5600 tons of herring harvested in Togiak opening weekend

May 1, 2017

State's largest herring fishery opened Friday night, with a steady harvest reported through the weekend. One tender, the F/V Tugidak, struck a rock and was beached for repairs Sunday.

A crewman from the Icicle Seafoods floating processor Gordon Jensen, who is onboard the tender Wild Salmon, pumping Togiak herring over to be processed.
Credit Warner Lew / Icicle Seafoods

The Togiak sac roe herring fishery, the largest of its kind in the state, opened Friday night at 6:00 p.m. KDLG's Dave Bendinger reports:

Fish and Game area management biologist Tim Sands opened the Togiak herring fishery Friday after he documented the 35,000 ton biomass. Fishing was slow Friday night, as the herring had not matured enough ahead of their spawn for good marketability.

"Then on Saturday at some point the fish got ripe enough to make it worth harvesting, so they took about 2,300 tons," Sands said of the fleet.

The Sunday catch was 3,375 tons, bringing the season total to 5,655 tons. Most of the harvest is coming from the seiners, though more gillnet boats are expected to fish this spring.

Saturday's harvest had a roe average of 10.7 percent, and were weighed at an average of 436 grams, keeping with the Togiak tradition of larger than usual herring.

"Definitely on the big side," Sands said of the catch. "And the quality is certainly fine. There’s one company that only reports ten percent, they don’t report the actual [number], just ‘ten percent, good enough,’ so that particular number doesn’t mean as much as it used to mean," he explained.

The purse seine and gillnet fleets have a combined 23,000 ton quota to fish this season. ADF&G may leave the gear groups' respective fishing areas open continuously until the quotas are met.

Fishing for herring in the rocky shallows near Togiak is not without hazards: the U.S. Coast Guard responded Sunday to a report that a tender for Silver Bay Seafoods was taking on water.

"Last night the Coast Guard received notification from the Alaska State Troopers that the fishing vessel Tugidak struck a rock and was taking on water in the vicinity of Nunavachak Bay," said petty officer Jon-Paul Rios. "The fishing vessel was able to beach themselves while they worked on dewatering alongside the good Samaritan fishing vessel Alinchak."

The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Air Station Kodiak, which lowered two additional pumps onboard to mitigate the flooding. 

By mid-morning Monday, the Tugidak had re-floated during the high tide, and the temporary fixes were deemed good enough for the vessel to head to Naknek for permanent repairs. No spills or injuries were reported by the Coast Guard, and Fish and Game did not report any lost harvest.

Another local maritime incident Sunday triggered the Coast Guard's attention. An Alaska Logistics tug and barge aiming to make a delivery at the Port of Dillingham became dangerously trapped in a large ice floe. According to a local responder monitoring the emergency traffic, the tug Fish Hawk and the barge Logistics Provider were carried upstream some ways with the flood tide, with the ice nearly forcing them to collide. The Coast Guard was kept apprised. Eventually the vessels were freed and moved downstream past Dillingham to wait for more favorable conditions before making the delivery.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281.