Wheels Up: Bristol Bay Bound
Captain Steve spent last week in Naknek, Alaska, the F/V Ava Jane’s winter home. This time of year, the boatyard is crawling out of its winter hibernation. In a month, it will be bustling with activity, especially at high tide, as boat after boat gets launched into the bay in order to start fishing. Steve wanted to get a head start on a few boat projects, so he headed up early, to prepare on a quiet boatyard, where he can get some work done, instead of visiting with the whole fleet at the cannery Mug-Up. To get a taste of the tundra landscape at the coastal Bristol Bay boatyard days, check out this video that Filson made in the Dillingham boatyard last year. As of recently, the overall state forecast for wild Alaska salmon is exceptional: experts predict a catch of 213.2 million fish statewide. In Bristol Bay, the 2018 season broke records – the sockeye salmon harvest was 10% above predictions and the largest seen on record. Last year will be a tough year to beat. However, experts are still predicting historically large returns following a banner year, and a 2019 forecast of 40.18 million sockeye returning to Bristol Bay. This is still 16% above the average run (1963-2018). Most importantly, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game predictions expect “all [Bristol Bay river systems] to meet their spawning escapement goals,” meaning that the health of the overall run and ecosystem is looking sustainably strong. We are thrilled. No matter the forecast, the pre-season work remains the same. The boatyard is waking up, and the salmon are heading back to their original spawning grounds. The Pride of Bristol Bay team is getting ready to fish!