Here we go: Togiak herring fishing opens Friday evening

Apr 28, 2017

Fish and Game documented the 35,000 ton threshold during an aerial survey Friday morning, and will allow the industry to begin its harvest. May take a few days for fish to "ripen" ahead of spawn.

The dark blotches in the blue water are schools of herring spotted Friday.
Credit ADF&G

KDLG: The Togiak herring fishery is scheduled to open Friday at 6:00 p.m., kicking off what will likely be ten days to two weeks worth of effort to haul in an allowable 23,000 tons. Fish and Game is predicting the industry will move slow this weekend as they wait on higher quality in this sac roe fishery.

After a few thousand tons of herring were spotted Monday, ADF&G flew a survey Friday morning anticipating they would document the "threshold biomass" of 35,000 tons and open the fishery.

"We saw a lot of fish out there," area management biologist Tim Sands said when he got back to the office.

"Outside of Kulukak Bay, several large schools of fish were moving in. The northeastern corner of Togiak Bay was full of fish. Then going out along Tongue Point towards Hagemeister, we saw good signs of fish there. And along the eastern side of Hagemeister there was a strip probably three to five miles long of herring along the shore."

Fishing for both the gillnet and purse seine fleets will open Friday night, but Sands said the companies seem poised to take the purse seine fish first this season. Even still, it might be a few more days until the herring have ripened into the marketable quality the processors want to buy.

“They need the roe to be fully mature and it takes a little while for that to happen," said Sands. "Once the fish come in, they get into the warmer water and get into the shallow bays and mature."

No spawn was observed during Friday's flight.

Sands said he wants to give the fleet a chance to get some sets in and test the quality ahead of stormy weather predicted for Sunday. Wind and chop not only make the fishing tough, but can discourage the herring from running into the shallow bays.

No closing time has been given for this open period. That is likely to be determined by the processing capacity, market quality, and eventually the quota for each gear group.

At least one local 32' boat made it out of the still icy Dillingham Harbor this week, launching on an evening high tide. Most of the other vessels on the grounds are outside seiners, plus the tenders and a large floating processor.

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

As was predicted by the biologists, the temperature around Togiak Bay climbed to, then past 2 degree Celcius before the herring ran inshore.
Credit NWS

Schools of herring in the waters of the Togiak District Friday
Credit ADF&G