Togiak restricts hours to conserve kings

Jun 18, 2018

Togiak has the smallest and latest salmon run of Bristol Bay's five districts, but it’s already been open for commercial fishing per its regular weekly schedule since June 1.

Togiak subsistence fishermen process their catch in June 2015.
Credit Hannah Colton / KDLG

The Togiak River section only will close at 9 a.m. Wednesday to conserve king salmon as it does this time every year, announced Tim Sands, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s area management biologist for Bristol Bay's west side. Togiak’s four other sections stay on their usual schedules, which are explained in the ADFG regulation book here.

Commercial fishing districts in Bristol Bay
Credit Alaska Department of Fish and Game

"We have the handy-dandy reg books here in the office," Sands said. "We always in the last two weeks of June reduce the schedule in the Togiak River section for king conservation. After that it depends on the escapement." 

During the commercial closure, Togiak Bay subsistence fishermen will get extended hours from 10 a.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Sunday.

It’s easy to see why fishermen call Sands’ office to double-check hours since 27 pages of tiny text spell out all of Bristol Bay’s commercial fishing regulations. The calls typically go something like this:

Fisherman: "Hey, when you going to open up Togiak?"

Sands: "Well, look, it's already open by regulation. We don't have to do an announcement. You can just go fish according to the weekly schedule."

"We don't really need to make an announcement unless we're restricting things or expanding things -- if we're changing it from what's already in the book," Sands added, pointing out a section on page two.

In the Togiak District, salmon may be taken only as follows:

(1) in the Cape Peirce, Osviak, and Matogak Sections, from 9 a.m. Monday to 9 a.m. Saturday;
(2) in the Kulukak Section, from 9 a.m. Monday to 9 p.m. Wednesday;
(3) in the Togiak River Section, from 9 a.m. Monday to 9 a.m. Friday, except as provided in 5 AAC 06.369(c)(1).

Fishermen casting nets in other districts are also restricted from transferring to Togiak until July 27. Why does Togiak seem to have special protection? Sands explained that’s long been the case because of Togiak’s “artisanal” nature.

"There's not as many fish to go around so if 100 boats from Nushagak went over there and started fishing it would really not leave much for the locals," Sands said. "Almost everybody that fishes in Togiak is connected to Togiak. There's not a lot of outside boats that go there and fish. It's just more of a traditional fishery than other places where there's ramming and jamming and stuff like that." 

Sands expects to announce another Togiak River restriction on June 25 before opening up an extended schedule around July 2.

Find the full copy of Bristol Bay commercial fishing regulations here.

Contact the author at austin@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.