Fishing was slow for the 90 boats that participated in the first Amalga Harbor purse seine fishery of the year. And it could remain that way if the fishery opens again this week.
Seiners caught about 100,000 chum salmon Thursday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. During the same time last year, about 700,000 were caught.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Dave Harris says fishing wasn’t consistent during the 6-hour fishery.
“We started out with a voice countdown. Everybody sets their nets. And it very quickly developed into where boats were taking turns on a few key sets, like up the north line and the south line, and there’s a fair bit of waiting and then when your turn would come up, you’d make a set,” Harris says.
In the beginning of the fishery, some seiners caught about a thousand fish in a set, Harris says. More common were sets of a hundred to 200 fish.
Seiners are targeting returning DIPAC hatchery chum salmon. Most are five- and four-year-old chum. DIPAC’s executive director Eric Prestegard says the number of returning four-year-olds is weak.
“Normally the fives come in first. They’re the early arrivers, and then followed by the fours. The fives are starting to turn down. The fours should be going up and we’re just not seeing that mix change of the relationship between the four and fives. There are still majority fives,” he says.
Prestegard says four-year-old hatchery chum are missing throughout the region and state.
Historically, the number of returning chum salmon to Amalga is highest later this week.
“The normal peak would be sometime around the 10th, 11th or 12th. But that’s if there’s four-year-olds. If there’s not four-year-olds, we may have already seen the peak,” Prestegard says.
Seiners find out Tuesday if they get another opportunity to fish Amalga Harbor.
“Unfortunately, I do think it looks like, if we do have a fishery Thursday, it’s not going to be a real great one. They’ll catch some fish, but it won’t be like last year where there were some pretty big numbers taken,” Prestegard says.
Last year, seiners fished four times in the Amalga Harbor special harvest area and caught just over one million salmon.