Fish and Game, industry, still predicting "normal" timing for Togiak herring

Apr 13, 2017

As temperatures climb into the fifties and the ice goes, how soon will the herring get there? ADF&G watching sea surface temps, still predicting early May fishery.

Just as the ice let up in the Naknek River, one of if not the first tender arrived ahead of the herring fishery. A South Naknek resident filmed as it steamed upriver to a processing plant.
Credit Carvel Zimin, Jr.

KDLG:  By this date last year, herring were already spawning on the grounds near Togiak. Fish and spawn were spotted by a pilot April 14, catching the fleet, industry, and ADF&G off guard by the record-breaking early start to the state's largest herring fishery.

Nobody seems too concerned of a repeat this year.

"I know that there’s one tender over in King Salmon now, and at least one other tender on the way. As far as I know nobody is over on the grounds," said ADF&G area management biologist Tim Sands.

The sea ice is going quickly as temperatures have warmed the last two weeks, but there is still shore ice around much of Bristol Bay.

"Folks over in Togiak are still dragging their skiffs across the ice to go seal hunt, so there’s certainly some shore ice there," said Sands.

Satellite imagery shows the sea ice retreating quickly from the Bering Sea.
Credit NWS

Sea ice is one indicator to help predict Togiak herring runs. Another is sea surface temperature, which has not budged much around the Togiak spawning grounds.

“The water temperature is still zero, and the 2 degree mark is still pretty far down the Peninsula," said Sands. "What we’re kind of looking for is when that 2 degree water gets up into Togiak Bay itself.”

With money back in the budget for management, Sands will fly surveys this spring and is planning for a first look around by about April 24. He is still predicting an early May fishery, which is on par with the long term average.

More participation is expected this year, with 19 seiners and 16 gillnetters registered to fish for four buyers.

This year’s quota is about 23,000 tons, split 70/30 between the purse seine and gillnet fleets.

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

Sea surface temp recordings from Wednesday. The herring seem to prefer a warming to 2 degrees in the waters around Togiak Bay to make their inshore run.
Credit NWS