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Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: July 5, 2024

 Nushagak sockeye salmon in a tote await processing
Jessie Sheldon
/
KDLG
Sockeye salmon in a tote await processing

Across the bay, fishing crews hauled in almost 2.6 million fish, the highest catch this season by far. 1.5 million sockeye came from the Nushagak District on Thursday, and other districts' counts remained similar to what they were on Wednesday. Numbers at Port Moller also jumped yesterday, and test fishery crews had their biggest average catch index of the season. They say that the run timing this year is likely later than initially predicted.

Get in touch and share some perspective — give us a call at 907-842-5281 or send an email to fish@kdlg.org. If you’d like to get a message out to the fleet on this show, send your messages to the fleet to fish@kdlg.org.

University of Washington forecast predicts larger run and smaller fish

Fishing crews in the Nushagak District hit a milestone yesterday, bringing in more than one million fish for the first time this season. Elsewhere, fish are still waiting in the wings. Curry Cunningham is a researcher with the University Washington’s Fisheries Research Institute program. He does in-season forecasting for the run. We talked yesterday about how that forecasting works — and about run size, run timing, and why boats are seeing smaller fish this year.

Curry Cunningham on Forecasting

State Troopers report 21 fishing violations since Tuesday

Each year during sockeye salmon season, Alaska State Troopers come from around the state to patrol Bristol Bay. Spokesperson Austin McDaniel says it’s a busy time for them. As the run picked up this week, so did the citations. State Troopers report 21 fishing violations around Bristol Bay since Tuesday, July 2, 2024.

Fishing Citations in Bristol Bay

Voices from Bristol Bay

Yesterday, the Nushagak district had its biggest day so far this season. We checked in with Justin Arnold, who has been fishing since yesterday.

Fishing boat check in

Right now thousands of seafood processing workers are unloading tenders and fishing vessels, handling, cutting, packaging and processing the millions of salmon coming into the Bay, to prepare them for export around the world. The tough but essential workforce is living and working in dozens of on-shore plants in Naknek, Egegik, Port Moller, Togiak and Dillingham.

Former fisheries reporter Corinne Smith caught up with processing workers at the Dillingham library recently, waiting for the season and the processing work to start. Today we hear from one Texan. Amaris Anthony is 24 years old, new to Alaska, and new to commercial fisheries and seafood processing.

Processing worker check in

Messages to the fleet

To Capt. Sean Guffy, F/V Waterman: All here agree your homemade buns are delicious, but your sales goal may be a bit ambitious. We don't believe you can reach your own bun goal. We feel that either by expanding or contracting your bun goal, you'll get the results you want. — From The Committee

Happy birthday Jay Minor, good fishing! — Love grandpa and Katie 

The Numbers

The baywide catch on Thursday was almost 2,597,610 fish, bringing the total season catch to over 9,548,450.

Cumulative escapement is at an estimated 5,310,134 so far.

The total run as of Thursday, July 4 was estimated at 15,458,584 sockeye.

Nushagak 

In the Nushagak District, fleets hauled in 1,539,437 fish on Thursday, for a total of 5,520,270 fish, with an average drift delivery of 1,424 sockeye. The total run this season in the Nushagak District is now 9,641,222.

The drift fleet has caught about 78.6% of that total harvest, while Nushagak set netters have harvested 19.2%, and set netters in the Igushik have harvested about 2.2%.

Nushagak River

The Nushagak River sonar counted about 47,039 sockeye on Thursday, for a total of just 1,117,856 sockeye up the Nushagak so far.

1,187 Chinook passed the Nushagak River sonar, for a total of 29,365 so far this season. That’s more than halfway to the minimum of the escapement goal range for Nushagak fish of 55,000 to 120,000 fish.

About 8,024 chum salmon passed the sonar yesterday, for a total of 178,002.

The Nushagak River is still within its sockeye escapement goal range of 370,000 to 1.4 million fish. The river is estimated to see a 3.5 million sockeye run this season.

Wood River 

At the Wood River counting tower on Thursday, sockeye escapement counts have begun to decrease. About 108,486 sockeye passed, bringing the total escapement to 2,844,714, with another 79,218 fish passing the tower as of 6 a.m. this morning.

The Wood River is still within its escapement goal range of 700,000 to 3 million fish, and the forecast is for around 7.8 million sockeye.

Igushik

The Igushik tower crew counted 21,504 fish yesterday, for a total of 158,382 so far, with an additional 3,972 fish counted as of 6 a.m. this morning.

Togiak

Fishing crews in Togiak caught 3,949 fish on Thursday, for a total catch of 25,958 so far, with an average drift delivery of 83 sockeye.

Togiak’s tower counting crew should be counting any day now, but high water over there is delaying them. Be expecting escapement counts very soon.

The total run for Togiak River sockeye is forecasted to be around 680,000 fish, with an escapement goal range of 120,000 to 270,000.

Naknek-Kvichak 

Naknek and Kvichak fishing fleets caught 375,897 fish yesterday. The season total stands at 1,242,197 fish, with an average drift delivery of 720 sockeye. So far, drifters in the Naknek and Kvichak Rivers have caught 65.7% of the season’s total catch. Setnetters on the Kvichak have caught 22.8% of the season’s catch and setnetters on the Naknek have caught 11.5%.

The Naknek tower crew counted 140,640 spawners yesterday, making their total an estimated 200,562 fish.

Kvichak escapement counts are continuing to pick up, the tower crew counted about 55,020 fish yesterday, doubling their total to 297,096. Another 330,000 fish are estimated to be in-river, between the commercial fishing district and the counting tower.

The total season run for Naknek/Kvichak is 2,165,801 so far.

Almost 54,714 fish were counted swimming in the Alagnak River yesterday, making their total about 95,946.

A run of approximately 15 million sockeye is expected across the Naknek/Kvichak district this season.

The Naknek River escapement goal range is 800,000 to 2 million sockeye. In the Kvichak River, the escapement goal range is 2 million to 10 million, and the Alagnak River has a minimum escapement goal of 210,000.

Egegik 

Egegik fleets brought in 460,061 fish yesterday, making the cumulative catch 1,886,123, with an average drift delivery of 1,161 sockeye. So far, Egegik drifters have caught 77% of the season’s total catch, and setnetters have caught 23%.

144,000 144,024 spawners were counted passing the towers in Egegik yesterday, making the season’s total escapement 477,126 fish. Another 100,000 fish are estimated to be in-river, bringing the total season run so far for Egegik to 2,463,249.

The Egegik district’s run this season is forecasted to be about 5.5 million sockeye salmon and the river’s escapement goal is 800,000 to 2 million fish.

Ugashik

Ugashik crews hauled in 218,266 fish yesterday, their season’s catch is 873,432. So far, Ugashik drifters have caught 84.2% of the season’s total catch, and setnetters have caught 15.8%.

Around 32,970 fish were counted passing the Ugashik counting tower on Thursday, bringing their total to over 118,452. Another 170,000 fish were estimated in-river, bringing the total run for the season to nearly 1,161,884.

The district’s run this season is forecasted to be about 4.6 million sockeye salmon and the river’s escapement goal is 500,000 to 1.4 million fish.

Vessel Registrations

As of 9 a.m. this morning, in Egegik, there are 236 permits on 171 boats. That should stay the same in the next 2 days. D boats will stay at 65.

The Ugashik District has 225 permits on 154 boats, which will increase to 229 permits on 157 boats by Sunday. DBoats will move up from 71 to 72.

In the Naknek-Kvichak District, there are now 469 permits on 356 boats. That will bump up to 525 permits on 392 boats by Sunday. DBoats will bump up from 113 to 133.

In the Nushagak, there are 648 permits on 470 boats. By Sunday, that will decrease to 640 permits on 465 boats. DBoats will decrease from 178 to 175.

The Togiak District has 19 permits on 19 boats, which will stay the same in the next 2 days.

In total bay-wide, there are 1,597 active permits on 1,170 boats and 427 DBoats.

Chignik River weir

At the Chignik River weir, about 21,479 sockeye swam through the weir on Tuesday, for a season total of just over 326,053 so far.

Roughly 16,324 fish were part of the early run, and 5,155 fish were part of the late run.

Area M

Over in Area M, fleets harvested around 37,300 sockeye on Tuesday for a season total of almost 1.5 million 1,458,351.

16 chinook were caught in Area M yesterday, bringing the total season harvest to around 1,752 so far.

361 chum were caught yesterday. Their season harvest is over 425,465.

No coho were caught on Tuesday. Their season total is 167.

And no pinks were caught, the pink’s season total is 277,237.

Most commercial harvests in Area M this season have been caught by South Unimak and Shumagin Islands fleets, with harvest also coming in from Port Moller to Outer Point Heiden, from Nelson Lagoon, and from the Dolgoi Island Area.

And now on to the Port Moller Test Fishery:

Yesterday, Port Moller had their highest daily catch indices yet. Fish were caught in all stations. Their crews are able to conclude that passage rate is increasing, suggesting a run that is later than they thought. Currently, their best guess is that the run will peak on or after Tuesday, July 9.

The catch index at the stations is the number of fish that would be caught in both the small mesh and the big mesh if the station were fished for a full hour. The small mesh is 4 ½ inches, and the large mesh is 5 ⅛ inches.

Station 2 had a catch index of 2.

Station 4 had a catch index of 114.

Station 6 had a catch index of 158.

Station 8 had a catch index of 140.

Station 10 had a catch index of 359.

Station 12 had a catch index of 21.

Station 14 had a catch index of 36.

Station 16 had a catch index of 33.

Station 18 had a catch index of 21.

Station 20 had a catch index of 64.

Station 22 had a catch index of 27.

Station 24 had a catch index of 17.

Overall, yesterday’s mean catch index was 89, the season’s largest yet.

Across stations yesterday, 393 fish were caught in the small mesh, and 173 fish were caught in the big mesh. So far this season, 63% of the test fishery catches were in the small mesh, and 37% of the catches were in the big mesh.

The mean length of fish yesterday in the small mesh was 496 mm, and the mean length of fish caught in the big mesh was 519 mm. That’s bigger than the season average so far, which is 485 mm fish in the small mesh, and 508 mm fish in the big mesh.

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

Meg Duff is a fisheries reporter for KDLG's Bristol Bay Fisheries Report. She is also a freelance journalist, writing and making audio stories for publications like Scientific American, MIT Technology Review, Outside, Slate and Yale Climate Connections. Meg has a master's in journalism from New York University.
Ryan Berkoski just finished his freshman year at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. This summer, Ryan is working as an announcer at KDLG running Open Line, thanks to generous funding from BBEDC.
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.