Togiak herring fishing gets windy start

The state’s largest sac roe herring fishery got underway Sunday in the midst of high winds and a NOAA gale warning. (Photo by Tim Sands/Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

The Togiak herring fishery, the state’s largest sac roe herring fishery, opened Sunday morning with a windy start.

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Gusts over 30 mph posed a challenge for fishermen, area management biologist Tim Sands said.

“The seine fleet is over there, and it’s pretty tough conditions today because of weather,”  Sands said. “I know some fish is being taken, but I don’t think a lot.”

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game surveyed the district Saturday and concluded that enough herring had arrived to meet the threshold — 35,000 tons — to open the fishery.

The combined purse seine and gillnet quota for the Togiak District sac roe fishery is 24,042 tons, slightly larger than last year’s quota.

Mostly seiners are participating. Fish and Game expects only one gillnetter to be a part of this year’s fishery.

As herring swim into the waters near Togiak, it can take some time for them to mature enough for their spawn to be marketable.

“I’ve heard reports that it’s mixed at this point. Some are mature, but not all of them,” Sands said. “And that’s typically what we see the first couple days of the fishery. There’s not a lot of mature fish around, but it takes them a couple of days to ripen up once they come into the shallow water.”

Herring fishing in Togiak is open until further notice. Fish and Game will close fishing when the fleet takes close to the quota.

The Sitka sac roe herring fishery shut down earlier this year, falling 8,330 tons short of this year’s guideline harvest level.

This is the fourth time in six years the herring fishery has shut down before meeting the quota. Early closures also happened in 2016, 2013, and 2012.

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