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Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: June 30, 2022

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Brian Venua
/
KDLG
Water washes over fish in a subsistence net on Kanakanak Beach

The bay’s daily sockeye run declined on Wednesday to 1.9 million salmon and Port Moller numbers are on the decline as well. Nushagak District fisherfolk caught the most fish but Ugashik fisherfolk had almost four times as many sockeye per drift delivery.

Low numbers in the Port Moller Test Fishery

After days of high catches, Port Moller numbers have dropped to historic lows for this time of year. According to an update from Test Fishery Technician Scott Raborn, catches were higher than normal last week, which was consistent with the preseason forecast, but we’ve now had four days of low catch indices.

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The test fishery expanded the reach of its nets — this year they are wider and deeper. But technicians can only guess as to why the catch numbers are so low. Skippers have been on high alert to watch for why they might be missing fish.

Raborn said in an update on Wednesday sockeye may be migrating below their nets, deeper in the ocean.

The test fishery used to employ nets only used nets that ran 6 meters deep. Port Moller crews tested their current 11-meter nets in July 2019, and observed fish swimming under them. But in both the small and large nets, most fish are caught in the top three meters.

Crew also check their depth sounders and watch for changes in water temperatures at the thermocline, or the temperature boundary in the ocean. But there is no evidence that warmer temperatures are pushing sockeye deeper.

Another possibility is that they’re missing dense bands of fish. The test fishery runs stations from Port Moller stretching out towards Cape Peirce, but crews traditionally only check the even-numbered stations.

This year, they’re also checking as many odd-numbered stations as possible to keep their numbers accurate. Raborn said that it's unlikely that crews are missing dense schools of fish.

The run may also have two peaks — lower numbers could represent a prolonged lull of fishing before a second surge rolls in. Or the run might be smaller than forecasted.

A strong start to Alaska's salmon harvests

We’ve seen some huge harvest so far this season. That’s part of why statewide salmon harvests are up from last year. KDLG’s Izzy Ross talks to Research Analyst Sam Friedman about what that means at this point in the season.

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How a ban on Russian seafood may (not) make waves in U.S. markets

This spring, President Biden issued an executive order that banned imports of Russian seafood into the U.S. That went into effect last week. Izzy asked Friedman about how that will affect U.S. seafood markets

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Ted Krieg reads a Dave Carlson diary entry from June 10 - 15, 1939.

This summer, we’re taking a few minutes each week to sit back and listen to a day in the life of a commercial fisherman from more than 80 years ago. Local historian Ted Krieg started reading daily entries from the 1930s diary of Dave Carlson, who lived and worked in Bristol Bay. Each Thursday, Ted joins us to read another passage from Dave Carlson’s life, transcribed by Arlene Atkinson.

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Messages to the fleet

F/V Bristol Hag:
Keep up the great work out there! To Jonny: hazel wants you to know she can officially ride a bike without training wheels and she love love loves you. Olive found her fishing pole but says it needs to be fixed by daddy before she can use it. And your highly attractive and intelligent wife wants you to know she loves you and misses your goofy jokes and delicious sandwichs. To the rest of the crew: Catch those fish and hurry home. We are all cheering you on from the lower 48!

With love,
The Reardon Girls

To Avery Cathey on the F/V Independence:

Hey Kiddo! Hope fishing is going well and your Dad's snoring isn't driving everyone crazy. I got the text you sent when you last had service. I've been having a hard time finding organic all natural products from Tegridy Farms though. I've never heard of them and keep trying to figure out why I would need to send it in a sealed bag, in a box addressed only to you? Anyway, I'll keep trying to find whatever it is.

Miss you!

Love,
Montana Bonus Mom

The numbers

Bristol Bay saw about 1.9 million fish swim through the waters on Wednesday for a total run of 16.1 million salmon so far. The fleets caught 1.48 million fish for a running total harvest of 10.7 million.

Another 410,223 escaped everyone’s nets for a total of 5.28 million spawning sockeye.

Nushagak District

The Nushagak District saw almost a million salmon in its waters on Wednesday. The total district run there is now 8.83 million fish — the highest in the bay.

Fisherfolk caught 727,000 for a total of 4.7 million fish so far. That’s the highest daily harvest of the day, although the average drift deliveries were just 582 sockeye.

Daily escapement declined once again. Only about half as many salmon escaped as the day before. Daily escapement was 237,333 fish for a district total of 4 million fish.

Nushagak River

142,000 salmon escaped up the Nushagak River for a total of 2.4 million so far.

The sonar crew counted 170 Chinook swimming upriver, bringing the total escapement to 40,519 this season.

102,711 sockeye swam through the sonar for a total of 2.32 million fish.

Chum had a pretty strong swim of 3,913 fish. The total chum escapement there is 62,162.

Wood River

The Wood River saw about 107,826 reds swim upriver on Wednesday with another 17,382 this morning. The escapement total is at 1.7 million sockeye.

Igushik River

The Igushik River’s nearly doubled again on Wednesday. Daily escapement was 26,796 fish, and another 4,974 swam past the tower this morning. Escapement for that river is 61,746 salmon.

Togiak

Togiak harvest was at 3,200 with average drift deliveries of 63 sockeye for a season total of 9,830. The Togiak Counting Tower is not reporting yet.

Naknek-Kvichak

The Naknek-Kvichak District saw about 293,942 fish in the district with another 30,000 in the rivers. The total run there is now just under 2 million.

Average drift deliveries were at 489 sockeye on Wednesday. 170,000 were harvested for a total of 1.38 million fish in nets and 123,942 escaped them for a total of 577,410 spawning salmon.

Naknek River

The Naknek River had the smallest escapement for that bay on Wednesday with only 18,222 for a total of 314,784 spawners.

Kvichak River

The Kvichak River had an escapement of 84,132 fish with another 30,000 estimated in the river. Escapement over there is now 241,038 fish.

Alagnak River

The Alagnak River is finally reporting! Wednesday’s first count was 21,588 fish.

Egegik

Over to the Egegik District, 423,138 fish swam through and another 50,000 estimated in the river for a total of 4.75 million fish so far this summer.

Average drift deliveries were 959 sockeye. 415,000 were harvested for a total catch of just under 4.1 million fish and just 48,138 evaded fisherfolk for a total escapement of 612,846 – about three-quarters of the way to their lower-end escapement goal.

Ugashik 

In the Ugashik District, a total of 167,810 fish came through and

harvest was up, but escapement was down. Fisherfolk caught 167,000 fish for a total of 534,303 salmon. Escapement was down to 810 fish. The total count there is 5,028.

Chignik Weir

No updates from Chignik on Wednesday.

Area M 

Area M harvest is also down, only 225,958 fish were caught on Wednesday for a total so far of 6.56 million salmon caught by the intercept fishery.

225,890 of the fish caught were sockeye. The fishers only caught 54 Chinook, 12 chum, 2 pinks, and 0 silvers.

That fishery is currently closed and is not scheduled to open again until 6 a.m. on Wednesday, July 6.

Port Moller Test Fishery

Catch indices were higher than normal last week and now the test fishery are now at historic lows for this time of year, but we’ll go into that later.

Stations 2, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 20, and 22 caught zero fish.

Station 4 caught 0 fish in the 4 ½ inch mesh and 2 fish in the 5 ⅛. That catch index is 3.

Station 6 caught 0 fish in the 4 ½ inch mesh and 2 fish in the 5 ⅛. That catch index is 3.

Station 7 caught 1 fish in the 4 ½ inch mesh and 8 fish in the 5 ⅛. That catch index is 17.

Station 16 caught 26 fish in the 4 ½ inch mesh and 25 fish in the 5 ⅛. That catch index is 113.

Station 18 caught 5 fish in the 4 ½ inch mesh and 2 fish in the 5 ⅛. That catch index is 18.

Contact the team at fish@kdlg.org or call (907) 842-2200

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.
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!