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Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: June 22, 2022

IMG_8334.JPG
Izzy Ross
/
KDLG
The Dillingham boat harbor. June 20, 2022

The Wood River run passed the 100,000-fish minimum managers need to open fishing in the Nushagak District. Fishermen will have their first opener soon. Egegik fishermen caught more than 200,000 fish on Tuesday. Fleets in the Ugashik and Naknek-Kvichak were out as well, bringing in smaller harvests.

First opener set for the Nushagak District

Wood River escapement passed 100,000 fish on Tuesday. There haven’t been any openers yet, but fishermen won’t have to wait much longer. Westside Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Tim Sands said an opener is coming Thursday.

“We’ll do an announcement tonight for fishing time tomorrow morning. (We’ll) see how that goes and then be having fishing time every day probably from now on,” he said.

Sands said only about 1,000 fish swam upriver per hour on Tuesday– a relatively small amount for the fleet to target. So the department decided to take another day to allow more Chinook and chum to escape.

“That wasn't enough to make us concerned that we're going to be missing a big opportunity for fishing, but it allowed for additional king salmon, chum salmon to go through the district.”

Sands says Fish and Game’s subsistence surveys showed a fair number of Chinook in the district on Tuesday. About 940 Chinook were counted at the Nushagak River sonar, for a total escapement of 23,917 salmon. The chum count was 750, which brought the season total to around 16,400.

As of 6 a.m. this morning, the Wood River tower has counted around 124,000 fish towards the sockeye escapement goal.

Boatyard banter

There’s usually a lot of anticipation ahead of the first openers of the season. And while the Nushagak fleet has been on short notice for a few days now, many were ready to get out on the water last week. KDLG’s Corinne Smith caught up with a few captains and crew in the Dillingham boatyard to hear how they’re feeling ahead of the season.

Perspective from the Dillingham boatyard.mp3

At least one Egegik fisherman is optimistic (and also a fan of KDLG)

Over to the Egegik District now, where fishermen have been out on the water for a few days now. I caught up with one fisherman who has been out since 1965 — and remembers when we went on air in 1975.

David Williams in Egegik.mp3

Port Moller test fishery

There are a few changes to the Port Moller Test Fishery this season. Our beloved research vessel Pandalus (pan-DAL-us) has retired. In its place, the test fishery has chartered a 120-foot trawler, the Halfmoon Bay.

Michael Link is the executive director of the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute, a nonprofit of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. He helps manage the test fishery.

“What this has allowed us to do is more fully take advantage of an at-sea genetics lab," Link said. "The biggest, most important aspect of doing genetics at sea is not to have to spend half of one vessels time running samples to shore in Port Moller to then be flown to Anchorage for analysis. Now we've got two boats that can stay offshore, and that's a huge improvement in that we can spend more time test fishing and better map out the distribution and abundance of fish.” 

That means they don’t have to dock as often. Link said the Halfmoon Bay may not go to shore at all this season.

The team built a custom 16-foot connex for the genetics lab, which will sit behind the wheelhouse on the vessel. They also have a centrifuge,which can extract DNA by filtering it from tissues.

“We chose to put the lab on the Halfmoon Bay. It's a more stable platform doesn't roll as much, quite a bit bigger than the Ocean Cat," he said. "Within the lab is all the same equipment, we added a centrifuge on our testing that seems to work in big seas. That will save the geneticists time. We used a more rudimentary method last year for one of the steps in the genetic analysis, so the centrifuge will save a lot of time.” 

The team will also use the on-board lab to analyze scales and determine the ages of returning salmon.

“We've equipped the lab on the Halfmoon Bay with a scale press — a way to press scales into plastic or acetate cards, and a microscope imaging system that we can pop the scale acetates into and take digital images of all the scales that we collect,” he said.

The geneticists then upload the information so the staff in King Salmon can download the images and analyze them. That will save a lot of time.

“They're getting them through the Cloud rather than through series of flights and four or five or six days to get the King Salmon,” he explained.

As for the run, Link said the test fishery has had good catches so far. And the run doesn't appear to be early.

“If it was an early run, even somewhere a little below forecast, we'd be seeing a lot more fish right now. We're not. So that's not much to go on," he said. "But it's shaping up good. There's nothing there's nothing to tell us the preseason forecast is way off. And everything we're seeing is consistent with that. But things could change here.”

The test fishery is also collecting information closer to the action. For about three seasons, a commercial fishing boat has helped to gather data on the Nushagak District fishery. This year, that effort will increase.

“We were getting net selectivity data research done, as well as trying to get a handle on indexing the abundance of fish moving into the district," he said. "This year with the big forecast and the inability of one boat to cover the large district that the Nushagak is — we’ve recruited five fishermen to help.”

Those five vessels are spread around the district and will help the area managers decide when to open or hold off the commercial fishery.

Weather Wednesday

This summer, we’re going to take a few minutes each Wednesday to check in with Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks center for climate assessment and policy, in a segment called Weather Wednesday!

Today KDLG’s Brian Venua talked to Thoman about the unusual amount of lightning this season and the haze from nearby fires.

Climate Specialist Rick Thoman on June 22, 2022.mp3

Warm dry weather is expected throughout the region with a small storm system moving in this weekend.

Messages to the Fleet

For the crew out on the Captain Crunch 2 - wishing you all the best luck, the most fish, and the finest weather out there this season! And for my favorite one and only fisherman in all of Bristol Bay: Hunter Davis, I miss you like crazy! Be safe and fish hard baby. Loving you always!

From your girl onshore, Aubrey Arevalo (Olympia, Washington)

Stormy.bv.JPG
Brian Venua
/
KDLG

The numbers

Fish and Game published the first daily run summaries of the season this week.

Bay-wide

The bay-wide harvest was at more than a quarter-million fish on Tuesday. The cumulative catch so far is 627,351.

Daily escapement across the bay was 70,163, for a total of 406,649. The total run has passed 1 million fish.

Nushagak District

Across the district, escapement on Tuesday was 65,177. So far, 345,989 fish have passed counting crews at the Nushagak and Wood Rivers.

Nushagak River

40,469 sockeye swam past the Nushagak River sonar on Monday. The total run up the Nushagak is now 231,227. The sonar team counted another 900 Chinook. The season total is now at 23,900. 750 chum passed the sonar. The chum run is now at 16,392.

Wood River

The Wood River counting tower reported 24,708 salmon on Tuesday. Another 9,468 were counted as of 6 a.m. this morning.

The Wood River total run is now 124,230. That’s well above the 100,000 minimum for opening fishing in the district. But Fish and Game says that fish counts are still slow.

Igushik River

No numbers yet from Igushik.

Togiak 

Togiak fishermen caught 165 fish on Tuesday, with an average drift delivery of 8 sockeye. The season total harvest is at 332.

Naknek-Kvichak

Fishermen in the Naknek-Kvichak caught 14,000 fish on Tuesday. And while that wasn’t the biggest harvest in the bay, the average drift delivery was the heftiest, at 1,090. Cumulative harvest there is now 15,470.

The district’s total run is now 16,742 fish.

Naknek River

Escapement up the Naknek River was 1,026, for a total of 1,272.

Egegik

Egegik fishermen hauled in the largest harvest across the bay on Tuesday. caught another 226,000 fish on Tuesday, with an average of 704 fish per drift delivery. The season total is at 593,011.

3,960 fish escapement up the Egegik, for a total of 59,388.

There are an estimated 17,000 fish in the river, and Egegik’s total run is now at 669,399.

Ugashik

Ugashik fishermen caught 12,000 fish, with an average of 713 sockeye per drift delivery. The season total of 18,538. No escapement numbers yet. The Ugashik’s total run is at 18,538.

Vessel and permit registrations: June 22 9:00 a.m. - June 24 9:00 a.m.

Across the bay there are 860 permits on 677 vessels. On Friday morning at 9 a.m. that will increase to 895 permits on 705 boats. There are currently 183 D-boats in the bay. On Friday that will bump up to 190.

The Nushagak has the most boats right now: 496 permits and 381 vessels are registered to fish in the district.

On June 23 at 9 a.m. that will jump to 513 permits on 395 vessels. Currently, 115 of those boats are D-Boats. On Friday, that will increase just a bit to 118.

Egegik is next in line, with 279 permits and 219 vessels. That will increase to 283 permits on 222 vessels. The district’s 60 D-boats will go up by just one, to 61 on Friday morning.

There are 42 permits and 40 boats registered in the Naknek-Kvichak. On Friday that will increase to 55 permits and 50 boats. D-boats are at 2, and that will go up to 5 in 48 hours.

Ugashik has 25 permits on 19 vessels. That will increase to 26 permits on 20 boats Friday. Ugashik D-boats will stay at 6 through Friday morning.

Finally in Togiak, there are 18 permits fishing on 18 vessels. That will remain the same through Friday.

Area M 

The daily harvest was 378,112 sockeye on Tuesday. The total sockeye harvest is now at 3 million. The fleet hauled in 39,209 chum for a total chum harvest of 298,543. Pink salmon harvest was 99,948 for a cumulative harvest of 761,867. King harvest was 306 for a total of 2,158 kings caught so far this season.

South Peninsula fleets caught most of the harvest so far this season. The South Unimak fleet hauled in three quarters of the season’s catch. Shumagin Islands fishermen hauled in the rest.

On the North Peninsula, Nelson Lagoon fishermen have caught about 10,500 sockeye. From Outer Port Heiden to Port Moller, fishermen caught 58,156 sockeye. The North Peninsula fleets have caught just under 200 Chinook this season.

Port Moller Test Fishery 

At the Port Moller Test Fishery, catch indices picked up Tuesday along the outside stations, which test fishery technicians Michael Link and Scott Raborn say is an indication that Nushagak District stocks are building.

Both the Ocean Cat and Halfmoon Bay collected genetic samples on Monday and Tuesday. The team hopes to have new stock composition estimates this evening or Thursday morning.

Port Moller stock composition.JPG
Port Moller Test Fishery
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Station 4 caught 11 fish in the 4 ½ inch mesh and 7 fish in the 5 ⅛. That catch index is 40.

Station 6 caught 74 fish in the 4 ½ inch mesh and 62 in the 5 ⅛. The index is 204.

Station 8 caught 13 fish in the 4 ½ and 10 in the 5 ⅛. The catch index is 45.

Station 9 caught 28 in the 4 ½ and 34 in the 5 ⅛, bringing that index to 128.

Station 10 caught 23 in the 4 ½ and 25 in the 5 ⅛. That index is 120.

Station 11 caught 10 in the 4 ½ and 0 in the 5 ⅛, bringing that station index to 36.

Station 12 caught 9 fish in the 4 ½ and 7 in the 5 ⅛, for an index of 48.

Station 13 caught 1 fish in the 4 ½ and 1 in the 5 ⅛. The index is 6.

Station 14 also caught just 1 fish each in the 4 ½ and 5 ⅛ inch mesh for a catch index of 6.

Station 16 caught 16 in the 4 ½ and 4 in the 5 ⅛, for an index of 63.

Station 17 didn’t catch any fish.

Station 18 caught 1 in the 4 ½ and 43 in the 5 ⅛. That index is 120.

Station 20 caught 1 fish in the 4 ½ and 0 fish in the 5 ⅛. The catch index for station 20 is 3.

Stock composition

In stock composition, the test fishery used data from 182 fish for the analysis from June 18-19.

Most of the fish sampled were headed to the Nushagak District. About a quarter of the fish sampled were headed to the Egegik River.

North Peninsula 2%

Ugashik 12.9%

Egegik 26.1%

Naknek 2.2%

Alagnak 1.5%

Kvichak 5.4%

Nushagak 32.8%

Wood 16.3%

Igushik .4%

Togiak .1%

Kuskokwim .3%

Get in touch at fish@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.
Corinne Smith is a reporter and producer who grew up in Oakland, California and on her family’s horse ranch in rural San Rafael, CA, a contrast that nurtured a deep appreciation for the complexities of identity and belonging, and connection to place, land and the natural world. She began her reporting career at KPFA in Berkeley, first as a general assignment reporter and then as lead producer of UpFront, a daily morning news and public affairs show. In 2020, she served as the summer reporter for KFSK in Petersburg where she first got hooked on Alaska stories. For the last year, she's been a general assignment reporter for KHNS based in Haines, and thrilled to experience a new part of Alaska and cover the Bristol Bay fishing season this summer with KDLG!
Brian Venua grew up in Dillingham and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. He got his start in journalism at KDLG in 2020, interviewing and writing for the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report and signed on as a full-time host and reporter later that year.