Summer Recap- Our 2019 season in Bristol Bay

The fishermen of Pride of Bristol Bay saw a busy, successful season! 

“Patience is the word of the year.” 

Most people will never know the intensity of working on a gill netter in Alaska; it is a unique and exciting experience! We wanted to give you our take on the Bristol Bay season aboard our summer home to shed some light on our dedication to sustainability and quality in our product. 

“Patience is the word of the year,” said Captain Steve Kurian of the F/V Ava Jane as he reflected on this year’s Bristol Bay salmon season.

Many of you who fish for fun may be familiar with this feeling, but on the commercial grounds it can feel like it all happens at once and that no patience is required. Well, that was not the case this year as the weather was “hot, dry and flat” according to the fishermen. This change in situation required captains and crews put in extra effort to seek out the fish and steadily pick their way through the gear towards a successful season. 

Most bay fishermen enjoyed a lack of rough weather this year, but the fish follow those patterns as well. If the Bering Sea blows a strong wind into the river system, the fish certainly come with it. When there’s a light, consistent breeze, the fish make their way to their spawning grounds upriver from the fishing districts as always – just at a bit of a slower pace. As the Alaska General Seafood – Naknek beach boss, Joe Stewart put it on the final KDLG Fisheries Report of the year,

“It was a great season,” Stewart said. “Record number of fish, very steady, not the big waves of fish like usual.“ That was the experience on the Ava Jane this year, which served the new guys very well. This way, there was a bit more time to learn the ropes and get their sea legs.

Pride of Bristol Bay is grateful for the fish that came through as well as the local community who supported the team when the boat had a brief, but significant electrical breakdown. Yet again, patience was the word of the year. The boat was towed into Naknek by another member of the fleet (a tender) and fixed within just a few days. Thankfully, this occurred early on, and she was back in operation on June 26th. 

On a bay-wide level, the returns of sockeye are encouraging for ocean health. The Bristol Bay watershed saw a total run of 56.3 million salmon return to the river system this year. The harvest was the second largest on record, distributed in five river systems and closely monitored by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. Again, this year saw another strong run in a world of much uncertainty. The weight of Pebble Mine, and the disappointing summer news about backroom (or Air Force One) deals, certainly weighed on the summer, but we are encouraged by an uptick in mobilizing around the issue in the community – noting more t-shirts, flags, and stickers rocking the bold “No Pebble Mine” logo. 

Thanks to all of you who share our dedication, and for following along with this issue on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We see you working to spread the message to your friends and family.  Finally, we thank you for your patience as we found our own sea legs over the past year. Keep an eye on our social media as we share more about summers lived by the wind, tide and fish!  

Fishing

Enter the Giveaway: What’s Your Favorite Fishing Story?

As we make our way back to Alaska for the fishing season, we want to know about your favorite fishing memories. Are your favorite stories out in the ocean, on a river or lake, or at a local pond? Wherever it may be, we want to know! Simply submit your favorite stories by clicking here or visiting prideofbristolbay.com.

StoryOnce your story is submitted, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a grouping of hand tied fly’s by Bob Erickson. Bob spends his spare time tying various flies, and it’s a great way for him to spend his winter. Bob is truly a fly fishing addict – in the best way possible! Bob has made numerous trips to remote rivers around the world to fish. He also spends quite a bit of time fishing the remote rivers around Bristol Bay, where he is passionate about protecting the wild fish in such a beautiful, untamed place. So, you’re probably wondering, why are we giving away these flies from Bob? Well, he’s a great friend of ours and we truly enjoy his support. We want you to enjoy your summer with these flies.

To get you started here are a couple of favorite fishing stories from our crew.

“It’s difficult for me to pick a ‘favorite fishing memory’ because for me, fishing is synonymous with all of these: fishcamp, Bristol Bay, summer, fishing friends, spending time on the water, etc. Fishing is what we call our summers in Bristol Bay, and it feels too much like routine life, work, and livelihood to pick out a favorite.

That said, to answer this question, I thought about the few times I fished when it wasn’t work-related. Perhaps a surprise to some, but for me, it is really just a few times. A favorite that stands out is fishing off the coast of my hometown, following a commercial salmon season. The bonito were running up past New England in late summer, and my uncle was excited to try his hand at catching one or two for sport.

I had very little memory of exploring my hometown with the critical, search-determined eye of a fisherman, like I am now very familiar with in Bristol Bay. However, I was eager to try it out in the waters I knew well. So, my uncle obliged and took me and an Alaska friend who was visiting Long Island Sound. Each fish species is so unique. While seeing a school of 100 or so bonito tuna – stirring up the surface of the water – is so different than seeing the jumpers of Bristol Bay, the feelings of enthusiasm are similar. I was the only one who caught (& released!) one that day.” – Elma (Bellingham, Washington)

“My favorite fishing memory…wow, that’s hard to pin down. But I would say, spending time on Owyhee Reservoir with family comes to mind. Not only are we making memories, but we’re catching crappie left and right. To this day, there are certain songs I’ll hear that bring back some of those favorite times of riding in the boat up the reservoir to the secret fishing hole.” – Candy (Ketchum, Idaho)

“While my earliest fishing memory is from when I was eight years old – my dad and I went salmon fishing in the San Francisco-Bay – my most favorite memory is from last summer. Out of Kawaihae harbor on the Big Island, Hawaii, my dad, brother, and I set sail down the coast in search of deep-sea tuna and wahoo (ono). Not even 30 minutes into our fishing trip, my line started singing. I jumped down from the top deck and braced myself for what was to come. While reeling in my 20-lb ono was mentally and physically exhausting, it was worth the fight. We enjoyed the freshest sashimi that night, but most importantly, I’ll never forget how proud my dad was.” – Edie Horstman (Denver, Colorado)

Alright – it’s your turn! Share your favorite memories here. P.S. those memories do not have to be salmon fishing memories!

We’ll be selecting a random winner on June 30th! Good luck, we cannot wait to read and share your stories!

Happy fishing.