Run Salmon Run

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Nushagak Hilton
What I did
Commercial Fishing for Sockeye salmon

Flag of United States  , Alaska
Saturday, June 25, 2011

Well commercial fishing in Nushagak, Bristol Bay, Alaska has come to an end. It was a pretty amazing experience. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had predicted a massive influx of fish this year, but unfortunately it did not live up to their projections. Compared to last year which was a record year for fishing, this year has a very quiet year. 

It took 5 days before fish and game would let us fish the first opener on the 25th of June. So we spend almost a week getting everything ready from hanging nets, gathering firewood and listening to all the rumors as to when AD F & G will open the fishing. 

On the 24th we received the word that there was to be a 24 hour opener from 12am to 12am. The beach was alive with all crews getting all last minute tasks completed. We had decided to fish the whole period so loaded up the skiff with food, spare clothing and thermoses full of coffee and soup. We headed out for the 30 minute run down to the fishing site. All the boats were lined up 4-500 yards apart ready and waiting for the clock to strike 12. Almost on the dot boats started to pull out from the shore setting their nets. Once the net was set, it became a waiting game. As it was just after the summer solstice it doesn't actually get dark, sun set is approximately 1-2am and around 3-4am it becomes dusk and sunrise is 4-5am. During the night was run through the net a couple times by picking it up over the bow and pulling ourselves along pulling the fish out of the net as we go. We caught about 500 lbs and made a run to one of the many 'tender' boats that a moored up along the bay waiting for skiffs to unload their catch. These guys are great they offer hot coffee and chocolate, fresh baked cookies and a warm escape from the cold night. 

After the first opening period the AD F & G decided to leave the set net fishermen open to fish whenever we like. Running a crew of 5 for the season, the guys wanted three on the boat a any time, so for the next 2 weeks three people would wake up around 3am head out for about 10-12 hours fishing depending on the tides, we tried to fish high tide to high tide which made it easier to swap out crews. Then one person would pull a double shift while two fresh guys came aboard.

A couple days I would fish for 20-30 hours without a solid sleep, just catching cat naps when we were waiting between picks. Replacing good sleep with food to keep you going. Power eating and power sleeping was the moto. 

As the season was quiet we only managed to harvest 11,000 lbs of salmon making it one of the slowest the Finch's have ever had, especially compared to last years 60,000 + lbs it was a disappointment. 

On a couple quiet days Ernie and myself jumped into his Piper SuperCub airplane and headed out over the tundra to try and find some cast moose antlers. The area around Dillingham is a very productive area for moose, as it is out of the way and only Alaskan residents are allowed to hunt there. As such the moose tend to be heavier antlered which is good when antler pay by the pound. A fresh 'A' grade antler can be worth $10 USD per lbs, with big antlers weighing upwards of 20-30 lbs. We found plenty of antlers and would have pick approximately 3-400lbs of antlers.
We rapped the season up early, cleaned and packed everything away for winter. We headed back to Anchorage where I had some spare time before I was needed for sheep hunting season.

For some photos of fishing see the link below: 
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