Lots of winter fishing is going on and gearing up across Alaska. Boats have been out in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea since January 1 targeting cod. Openers for pollock, flounders and various other whitefish kick off on January 20. For pollock, Bering Sea trawlers will harvest over three billion pounds of pollock this year, with more coming from Gulf fisheries.
The snow crab fishery gets going in earnest around this time of year in the Bering Sea.
In Southeast Alaska, mostly small boats using jig or hand troll gear are targeting black rockfish and lingcod. Both fisheries have harvests over 300-thousand pounds.
Divers are still tapping away on the last bits of Southeast’s 1.7 million pound sea cucumber quota in just one open region. Divers also are still going down for more than 700,000 pounds of giant geoduck clams.
The winter king salmon season for Southeast trollers opened on October 1 and it’s been slow going. Fewer than 6,000 kings have been taken since the fishery opened on October 1; the five year average is closer to 16,000 fish.
Based on new treaty agreements with Canada, Southeast’s winter troll catch rate will determine the takes for commercial and sportfishing this year and that will likely mean another year of cutbacks for all users.
The state also has announced a full closure for king salmon in the Northern Cook Inlet region and Susitna River due to extremely poor returns.
Boats at Kodiak, Chignik and the South Alaska Peninsula are fishing for rockfish and a half million pound Tanner crab fishery opens at Kodiak on the 15th.
Turning to fish meetings – the state Board of Fisheries will meet from Jan. 15-19 in Anchorage to take up more than 60 proposals for Arctic/Yukon/Kuskokwim fish issues.
The Joint Board of Fish and Game will meet January 16 to officially nominate sole applicant Doug Vincent-Lang as commissioner for the department. The public can listen in on that and all other fish board meetings.
Finally, stakeholders will learn later this month how much halibut will be available for this year’s fishery. The International Pacific Halibut Commission will announce the catch numbers and other management updates when it meets January 28 through February 1 in Victoria, British Columbia.