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Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: July 13, 2023

Fishing crew in Egegik
Courtesy of Corinne Smith
Fishing crew in Egegik

The bay-wide catch slowed down some on Wednesday, but still almost half a million fish were caught yesterday. Almost half of that was in Egegik with 216,000 fish followed by the Naknek-Kvichak. The total run is now at 34.5 million.

If you’d like to send a message to the fleet, get in touch or give some perspective, give us a call 842-5281 or send an email to

Runs are starting to slow down across parts of the bay, and several rivers are well within their escapement goal ranges. As the season begins to wind its way down, KDLG’s Jessie Sheldon checked in with Fish and Game area managers on the eastside and westside to discuss where this year’s run stands.

First, we check in with Tim Sands, the management biologist for the Nushagak and Togiak Districts.

Bristol Bay Fisheries Report
Tim Sands, Westside Area Management Biologist, ADF&G

Next, we check in with Aaron Tiernan, who manages the Egegik and Ugashik fishing districts, and get the latest on those runs.

Bristol Bay Fisheries Report
Aaron Tiernan, Eastside Area Management Biologist, ADF&G

The Bristol Bay fishing season is very different this year - the total run now at 34.5 million, that’s still well below the forecast of an estimated 51 million. Fishermen are also facing a potential low price, though seafood processing companies won’t confirm. For an update on the market, and how that lower volume in Bristol Bay could impact prices, we check in with Sam Friedman, a consultant with the McKinley Research Group, working with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

Bristol Bay Fisheries Report
Market Update, Pt. 1

Looking at the record-breaking harvest from last year, which some market analysts call “surplus” that drove down prices, Friedman says it’s difficult to track where that inventory is at now.

Bristol Bay Fisheries Report
Market Update, Pt. 2

Friedman says a lower Bristol Bay sockeye harvest this season won’t necessarily improve the price for fishermen because it’s sold on the global market, competing with other fisheries, particularly farmed salmon.

Bristol Bay Fisheries Report
Market Update, Pt. 3

Friedman says market analysts will continue to watch the run and volume this season, as well as harvests from other fisheries around Alaska like Prince William Sound and Southeast.

On the bright side, the 2023 sockeye are coming back one year older and bigger. That extra year in the open ocean can mean a pound and a half or more for each fish, according to Fish and Game area biologists. Those bigger fish could bode well for fishing fleets bottom line.

Bristol Bay is the most productive sockeye salmon fishery in the world, and a dynamic nine-river amalgam of interconnected watersheds, ecosystems, industries, and communities. In the age of climate change, with increasingly extreme weather events and ecosystem changes, Bristol Bay is also at risk. One small change in the salmon life cycle can ripple out across the bay, and there is often no telling how far it will go.

This is a year of volatility, across markets and populations, but what happens when volatility of climate change becomes a trend? Following up on last week’s look at Bristol Bay salmons’ evolutionary response to heat and temperature change, KDLG’s Jack Darrell investigates what climate change volatility could mean for Bristol Bay.

Bristol Bay Fisheries Report
Lake Stratification and Climate Change

No messages to the fleet tonight.

If you’d like to send a message to the fleet, get in touch or give some perspective, give us a call 842-5281 or send an email to

The Numbers

The bay-wide harvest Wednesday was just under half a million fish at 482,085.

The total season catch is now at 24,548,237. Escapement yesterday at 891,633 for a season total of almost 8,963,355 spawners up-river, and another 1 million estimated in-river.

The total bay-wide run is at 34,511,592 fish. The season’s forecast is an estimated 51 million fish run


The Nushagak harvest dropped Wednesday from earlier in the week with 99,640 fish, with an average drift delivery of 161 sockeye. The total catch is at 9,534,815.

The drift fleet has caught about 77 percent of that total harvest. Nushagak set netters have harvested 20 percent, and set netters in the Igushik have harvested 3 percent.

Nushagak River

At the Nushagak River sonar an estimated 53,373 sockeye passed on Wednesday for a total of 1,655,233.

An estimated 106 Chinook passed the Nushagak River sonar yesterday for a total of 30,159 this season. The escapement goal this year is at least 55,000.

Another 504 chum salmon passed the sonar, for a total of an estimated 82,059 this season. That’s far below this year’s escapement goal of 200,000 chum.

Wood River

At the Wood River counting tower, an estimated 112,578 sockeye passed on Wednesday, bringing the total escapement to 2,408,862. That’s well within the escapement goal range of 700,000 to 3 million fish. Another 9,336 passed by as of 6 am this morning.

Igushik River

In the Igushik River, an estimated 13,908 sockeye passed on Wednesday, for a total of 293,364 fish this season. Another 8,508 fish passed the towers as of 6 am this morning. The Igushik run is also well within its escapement goal range of 150,000 to 400,000 fish.


At the Togiak counting tower, crews estimate 4,818 sockeye passed on Wednesday, for a total of 37,944 fish this season. Another estimated 1,188 fish swam past the tower as of 6 am this morning. The escapement goal in Togiak is 120,000 to 270,000.

Togiak fleets hauled in 11,897 sockeye on Wednesday. The season total catch there is now 76,863. The total run in Togiak is at 109,989 fish.

On the east-side…


Naknek and Kvichak fleets had the second biggest catch of the day yesterday, hauling in 153,938, with an average drift delivery of 241 fish. The total season catch is now 6,482,747 fish. Wednesday’s escapement was an estimated 543,684 with another 800,000 estimated in-river. The season’s total run is at 10,718,959.

The drift fleet caught about 75 percent of that total harvest, Naknek setnetters caught around 13 percent and Kvichak setnetters around 12 percent.

In the Naknek River, tower crews estimated 16,884 fish escaped yesterday. That brings the river’s cumulative escapement to over 819,312. That hits the Naknek’s lower escapement boundary, with the goal being between 800,000 to 2 million.

In the Kvichak River, an estimated 352,704 fish made it upstream past the counting tower, with another estimated 800,000 fish in-river. Total escapement is at 1,960,110 fish so far - almost to the escapement goal range of 2 to 10 million.

In the Alagnak River, tower crews estimated 174,096 fish swam upstream yesterday, bringing the total season escapement to 656,790 fish. That’s over double this season’s escapement goal of at least 210,000 fish.

In this season’s forecast, the Naknek is expected to see a 6.5 million sockeye run, Kvichak, over 8 million fish, and the Alagnak is forecasted to get around 4.2 million.


Egegik fishing crews had the biggest haul again Wednesday of 216,610 fish on Wednesday, with an average drift delivery of 795 fish. The season’s total catch is now at 7,484,649.

Egegik drifters have caught about 81 percent of the harvest this season, and setnetters have caught 19 percent.

Escapement yesterday was an estimated 15,612 fish. Total escapement is estimated at 820,446 fish, and the total run is an estimated 8,305,095. That passes the lower escapement goal for Egegik of 800,000 to 2 million fish.


No fish were caught in Ugashik Wednesday either. The season total catch remains at 741,260 fish.

Escapement yesterday in Ugashik was estimated at 110,418. Total escapement is at an estimated 258,440 fish, with another 200,000 estimated in-river. The escapement goal range for the Ugashik River is 500,000-1.4 million fish.

The total run in Ugashik remains at 1,039,282 fish. The run is forecasted to be 3.35 million this season.

We’re going to take a short break here, we’ll be back with vessel registrations, peninsula harvests and the latest from the Port Moller Test Fishery.

Vessel Registrations

As of noon today, in Egegik, there are 389 permits on 297 boats. That will increase slightly to 399 permits on 304 boats by Saturday, and the number of DBoats will increase from 92 to 95.

The Ugashik District has 228 permits on 170 boats, which will increase to 236 permits on 175 boats in the next 2 days. DBoats will increase from 58 to 61 boats.

The Naknek-Kvichak District has 697 permits on 528 boats. That will jump up to 728 permits on 550 boats by Saturday. DBoats will increase from 169 to 178.

In the Nushagak, there are 294 permits on 226 boats. In the next 2 days, that increase by one to 295 permits on 226 boats. DBoats will go from 69 to 70.

The Togiak District has 24 permits on 24 boats, which will stay the same in the next two days.

In total bay-wide, there are 1,632 active permits on 1,245 boats and 388 DBoats.

Chignik River

Chignik fleets harvested 167,541 sockeye in the week of July 4 through July 11, bringing the season total to 290,631 fish.

The Chignik River weir saw a big push of sockeye on Wednesday, with an estimated 28,056 spawners passing, for a season total of 448,550 fish.

An estimated 13,153 fish were part of the early run yesterday, for a season total just under 386,994. An estimated 14,903 fish were part of the late run yesterday, for a total of 61,556 fish.

Area M

In Area M, North and South Peninsula fleets harvested another 21,613 sockeye on Wednesday, for a season total of 1,743,457.

They caught just 8 chinook on Wednesday, for a season total of 2,963. No coho were caught, alongside 3 pinks, and 400 chum salmon.

The total Area M season harvest across species is now just under 2,316,578.

For the South Peninsula, total harvest is at 951,880 sockeye, 1,822 chinook, 4,119 coho, 242,464 pinks, and 318,504 chum.

In the North Peninsula, total harvest is just under 791,577 sockeye, 1,141 chinook, and 4959 chum.

And now on to the Port Moller Test Fishery:

The test fishery announced that they will close up shop for the season on today, Thursday July 13th.

For the July 12 indices, no fish were caught at Stations 2, 4, 20 or 22.

At the following test fishery stations, the smaller mesh size is 4 ½ inch and the bigger mesh size is 5 ⅛.

Station 6 caught 1 fish in the small net and 4 fish in the big net. That catch index is 9.

Station 8 caught 4 fish in the small net and 18 fish in the big net. That catch index is 43.

Station 10 caught 1 fish in the small net and 11 fish in the big net. That catch index is 29.

Station 12 caught 0 fish in the small net and 5 fish in the big net. That catch index is 9.

Station 14 caught 1 fish in the small net and 0 fish in the big net. That catch index is 2.

Station 16 caught 2 fish in the small net and 0 fish in the big net. That catch index is 4.

Station 18 caught 0 fish in the small net and 3 fish in the big net. That catch index is 7.

Corinne Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer who grew up in Oakland, California. She's reported for KFSK in Petersburg, KHNS in Haines, and most recently KBBI in Homer. This is her second season as a fisheries reporter, and now returns as director of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report.
Jack Darrell is a reporter for KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. He is working on the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report and is passionate about sustainable fisheries and local stories that connect communities and explore the intersections of class, culture, and the natural world.
Jessie Sheldon is a fisheries reporter for KDLG. She has spent several summers working in Alaska, both on the water and in the recording studio. Jessie is passionate about marine ecosystems, connection through storytelling, and all things fishy.