It looks like the sac roe herring fishery in Seymour Canal was just not to be this year. Fishery managers say all the gillnetters left the grounds off Admiralty Island by last weekend. They never fished.
The fleet had waited for nearly three weeks, but the herring never congregated in large enough schools to have an opening. Dave Harris is Fish and Game’s assistant area management biologist in Juneau:
“No aggregate of fish were ever, you know, in one place at any good enough time to provide a fishing opportunity. So the spawn appears to be over. The spawn event appears to be over. All fishermen have left the grounds,” Harris said on Tuesday.
As of early this week, the state hadn’t officially cancelled the season. Harris expected the department would make an announcement after flying the grounds at least once more. He said the department didn’t observe any fish along the beach or spawn during a flyover on Monday.
Fishermen target the herring for their roe. So 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. The amount of spawn in the water indicates population size. Throughout the waiting time, Harris says managers observed a total of nearly 7 miles of spawn, which isn’t bad:
“It’s less than we anticipated but it’s still a reasonably healthy enough amount of spawn that have supported a fishery. The way the fish behaved this year is what was strange. Normally they aggregate in large schools and kind of break up and move along the beach and then at some point they all kind of spawn and then dissipate but this year the large schools were coming and going. They broke up into smaller schools and then those would go to the beach and spawn sort of independently. So, we had numerous days of small, light spawn events that just didn’t lend themselves to the fishery,” Harris said.
The expectation of lower prices this year resulted in a small turnout for the fishery. Only about twenty boats were registered.
It’s been a disappointing year all around for the herring sac roe fisheries in Southeast. The Sitka Sound Seine quota was the biggest ever, but the fleet caught less half of it. Also this spring, The Department cancelled the West Behm canal fishery near Ketchikan because there was never a large enough buildup of mature herring in the area open for commercial fishing.