National Fisherman

July 10, 2011 — As I write this we are taking a management-imposed break from fishing. The biologist in charge of monitoring the Naknek/Kvichak district of Bristol Bay had the fleet stand down for two tides to allow fish to escape up the river to spawn. Already 750,000 fish have gone by; apparently he wants 1.1 million (that is a midpoint number, so I think 900,000 would be fine for the longevity of the run).

The river will get its escapement with the fleet not fishing; the question is when. Right now there are 760 boats registered to fish in the Naknek district, which is the most I have ever seen here. I think this volume of boats is doing too good a job of catching the fish, so not enough are getting up the river.

Egegik is a hurting unit, as well. The last I heard they were taking a couple DAYS off — that was a couple days ago. If only Egegik had its fish come in... there would be fewer boats in Naknek and maybe we would be fishing now.

No matter how you slice it the fact is that fewer fish have returned than expected. What does this mean? I don't buy into the doom-and-gloom theories that would suggest the ocean can no longer sustain life; rather, I just think the run is a bit smaller than they forecast, and after fishing aggressively in the beginning, they need to pull back and let the fish get up the river. Of course, Egegik has had two slow runs in a row (2010 and 2011), but in 1997 and 1998 Naknek had two slow runs, as well. I believe the fishery is fine, and just cycling through something.

The noon announcement gave us an opening at 8 a.m. on July 11, and no opening on the evening tide. I imagine we will be on this one-tide-a-day schedule for a few days, until the river gets its escapement. This is far better than Egegik's announcement, which was to stand down for another three to four tides before there any chance of an opening.

At this point I am just happy to be fishing.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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