Alaska’s Togiak herring fleet was off to an early start in Bristol Bay, as predicted. The official start time was 6 a.m. on Sunday, April 22, and NOAA issued a gale warning. The fishery once opened on April 17 two years ago. That was the fleet’s earliest recorded start.

The fleet of mostly seiners and as many as three drift gillnet boats is targeting a 24,042-ton quota, slightly up from last year. Purse seiners have 70 percent of that quota and netted 407 tons in the first period of fishing. An additional 1,500 tons is allocated to the roe on kelp fishery, and 1,810 tons to the Dutch Harbor food and bait fishery, which is harvested in the summer.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game closed a portion of the bay to seining just before midnight on Monday, April 23, to carve out a fishing area for gillnets.

Reports were mixed from the grounds in the first couple days of fishing as the fleet waiting for more herring to ripen and produce marketable spawn. Fishing pace is likely to quicken as the herring mature in the shallow waters of the bay.

The Sitka sac roe herring fishery in Southeast Alaska closed early on April 3, falling 8,330 tons short of the guideline harvest level.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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