Independence Day comes early on Bristol Bay

The Fourth of July is informally known as the kick-off to the Bristol Bay sockeye run.

On the Nushagak River this year, the surge is early, according to KDLG out of Dillingham. Both the Wood and Nushagak rivers have met their escapement goals already, so fishing is on, and the Westside district (which also includes the Igushik River) logged a million-sockeye catch on Monday.

State management biologist Tim Sands chatted with his predecessor to determine that 1981 is likely the last time the district broke the million-fish-day threshold.

So far the Nushagak alone has already caught more than half of its predicted 1.9 million fish.

“It’s going really well for us and the guys we fish with,” Captain Stevo Maher of the Toonces told KDLG. “I’ve never had a start like this, I don’t remember this strong of fishing this early ever.”

We know the run is early. But is it just a short surge, or is this just a massive return?

The news is looking good for reds, but the king return is off to a very slow start. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game delayed the commercial opening and did not open for the morning on June 21 to give the king salmon time to move upstream. The sonar counter at Portage Creek has only counted 21,000 kings so far, against a goal of 95,000. At the end of the day on Monday, the commercial fleet had landed just over 16,000 kings in the Nushagak District, about half of what they might catch through an average season.

The Naknek-Kvichak District had single openings for setnetters and gillnetters on Tuesday and Wednesday with a notice to stand by at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

We’ll keep watching as the fishermen in Bristol Bay keep hauling.

About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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