As we are well into June, it’s time for our annual Pre Fishing Season Update! Each year our crew heads to Bristol Bay Alaska, located just off the southwestern corner of mainland Alaska. The Bay is tucked above Aleutian Islands and unfolds into the rest of the Bering Sea, making it home to one of the most northern (and untouched) salmon runs in the world.
Wild for Salmon owners & operators Steve and Jenn Kurian have been fishing in Alaska since 2001. After set net fishing for a single season in the Bay in 2001, the Kurians immediately noticed a gap in the east coast market for fresh, wild Pacific salmon.
After falling in love with Bristol Bay and the amazing salmon it produces, the two entrepreneurs expanded their business by fishing in the Bay every summer and then selling their catch to their hometown for the rest of the year.
Since then, their operation has grown to become our two wild-caught seafood companies our customers are most familiar with today: Pride of Bristol Bay, selling wild Bristol Bay Sockeye in bulk, and Wild For Salmon, offering a variety of wild-caught, sustainable seafood sourced from the Kurian’s network of fisherman friends across the U.S.
Now in his 20th season, Captain Steve is preparing to head back up to the Bay in order to bring in the new 2022 catch of wild Alaskan salmon that will soon be on the dining room tables of homes across the U.S.
Alaska Salmon Run 2022: Another record-breaking year?
2021 proved to be the largest sockeye salmon run on record at 66 million, and the Alaska salmon season of 2022 is looking to bring even more silver scales our way.
Each fall, Alaska Department of Fish & Game releases a projection for what they expect to see in salmon return numbers for the upcoming commercial fishing season. In a breakdown of these projections by our team, it seems this year is looking to break records in more ways than one. The 2022 Bristol Bay sockeye run is expected to be around 70 million salmon, adding on to it's six-year streak of returns above 50 million fish.
Some say the warmer water has to do with these larger returns, creating improved feeding conditions for salmon to mature and return earlier.
Preparations for the season
The Kurian Family is preparing for the season as well by soaking up tons of quality time with Steve before he heads north for the summer. With school out for the summer, the Kurian Crew kicked off their break by spending a weekend kayaking and camping.
Of course, Captain Steve had to add his own version of fun before the real fishing work begins. During this same trip, Steve helped the PA Game Commission trap a nuisance bear at the Pettecote Junction campgrounds in order to make it a bit more pleasant for summer campers. It’s a good thing he’s used to seeing wild Brown Bear in Alaska for two months every year!
Elsewhere in Bloomsburg, PA, the Kurian Fisheries team is hard at work gearing up for yet another record-breaking season. While the Marketing Team is making plans to bring you some exciting content straight from the boat this summer, we are also keeping seafood fans everywhere fed with wild, sustainably caught seafood varieties from across the U.S.
In Alaska, the Ava Jane Crew has officially landed and is preparing for the boat to hit the water for the season. This usually occurs sometime around June 20th for the Bristol Bay commercial fishermen fleet.
The crew is also keeping an eye out for this year’s shipment of home-grown meats, currently traveling to Alaska in a total of three 50-pound coolers from Bloomsburg, PA. All of the meat has been directly sourced from the Kurian Family, whether it be from their own backyard livestock or from hunts they’ve done throughout the year. You could say the Ava Jane crew will be eating well this season!
This year’s crew includes returning Ava Jane fisherman, Matt. He has been fishing on the Ava Jane for 5 summers prior and spends his off seasons working in Bloomsburg alongside Steve, Jenn and other team members at Wild For Salmon’s brick and mortar store as the Production Team Lead.
Deckhand Jake has returned for a second season on the Ava Jane, though he is no longer a newcomer to the Bristol Bay region. For the last month, Jake’s been guiding world-class fly fishing tours at Bear Trail Lodge. He’ll return to guiding in August after the salmon fishing season ends and stay there through October.
This year’s “new to the crew” on the Ava Jane is Dylan. Originally from Texas, Dylan has been commercial fishing since 2018 and now spends most of his time in four different fisheries in southeast Alaska. Though his prior experience includes three years of long-lining and cannery work, this will be his first year gill netting.
Mark, who has ten years of experience in the same radio company as Steve, will join the crew later this year in "peak season", which is the final "boom" of salmon returning from the ocean to spawn in their home rivers.
Captain Steve's longtime friend Wil Claussen, a photographer, will also be joining the Kurian Fisheries team for a few days in July to help them capture commercial salmon fishing content. Wil has previously fished in the Bay, as well as worked with the Wild For Salmon & Pride of Bristol Bay crew, so it will be great to have him back for a few days this year.
Pebble Mine Comment Period: A key opportunity for salmon fans to protect Bristol Bay
On May 25th this year, the EPA announced a particular set of revisions proposed to the Clean Water Act that would “completely prohibit mine waste discharge in an expanded area of the Pebble Deposit…”. If these revisions are accepted, it would help protect all of the water systems within the Bristol Bay region that are vital to the long term survival of wild salmon and other Bristol Bay wildlife.
So as a wild salmon fan, how can you help the Pebble issue? Well, for starters, the salmon endangered by Pebble Mine are the very same salmon we deliver from our nets to your table. With your voice and account of why Bristol Bay sockeye are so special, we can work together to see these revisions through.
A comment period is currently being held until July 4th for the public to tell the EPA why we support strong, lasting protections within the Clean Water Act for the Bristol Bay area. Our pals at Save Bristol Bay have set up an easy way for folks to submit their comments to the EPA online. Together, we encourage our customers and partners to get loud and get commenting before July 4th!
**UPDATE: The comment period has been extended until September 6, 2022.
A season worth keeping an eye on
With major steps forward for the fight against Pebble Mine, another potentially record-breaking run and this being Captain Steve’s 20th season in the Bay, there is so much to be excited about this season.
Our marketing team will be working hard to keep you apprised of all the latest fishing season updates, including some special content that Captain Steve & the crew will be delivering straight from the FV Ava Jane this year. Be sure to hop over to our Kurian Fisheries YouTube channel and subscribe so you can be the first to see what’s going on in Bristol Bay this summer. Here’s to one wild commercial fishing season ahead!
Aubrey McNeil is a Content Creator & Marketing Professional born, raised and currently located in the PNW, where she spent 22 years actively avoiding all things wild seafood before discovering its incomparable nutritional and environmental benefits. Oddly enough, it was not these formative years spent in coastal surroundings that established her love for wild fish and wild places, but the unique cuisines and people discovered through her years of travel since then. Aubrey is passionate about maintaining the outdoors as an inclusive space for all, as well as recreating responsibly within its vast and beautiful playgrounds. She gets excited about meeting new faces in new places, spending time in the backcountry, and is weirdly prideful of her above average knowledge of the craft brewery industry.