Fishing boats in the Sitka sac roe herring fishery, March 25,2017. Photo by Troy Thynes, ADF&G

The commercial herring fishery in Sitka Sound wrapped up Sunday, April 10, with its largest harvest on record.

The sac roe fishery had daily openings last week, with the last one on Sunday. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates the catch totaled over 26,350 tons, over half of this year’s guideline harvest level or 45,164 tons. That beats the previous record for the fishery from 2011 when the fleet caught 19,419 tons.

Fishing started on March 26. The herring are caught for their roe and that’s processed in Petersburg and other Southeast communities and sold in Japan.

The fishery did not open in 2019 and 2020 because fish were too small for buyers. Last year’s catch was 15,164 tons.

This year Fish and Game has reported herring spawning along more than 74 nautical miles of coastline around Sitka Sound.

Meanwhile, herring are also spawning further south near Prince of Wales Island. A roe-on-kelp fishery opened near Craig on March 17. Fishermen have been given extra time to transfer fish into pounds, or floating net pens, where the herring lay their eggs on kelp.

During an aerial survey Sunday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported over 26 nautical miles of active spawn in that area. Managers say herring have been placed in most of the 65 pounds. They’re released after laying eggs.

Both herring stocks are strong this year because of big numbers of six-year-old fish born in 2016.