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The Wood River Special Harvest Area opened to set netters today. The baywide run has hit 7.1 million fish, which is almost five million more fish than last year’s total for June 28. Harvest was a bit down yesterday, most notably in the Naknek-Kvichak. But both Egegik and the Nushagak have a total harvest of over 1.5 million. Izzy Ross hosts the Fish Report on June 29, 2021. The Bristol Bay Native Corporation held its third annual in-person king salmon derby this month to raise money for higher-education programs. While the crowds were big -- it attracted sports fishermen from all over the state and even the country -- the fish were pretty small. KDLG’s Izzy Ross went to the derby up the Nushagak River and has this report. BBNC is one of KDLG's financial sponsors. That does not affect our coverage of BBNC. The commercial side of things Managers have tried to walk the line of conserving Chinook salmon in the Nushagak while still allowing for some commercial openers. But Area Management Biologist Tim Sands says there may be more kings upriver than the apportionment suggests. “I think the run is weak but I think it’s much -- the numbers is stronger than the numbers on the Nushagak suggest, and that’s because of the volume of sockeye salmon up there," he said. "It makes it difficult for us to catch the kings in our apportionment drifts for us to count them.” Sands said sport fishing reports along the Nushagak River don’t seem to align with what the sonar counts suggest. “We’re getting some good information now from the sport fishery about the sport fishing success," he said. "We’re looking at that and saying, ‘Wow, if we had a count of 900 kings in the river, and yet the sport fishermen are catching a fish every two hours, that doesn’t make sense.” Sands says the management approach is still geared toward conserving the king run. But the Nushagak isn’t alone -- around the state, Chinook runs have declined over the past decade. “The bottom line is: what’s going on with the kings we’re seeing statewide and it’s a big ocean issue," Sands said. "It’s not something that’s happening just in Nushagak and it’s not something we’re doing here that’s making it happen, it’s the ocean.” Despite low king numbers, Sands expects to have more commercial openers for sockeye soon. “I think we have a little bit bigger run than we forecasted coming to us and we’re going to switch over to trying to control sockeye salmon escapement a little more,” he said. The Wood River Special Harvest Area opened to set netters at 5 p.m. today, and it is open until further notice. Counts at the Chignik River weir trail behind escapement goals At the Chignik River weir, the sockeye run is at 141,838 fish. The early run is 142,122, and the late run is now 6,286. So far, the run is falling short of the minimum escapement goals for the season. And the Chignik area’s 2021 salmon forecast is the lowest on record, following three consecutive years of abysmal returns. The total escapement goal for the Chignik area is between 570-850 thousand fish. The 20-year average sockeye return was over 2.3 million fish from 1999 - 2018. The early run averaged 1.3 million fish, while the late run was just over 1 million fish. This year’s forecast is less than half that – at just 875,000 sockeye -- 437,000 fish for the early run and 438,000 for the late run. Most returning salmon have spent two to three years in the ocean, says Reid Johnson, the new Chignik area management biologist. He says the 2021 forecast reflects the poor returns in 2018 and 2019. “So previous years are obviously a big predictor as far as how many fish will be returning. And that’s part of why the forecast was so low this season is because there wasn’t a big return these previous years,” he said. The combined total for the early and late runs in 2018 was just under 540,000 fish. In 2019, returns increased to 1.3 million fish -- half of that was harvested by the commercial fleet. And the 2019 run was still shy of the 20-year average of 2.3 million reds. “If we look at the number of one-year fish that returned last year, we can get an idea of how many 2-year-old fish that are going to be returning this year," Johnson explained. "Likewise, if we look at the two-year-old fish that returned last year, we can get a good idea of the three-year-old fish, the 3 ocean fish that are going to be returning this year.” In 2019, the run of nearly 682,000 sockeye just met its escapement goal. Last year’s sockeye returns were the lowest on record; the early run’s final tally was 331,000. It’s forecast was 1.2 million. Fish and Game doesn’t publish forecasts for other salmon species in the Chignik area. Messages to the fleet To all setnet fishermen in Pilot Point, good luck and good fishing. From Dano and Skookum! The numbers Yesterday’s baywide harvest was slightly down from Sunday’s 775,000, coming in at 460,500 fish. Total harvest around the bay is up to 3.6 million. Escapement was nearly identical to harvest at 464,194. Baywide escapement is now 3.4 million fish. The total run for the season so far is 7.1 million fish. At this time last year, the total run was at 2.4 million fish. Nushagak Escapement in the Nushagak River was 377,398 fish. The Nushagak continues to lead the fishery with a cumulative 2.7 million fish. Harvest in the Nushagak hit 145,000 fish yesterday, putting the total catch at 1.8 million fish. The sonar in the Nushagak River counted 220,810 sockeye. That puts the total sockeye count at 1.6 million fish. Chinook saw a small bump in numbers, coming in at 2,649 fish compared to Sunday’s 950. The total run is 20,649. And it was a ho-hum day for chum, only 84 fish were counted by the tower. The chum sum bumps up a bit at 40,380 fish. Looking at the cumulative catch by gear, Nushagak driftnets accounted for 78.4% of fish harvested with 17.8% going to set nets. Igushik setnetters took the remaining 4.7%. Wood River Would you believe The Wood River Tower surpassed the million fish mark? Cause they did! Yesterday’s run topped out at 127,380 which brings the total escapement to 1 million fish. Regis Philbin would be proud. As of 6: 00 a.m. this morning, the tower has counted 26,412 fish in the Wood. Igushik River In the Igushik, fish escapement hit 28,908 to double the total run at 52,998 fish. As of 6: 00 a.m. the tower has counted 12,810 fish. Togiak Harvest in the Togiak district was reported for the first time in four days at 3,500 fish. That’s the salmon's share of the catch so far, pushing the total to 5,759. Naknek-Kvichak District Daily escapement was up 40% in the Naknek-Kvichak yesterday, coming in at 31,254 fish. The cumulative there is now up to 81,654. Catch was at 32,000 fish -- down 30% from Sunday’s return of 104,000. Total harvest is now at 180,580. Naknek-Kvichak driftnets took in about half of that total catch at 44.4%. Setnetters commanded the majority of the catch. Naknek setnets harvested a third of those fish at 29.2% and the remainder going to Kvichak setnets at 26.4%. Naknek River Escapement up the Naknek was 26,700 yesterday. The total is at 76,788. Kvichak River The Kvichak’s escapement picked up a bit yesterday -- 4,554 fish swam past that counting tower yesterday, bringing that total to over 4,866. Egegik Daily escapement was down by nearly half yesterday, swimmin’ in at 55,542 fish. That puts total escapement at 593,178 and it’s the second largest total Baywide. Despite low escapement, harvest was bountiful with 280,000 fish caught. Cumulative harvest has reached 1.5 million fish, just shy of Nushagak’s total catch. Egekik drift nets accounted for 79% of the cumulative catch with 21% in the webs of setnets, according to Cumulative Catch by Gear. Ugashik No reports out of Ugashik from yesterday, the run sits at 143,932. But as of yesterday’s update from Fish and Game, Ugashik is open today for commercial setnet gear till 9: 30 p.m. and driftnets till 8: 00 p.m. As the final hours of the opener tick down, we wish you all good luck out there and a bounty of slimy salmon! Chignik At the Chignik River weir, 13,661 sockeye swam the weir yesterday. As of 5: 00 p.m. today, 6,570 sockeye have passed the weir. The early cumulative is at 148,400 fish. The early run is at 142,122, and the late run is at 6,286. Area M In Area M, daily Sockeye harvest was 89,356 and that puts the total harvest at 3.2 million fish. Pink harvest was down 40% from Sunday, at 44,879 fish. That total is hovering just above 3.2 million pinks. Chum harvest came in at 31,058 fish, the chum sum is at 798,800. And for Chinook, 43 fish were harvested putting the total catch at 2,750 fish. Port Moller Test Fishery Daily catch indices dipped yesterday, but researchers say it would take several days of low returns to determine whether the run has peaked. Stock composition estimates from June 26-27 should release sometime Wednesday. Station 2 caught five in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and three in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 18. Station 4 caught two in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and two in the f5 1/8. The catch index is 9. Station 6 caught 13 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and zero in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 37. Station 8 caught 46 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 53 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 186. Station 10 caught 11 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and one in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 30. Station 12 caught seven in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and zero in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 19. Station 14 caught 24 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 16 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 89. Station 16 caught zero in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 17 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 36. Station 18 caught 24 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 41 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 144. Station 20 caught 14 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and zero in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 30. Station 22 reported no fish. Vessel registration as of June 29 9: 00 a.m. and July 01 9: 00 a.m. As of 9: 00 a.m. there are 1,167 vessels in the bay and 345 D-Boats. That will increase Thursday to 1,257 vessels and 378 D-Boats. Now for the district by district break down of boat registration: Nushagak leads the Bay with 577 vessels and 201 D-Boats. That will dip a bit to 564 boats and 193 D-Boats. In second, we have Egegik with 314 vessels and 94 D-Boats. That will jump to 335 vessels and 102 D-Boats. In Naknek-Kvichak, there are 192 vessels and 25 D-Boats. That will increase to 246 vessels and 45 D-boats. In Ugashik, we have 57 vessels and 25 D-Boats. By Thursday, it will that will be 85 vessels and 38 D-Boats. And in Togiak, there are 27 vessels, and that will remain the same through Thursday. Contact the fish team at [email protected] or 907-842-2200.
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