Haines’ gillnet season picks up from an industry low last year; plus crab and shrimp fishermen gear up for fall openers | Radio KHNS
Haines commercial fishermen have had a much better salmon season this year, compared to last year, with a surprise wave of late summer sockeye salmon in Chilkat Inlet. With one more week into the gillnet season, plus the kick-off of the fall crab and shrimp seasons, Corinne Smith of KHNS visited Haines Harbor for an update.
Marty Smith places the harbor crane maneuvering equipment in the back of his pickup truck, concluding a summer season of gillnet salmon fishing.
“It was a little better than last year,” Smith said. “But the bar was so low last year that I hope we never see that again. Fortunately, we got some decent prices. So a guy could make a living.
Last year, Haines’ gillnets struggled with low yields and low prices, as well as supply chain issues related to the pandemic. Smith says the restrictions are tough, but prices and the crop have rebounded.
“So it was huge. Most of the time I was fishing for dogs and chum, then sockeye. I wasn’t too interested in the fall peaches. And the late sockeye shot really helped. And on a high note for me anyway, ”Smith said.
Nicole Zeiser, fishing and hunting area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, manages the area’s commercial gillnet and shrimp fisheries. She says improvements have been seen over the past year, particularly this late summer run of Chilkoot River sockeye salmon.
“The performance has been well above average this year. It was kind of a surprise for us. We saw a very late wave of fish at the end of August, when we usually see the run narrowing, and out of the blue it was almost like a second run was coming. But you know, we can’t really verify that, it’s basically a whole new wave of fish that came through the Chilkoot River spillway, that was pretty neat to see, ”Zeiser said.
She says sockeye salmon escapement estimates have exceeded sustainable escapement targets of 98,672, but said that should not have negative impacts on long-term salmon returns.
At the bottom of the wharf, several fishermen are preparing crab and shrimp gear for Friday’s fall opening.
Nygel Duffy-Webb refueled two boats Thursday morning, the Clew and the Melinda Rae II. getting ready to go out for the shrimp. He is moving fast, hoping to get ahead of the storm in the forecast.
“Well we’ve got to get up there tonight and get the stuff ready and the weather is supposed to blow up, so hopefully we can get the stuff out real quick and let it soak,” Duffy-Webb said.
This is his second year of shrimp fishing, in the spring and fall, and he says the prices look promising.
“We were only allowed 3,500 pounds of whole shrimp there this year. So, I think we’re going to catch it pretty quickly. (web: I hope we get a bunch of these soon and get out of Skagway. “
Nicole Zeiser of Fish and Game says the Taya Inlet area has seen stable harvest levels over the past few years, but it’s the only area open to coon stripe shrimp fishing right now.
“We have closed Chilkoot and Lutak Inlets over the past few seasons just due to inventory health issues,” she said. until we see improvements.
Zeiser also noted that for the second year, sockeye salmon returns to the Chilkat River were below escapement goals.
“There really was no reason to believe that, you know, that would have been a really well below average return. So it’s a bit of an unknown thing. We just don’t really know what is happening to the Chilkat sockeye stocks.
The District 15 gillnet fishery is open for an additional week, until October 6. And Zeiser says that since the commercial fishery is open, subsistence fisheries at the Chilkat River and Chilkat Inlet have also been extended during that same period.