Southeast Alaska has big fall fisheries portfolio

                      Spot prawns are big in Southeast!                                  

It’s slow going in most Alaska fishing towns after salmon season, but that’s not the case in Kodiak, where fishing never stops, and Southeast which has a huge fall fishing portfolio. Both regions are homeport to hundreds of boats that bounce around between many openers all year.

This week Southeast fishermen are gearing up for October 1 starts of Dungeness crab and a half million pound fishery for big spot shrimp.

A couple hundred divers will head down for about the same harvest for giant geoduck clams, plus more than a million pounds of sea cucumbers and nearly 3.5 million pounds of red sea urchins.

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Southeast also gets a bonus this fall – a red king crab fishery will open for the first time in six years. The stock has been increasing for several years and has reached a safe threshold to open a small fishery on November 1.

The fall fishing action brings a mix of good and bad news for Southeast Alaska trollers.

The fleet of 500 or so will have a winter king salmon season starting October 11. It could run through December, when managers will evaluate the fishery. Grant Hagerman is troll management biologist at Fish and Game.

“So it’s not to say that we couldn’t take in-season action, but the plan is to be able to fish during this time period and there’ll be more information to follow at the end of December when we have a news release announcing what the plans will be for the late winter portion of the fishery.”

Returns of king salmon to Southeast are at historic lows.  Hagerman calls it new ground for fish managers and says the immediate outlook is grim.

“It does sound like things look to be just as poor if not worse for 2018 as what we were seeing in 2017. Preliminary escapements for Southeast kings for 2017 – of the 11 systems that we monitor I believe 8 or nine are going to fail to meet escapement goals, with several of those stocks failing to meet escapement goals in five of six years. So there are some major concerns with those stocks.”

Thanks to the assist from KFSK in Petersburg.