If you haven't watched our latest YouTube video I suggest scrolling back up and hitting play! Captain Steve and Deckhand Jake share some details on the seasons opening predications but you might be thinking...Have they started fishing yet?
They have started fishing!
It takes a little over a week for a tiny SD card to travel from Bristol Bay, AK to Bloomsburg, PA via snail-mail so there are some updates since these clips were filmed. Steve and the crew of 4 launched the Fishing Vessel Ava Jane from the Naknek, AK boatyard on June 23rd. From there they used KDLG’s fish reports, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game announcements, and the Port Moller Test Fishery samples to determine which fishing district they would call home for the season.
After a slow start of the salmon return in the Egegik district, Captain Steve made the difficult decision to move to the Naknek District. Decisions like this don’t come easy as each time the boat moves to a new district there is a 3 day no fishing penalty. During their three days "break" the crew eats, sleeps, and plays cards to pass time and store up the energy they will need for the long days of fishing ahead.
4th of July in Bristol Bay
While you celebrated Independence Day with cookouts and fireworks the F/V Ava Jane crew celebrated with more promising signs of salmon in the Naknek District. The commercial fishing fleet caught 277,000 sockeye on the 4th, with an average of 234 sockeye per drift net set. The total harvest at that time was over 1,172,230 salmon in the Naknek District alone. The sockeye season is said to "peak" over the 4th of July holiday each year so an increase in catch was a breath of fresh ocean air.
How is the Catch Today?
Thankfully, the run has also grown. As of Tuesday, the harvest in the Naknek district topped all other rivers at 698,000 fish. The total harvest is at 6.1 million fish in the Naknek district alone. Escapement in the district also led all others with 699,402 fish. The escapement total is now 8.8 million fish as the gap narrows between the Nushagak and Naknek. Escapement is the number of salmon that “escape” fisheries (i.e., are not harvested) and return to fresh water to spawn. This number is important to fishermen as is ensures the sustainability of the fishery for years and generations to come.
How many Sockeye Salmon have returned to Bristol Bay so far?
The total bay-wide run has, once again, surpassed 50 million sockeye. The cumulative harvest so far is 31 million fish, about 6 million fish more than last year’s total on July 12. The cumulative escapement is 19.5 million sockeye. The minimum escapement goal for this season was 13.7 million with an expected total run of 51.06 million so as the actual run comes in the escapement number will adjust proportionally.
How is the crew today?
Captain Steve and the crew are in good spirits! They are fishing as many sets as they can per tide and napping in between. Time flies when you are catching lots of salmon so they're staying focused on staying healthy and safe. Captain Steve is pleased with how the greenhorns are shaping up into fishermen and the crew is working like a well-oiled machine.
Satellite cell phone service in the remote parts of Alaska is spotty and even more so in the middle of the bay so Captain Steve and the crew call home between sets when they find service. Most of Captain Steve's calls are to Jenn and the kids so Jenn updates the office team on how the crew and the catch are doing every few days. As the summer winds down we continue to send our positive thoughts to the crew and all of the Bristol Bay fishermen and reflect on how thankful we are for the sockeye salmon!