The Bristol Bay salmon season is underway! On June 21st 2021, Steve, Matt, Logan, Jake, and Griffin launched the F/V Ava Jane and were out in the bay scouting for fish. After listening closely for the first opener announcement, the crew finally put the net in the water. Thanks to consistent escapement numbers, the biologists announced a “commercial opening,” allowing the commercial fleet an opportunity to get their nets fishing - and for the first years, or greenhorns, to get a taste of how it all works.
Escapement is the term fishermen and biologists use to describe the amount of salmon that make it upriver, out of commercial fishing areas and to the shallow riverbeds that are their spawning grounds. This number is collected everyday for each main tributary in the watershed. The area management biologists, like Tim Sands and Travis Elison (who Steve interviewed earlier this year), rely on individuals to count the fish. These biologists physically count the fish wearing polarized glasses looking down from tall towers, while radar technology additionally helps detect how many fish are passing by a certain area.
Escapement numbers are crucial to determining what population of the annual salmon run needs to be protected in order to ensure future generations, and what percent of the population can be allocated for harvest. Fishermen are not the only obstacle salmon face on their trip upriver. From the salty Pacific to the riverbed, the wild salmon will dodge natural predators like seals and beluga whales.
Now that the salmon return is looking strong and upriver numbers have begun to rise, our commercial fishing season is officially underway! Announcements about the salmons’ whereabouts and escapement numbers are made on the local bush radio station, KDLG. Experienced journalists and deejays summarize every day of the season on the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report at 6 p.m, with replays at 10 p.m. and again at 2 a.m. The radio announcements update the Captain and crew about not only the fish, but also about community events and their friends and families. Loved ones back on shore are able to send messages to the radio station to be included with the reports. You are invited to do the same by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 907-842-2200.
We are so grateful to fisherman and artist Tom Crestodina for his unique boat cut-away images that help us explain what we’re up to out there. You can check out more of Tom’s art here.
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