PMTF pulls a few sockeye out of its tesh meshes, noting the cooler water temps this year over last. Egegik and Igushik may see some commercial fishing this week as managers seek some data.
The Port Moller Test Fishery made its first sets this weekend, catching 12 then 20 sockeye on its out-and-back from stations 2 to 12. A little bit of commercial activity is expected this week in Bristol Bay, with managers and the market trying to get a sense of the early part of the run.
Audio Transcript: The R/V Pandalus went out and back for its first test of the Bristol Bay offshore run over the weekend. On Saturday, (3) sockeye were caught in the 4 1/2 inch mesh, and (9) in the 5 1/8 inch, with most of the activity towards the inshore stations. On Sunday, after six sets, the boat recorded (12) fish caught in the four-and-a-half, and (8) in the five-and-an-eighth. Station 4 saw the most activity. Last year the first sets saw about the same number of fish, but the water temperatures are almost three degrees (Celcius) cooler than they were in the first sets in 2016.
On the east side, Ugashik is open until 9:00 a.m. Friday as per the weekly schedule, and Egegik is open Monday morning to Wednesday morning, then Thursday morning to Friday morning. Area management biologist Paul Salomone hopes to get some data as more nets go into the water in Egegik.
“We had some fish last week in the district, the subsistence nets and some limited commercial catch - but it’s still confidential - but there’s fish in the district, which is about what I’d hope to see this time of the year. There might be a little more than I’d hope to see this time of the year, but I don’t really have good data yet," said Salomone.
He said he plans to fly and survey the Lagoon to see if there’s any sockeye volume there, just as a precaution before the other management tools are in place.
“The test boat crew goes out Wednesday, and the tower crew goes out Friday and should be operational by the weekend, so we’ll start to have some insight as to escapement, probably by I’d say Saturday. So, it’s beginning, there’s some fish there.”
On the west side of Bristol Bay, Fish and Game’s Tim Sands will open the Igushik set netters for three (8) hour periods Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
“The tower doesn’t start till later, but we can get information by having the set netters fishing earlier," said Sands. "As soon as the market is ready to buy, we open it up and the fishermen gradually get started over there.”
The Nushagak sonar counted 1100 fish Friday, 1300 Saturday, 1000 Sunday, and just over 800 before 8:00 a.m. Monday morning. Those fish have not yet been apportioned to species due to the low counts so far.
The lack of specificity is usually problematic this time of the year, especially when the early run is a little slow to push past Portage Creek.
“In order for us to apportion those raw counts into species, we have to test fish," Sands explained. "And furthermore, we have to test fish in four different areas: inshore and offshore on both sides of the river. To make a complete apportionment, we have to catch at least five fish in each of those four strata. We’ll have apportioned number by species … and that could be tomorrow, or it could be several days from now.”
The Wood River tower deploys Saturday, and will count at midnight Sunday. Igushik deploys on June 23 and will start counting by June 25, and the Togiak tower goes in July 1 and should start counting by July 3.
Fishing has picked up further west, with 94,000 sockeye harvested Sunday in Alaska Peninsula management areas, doubling the season total, which stands at 185,000 sockeye. Most of the harvest is coming from the June Shumagin and South Unimak fisheries, as well as the Dolgois. The South Pen fleet has put over 22,000 pinks on the books, and just over 46,000 chum, too.
Area M fishermen have landed 3100 sockeye, primarily out of Nelson Lagoon.
Through Saturday, Chignik fishermen have landed 45,000 sockeye, and manager Dawn Wilburn extended the open period for 44 hours. Escapement through the Chignik weir is about 93,000 through Saturday.
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