The herring sac roe harvest in Seymour Canal off Southern Admiralty Island closed at 4pm Saturday and just a handful of gillnetters kept fishing until the very end. According to Alaska Fish and Game biologist Scott Forbes, the total catch was an estimated 727 tons. That’s roughly 70 percent of the guideline harvest level.
Forbes says there were only eight to ten boats still fishing by the closure on Saturday.
The fishery opened Wednesday night with 56 permit holders and four buyers on the grounds. By Friday morning, they had caught around 600 tons. Boats started leaving after that as catches declined significantly and it looked like the major spawning event was done.
The fish are targeted for their roe sacs and the department tries to open herring fisheries just before the major spawn, when the females are the ripest with eggs and large schools of fish mass near the beach.
Forbes thinks the state timed the opening right and he says it went smoothly. According to preliminary reports, this year’s roe content averaged 12 to 14 percent which is good. Forbes says the participants were happy with the quality of the fish.
Biologists saw a total of 8 miles of spawn after the fishery was over according to Forbes, who says that looks good for the next generation of herring. It’s more than last year’s 6 miles of spawn but below the ten year average of 12.5 miles. About two miles of the milky-colored water was inside Seymour itself and the rest was outside in Stephens Passage to the east of the Glass Peninsula.
Overall, this years participation was about average for the past decade, but much higher than the last few years when prices were low. Last year, Gillnetters never got to fish at Seymour. They waited on the grounds for a few weeks and there were herring, but biologists said the fish never schooled up enough to allow for an opening.
This year, the fleet went on notice and headed to the grounds just a couple days before the fishery opened.
Seymour was the only herring harvest for Southeast Gillnetters this year.