Herring sizes down as season progresses

Herring fisheries are moving up the coast to Kodiak, Cook Inlet and the Bering Sea, after the Sitka Sound herring fishery was shut down with only a quarter of the quota caught due to small fish size.

The Sitka Sound fishery fell 8,300 tons short of the 11,000 ton quota, due mostly to market standards.

Reports were that the quota could have easily been filled, but the average fish size of 106 grams fell short, with markets wanting fish weighing at least 125 to 130 grams.

The Kodiak commercial herring season is set to open at noon on Sunday, April 15, while the Upper Cook Inlet herring fishery may open as soon as April 20 by emergency order.

In Kodiak, a potential harvest of 1,185 tons may be harvested, but much of that relies on high quality fish and fishing vessel and tender participation.

That compares to a record quota in 2010 of 6,075 tons that saw seiners and tenders from Homer and Kodiak rushing to participate.

The Kodiak herring fishery is managed much differently than most herring fisheries in Alaska. Rather than boats congregating in a small area and waiting for the gun to go off for a period that can last a few minutes to a few hours, most areas in the Kodiak fishery open on a set day and fish preset hours for several weeks.

“Typically, when you think of herring fishing, you think of large spawning aggregates in one biomass in one place,” area management biologist James Jackson said at the time. “In Kodiak we have 37 different spawning aggregates, and we separate them out further by gear type, seine and gillnet.”

There are 13 areas that will open to seining and 16 that will open to gillnets. The UCI fishery is restricted to Kalgin Island, Upper, Western and Chinitna Bay subdistricts.

The quotas are 0-20 tons, 0-40 tons, 0-40 tons and 0-50 tons respectively.

Fishing will be open from April 20 to May 31, with one fishing period per week from 6 a.m. Monday to 6 p.m. Friday. Size of the herring returning to each area depends on their particular species, with Togiak producing the largest fish.

Pacific herring spawn every year after reaching maturity at 3 or 4 years of age, and herring in Southeast Alaska live about 8 years; herring returning to the Bering Sea/Togiak area live about twice that long.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

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