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Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: July 18, 2022

Nets on the beach in naknek.jpg
Mackenzie Mancuso
/
KDLG
Nets along the beach at low tide in Naknek. July 2022.

The bay’s run is at 73.7 million sockeye. Harvests have dropped off around the bay, but fleets still hauled in just over half a million fish on Sunday. Naknek-Kvichak fishermen caught most of the daily harvest. Another quarter-million fish escaped up rivers across the bay. The bay’s total harvest this season is at 56.3 million fish.

Fish container shortage resolved as harvest drops off

On Friday, Bristol Bay fleets were notified that freight companies may run out of containers prior to the season’s end. Processors had announced that there was a shortage of freezer containers because of this year’s record harvest.

Now, it seems like companies have resolved the container shortage. Alaska Marine Lines spokesperson Dani Myren told KDLG on Monday that it looks like there may be enough containers to last out the season but that “we are working with the processors and continuing to manage the allocation plan implemented last week, just to be certain.”

This all comes as harvests begin to decline baywide, and some crews have decided to wrap up what has been a huge summer season.

Norm Van Vactor, a plant manager with Silver Bay Seafoods told KDLG over the weekend that the shortage was challenging, but the processor was still buying from the fleet.

OBI Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, and Leader Creek Fisheries did not respond to requests for comment about how cargo transportation has been affected.

John Hickman, vice president of Peter Pan Seafoods, said on Friday that the shortage would impact its Dillingham plant, but that Peter Pan was working to transport products to other plants in the region, like Port Moller and King Cove.

KDLG inquired about issues with air cargo of sockeye from Bristol Bay. A spokesperson with Northern Air Cargo, which transports products to Anchorage, says they were aware of the issue and that operations have not been impacted.

Alaska Air Cargo and Everts Air did not respond by airtime.

Historic wooden sailboat delayed in Igiugig

The Libby McNeil Libby 76, the historic Bristol Bay sailboat on its way to Naknek, is stuck in Igiugig, on the southwest corner of Lake Iliamna. As KDLG’s Brian Venua reports, the crew faces a headwind down the Kvichak River and are weathered in until conditions improve.

KDLG's Brian Venua heard from the crew on the historic wooden sailing boat traveling to Naknek.

The F/V Silver Hook, formerly The Drifter, sank on July 6 near Graveyard Point, in the Naknek-Kvichak District. Sergie Chukwak had leased the vessel from the boat’s owners Alex and Lida Silver. He captained it this season.

Chukwak said his crew had caught a load of fish just before the tide started to go out.

"We drifted on top of the sandbar there outside of Graveyard [Point]," he said. "It got shallow and started pulling away from the flat, where I thought it was deeper water."

Chukwak said they were able to get the boat to move again, but they had already started to take on water.

"We get back out in four or five feet of water and heard a strange noise coming in the back and that there was water coming off the flush deck into the fish hold and I’m like ‘What the heck?’”

Chukwak took the boat out of gear and went to see what the issue was.

“Three seconds later there was a foot of water rushing in the door. The stern of the boat was under water.”

Chukwak said he is grateful the crew got out with no major injuries.

"It could have been a heck of a lot worse," he said. "Maybe in deep water the boat would have rolled all over."

The Silver Hook’s owners plan to pull it out of the water and repair any damage in the hopes of getting it back out for another season.

'Nothing compares to lifting a hatch cover and throwing a 7-pound salmon across a deck'

Fishermen are starting to come ashore for the season. Correspondent Mackenzie Mancuso talked to her friend Chrissy Zubek, a fisherman from Clearwater, Florida, who has been coming to Naknek for several years to bartend. This was her first season out on the water.

Mackenzie Mancuso speaks with Chrissy Zubek about Zubek's first season on the water.

Messages to the fleet

 To hector on the El Nayar: This is beth. I was waving you in at the harbor. Call me. 907-843-0819.

We also received an audio message for tonight’s show:

Birthday message from Moe.mp3

The numbers

A fisherman rests briefly while drifting in the Nushagak. July 2022.
Gisa Reigh
/
A fisherman rests briefly while drifting in the Nushagak. July 2022.

Just under a million fish came through the bay on Sunday for a season count of 73.7 million salmon so far. The Fish and Game preseason forecast was at 75 million fish, but their margin for error says the run could even go as high as 90 million sockeye this year.

Harvest on Sunday was at 694,000 for a cumulative count of 56.3 million, over 4 million more than what processors said they’d claim at the beginning of the season.

Another 276,339 fish escaped for a total of 17.3 million past the counters.

Nushagak District

The Nushagak District is slowing down: Only 153,587 sockeye came through for a count of 29.6 million this year.

Harvest was at 116,000 fish on Sunday for a total harvest of 22.4 million — the second largest harvest in that district on record. Average drift deliveries were at 551 sockeye.

Escapement was 37,587 sockeye for a count of 7.24 million so far.

Nushagak River

The Nushagak River sonar counted 8,435 fish yesterday for a total count of 3.5 million this season.

7,467 were sockeye for a species total of 3.38 million in that river. 934 were chum for a count of 93,605 – less than half of the escapement goal for that species. 34 Chinook were also counted for a total of 43,641.

Wood River

The Wood River had 22,746 fish come by the counter on Sunday with another 7,266 friends this morning. The total escapement for the Wood is 3.62 million.

Igushik River

The Igushik River had another 7,374 fish counted Sunday with another 2,232 this morning for a cumulative total of 246,930 sockeye.

Togiak District

The Togiak District saw a total of 1,866 fish come through, all of which escaped past the tower. The total run there is now 242,561 fish. None were harvested on Sunday, the total Togiak harvest to date is 205,589. Total escapement is 36,972.

Naknek-Kvichak District

The Naknek-Kvichak District had a cool 631,170 fish come through, the total run there is 20.2 million sockeye. Harvest was at 423,000 for a cumulative count of 13.2 million with average drift deliveries at 863 sockeye, the biggest deliveries in the bay.

Escapement between the three rivers was 208,170 fish and the total count there is just above 7 million.

And to break it down by river,

Naknek River

The Naknek River had 20,412 fish for a count of 1.84 million this season.

Kvichak River

The Kvichak saw the most in the district – 137,418 friends came through for a total of 3.86 million, also the highest escapement in the bay.

Alagnak River

The Alagnak had a push of about 50,340 sockeye, the total escapement there is 1.36 million fish.

Egegik District

The Egegik District also seems to be winding down, only about 128,998 fish came through. The total run there is now 16.6 million fish.

Harvest on Sunday was 115,000 salmon and average drift deliveries of 877 sockeye for a cumulative 14.9 million so far. Escapement was at 13,988, bringing the total count to 1.71 million spawners.

Ugashik District

The Ugashik District had 54,718 fish come through for a total run of 6.89 million there. Harvest was 40,000 fish with the average drift delivery at 689 sockeye. Total harvest there is 5.6 million.

Escapement in that district was down to 14,718 fish for a cumulative count of 1.3 million.

Chignik Weir Counts 

The Chingik River Weir counted 9,723 sockeye on Sunday. 2,811 belong to the Early Run, which had 405,522 fish, and 6,912 belong to the Late Run, which has a count of 125,947 fish.

36 Chinook came through for a total of 428 of that species.

Area M 

The Area M fishery has a dwindling harvest as well, only 1,688 salmon were caught there. Fisherfolk there caught 1,178 sockeye, 485 pinks, and 25 chum.

Total harvest by species is 7.3 million sockeye, 1.2 million pinks, 614,041 chum, 7,791 Chinook, and 4,620 coho.

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.
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.