, but most of the escapements throughout the bay, about 1.1 million fish total, were high for this point in the season.

The strong escapements mean tower counts will continue longer than usual at some sites, including on the Wood River. Management plans call for counts to continue the daily total is one percent or less of the total run for three days.

Nushagak Area Management Biologist Tim Sands said the Wood River Tower likely has to come out of the water by the end of July for budget reasons, but it will stay in for at least several more days.

Ideally, Sands said Fish and Game wants to see three days of counts at or below 18,000 reds before it pulls the Wood River tower out of the water. Yesterday’s Wood River tower count was 71,472 fish, bringing the season total to 1.8 million.

The Nushagak sonar has already stopped counting with almost 797,000 sockeye counted this season, and the Igushik River tower will come out by July 23. The total Igushik count this season is about 458,134, including 83,574 on Sunday.

Egegik and Ugashik Area Management Biologist Paul Salomone said eastside towers have been extended beyond their usual dates, but a final decision on when they’ll come out has not yet been made, and will depend on how the runs progress.

The one percent rule is in place to try and ensure that the majority of the run gets counted, Salomone said.

Yesterday’s Egegik count was 161,790, bringing the season total to 1.8 million.

The Ugashik count on Sunday was 85,908, bringing the season total to about 1 million.

Although the forecast for the Naknek-Kvichak was downgraded mid-season, the total run there is now estimated at 23 million fish so far this season, just 5 million fish short of the 28 million forecast.

The Naknek River count so far is 1.8 million sockeye, including 47,484 Sunday.

The Kvichak River escapement so far this season is 6.5 million, including about 680,000 fish on Sunday. The projection called for a final escapement of about 7.69 million sockeye, which the river appears likely to hit, according to Naknek-Kvichak Area Management Biologist Travis Elison.

The mid-season adjustment for the Kvichak River escapement goal was required through the management plan, but Elison said Saturday that the department may consider looking at revising that process.

Not every district has seen the strong returns.

In Togiak, 5,274 fish were counted Sunday, bringing the total escapement this season to 33,510.

Togiak fishing has been restricted again this week, as it was last, due to concerns over making the escapement goal there.

Togiak Area Management Biologist Matt Jones said the tower count on the Togiak River is less than half of what is needed to be on track to meet the lower end of the escapement goal. Catches in his district, another indicator of run strength, have also been weak. About 114,000 sockeye have been caught so far this season.

“It’s been far below where we’d expect the abundance to be. A couple weeks ago, and even this past week, was dismal in terms of catches per delivery,” Jones said on Monday.

By regulation, fishermen cannot fish in the Togiak District if they fish any other Bristol Bay district until July 27. Although some have requested that Fish and Game extend that deadline to prevent fishermen from following the sockeye west if the run is just late, Jones said managers do not currently have that power. Instead, it would require emergency action by the state Board of Fisheries.

Jones said he is still hoping that the run picks up strength.