Category Archives: North Pacific

Longtime Cordova fisherman found dead after going overboard on Copper River

A Cordova man was found dead Thursday after going overboard in the Copper River flats during a stormy commercial fishing opener. Clifford “Mick” Johns, 69, had been fishing alone that day on his 29-foot gillnetter, named Dances With Clams. At about 9 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard received a report that the boat was “driving around in circles with no one onboard” near Pete Dahl Slough, an area of the Copper River flats fishing grounds southeast of Cordova, according to the Alaska State Troopers. “It didn’t look like anybody was manning it,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios of the Coast Guard’s District 17 Public Affairs Office in Juneau. A Coast Guard helicopter stationed in Cordova was called in to search from the air. The helicopter crew found Johns’ body in the water, according to Rios. Click here to read the story 08:41

Fishermen trouble

The 68-year-old president of the United Fishermen of Alaska – one of the 49th state’s most powerful lobbies – and three other commercial fishermen have been cited in Cordova for failing to report salmon catches.Jerry McCune said earlier this week that he simply made a mistake after dropping his commercial catch at a tender. McCune said he told the tender to record his catch for the day plus three salmon – a “little teeny king” and two sockeye – he was taking home with him. When he got his “fish ticket” back from the tender, he said, he tossed it into the cabin of the boat without checking to see if his so-called “home pack” catch had been recorded.,,, Some Cordova commercial fishermen reacted to the charges against McCune and the others with claims the actions were politically motivated. Some subsistence, personal-use dipnet, and rod-and-reel fishermen from communities upriver on the Copper or elsewhere in Alaska cited the accusations as evidence of widespread under reporting of Copper River king salmon harvests in the Cordova area. There was no evidence to support either of those ideas, but emotions run hot in Alaska fishery politics or what is often just referred to as “fishtics.” click here to read the story 14:18

Fishy chatter: The evolution of fishing captains’ radio groups

I had 54 cents in my bank account when I bought my own commercial fishing operation at age 20. I scrawled my signature on a six-figure loan, made it through college finals and came home to my first seine boat, the cabin full of cardboard boxes overflowing with mildewed manuals about everything from Freon refrigeration to Marco powerblocks. My father gave me two treasures to start the season: an enormous binder full of Xeroxed charts showing a lifetime of accumulated fishing knowledge, and a VHF radio with a list of scrambler codes to install so I could talk to our radio group. Radio groups are a long tradition in Alaska’s commercial fishing community. Click here to read the story 13:45

King fishery closed

Fisheries managers in Southcentral Alaska might still be wrestling with what to do about a weak return of king salmon to the Copper River, but their counterparts in Southeast Alaska have acted to protect kings returning to the Taku and Stikine Rivers. Officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game today announced commercial troll fisheries which catch most of the Southeast kings, or Chinook as they are otherwise called will close at midnight Sunday. Preseason forecasts for wild Chinook salmon production in Southeast Alaska are at an all-time low, a press release said.  Typically, in the Taku and Stikine rivers, nearly half the run has entered the river by the end of the third week of May; however, record low numbers of Chinook salmon are being seen in-river this year.  The Taku and Stikine are transboundary rivers, and Fish and Game runs research programs with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to assess in-season run strength. Click here to read the story 13:13

The $75 king fillet: Copper River salmon fetch big money at market

The first Copper River salmon of the year are fetching a hefty price on some market shelves in Alaska and Outside, thanks in part to what’s expected to be a weak run of the prized fish. At Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, which draws tourists in droves to watch its famed fish-tossers, fillets of Copper River kings sold for $75 per pound this week. Jason Scott, a manager at the Pike Place Fish Market, said that whopping price tag on a king fillet is a little higher than it was last year, when it was around $60 to $70 per pound. That number drops as the season goes on and more salmon flow into the market. “Everything is crazy,” he said. “All of our orders are people who have been buying fish from us for a long time. They don’t bat an eye at the price. I’m not saying we know that and take advantage of it, but each of us has a customer here who wants the biggest one.” click here to read the story 10:26

A Fire Bug? Prince of Wales Island fires damage three commercial boats and a building

Fires on Prince of Wales Island over the weekend, but as of Sunday afternoon there were no reports of injuries related to the incidents. The first was at about 6 p.m. Saturday in Naukati. According to the Alaska State Troopers, a community-owned building was destroyed by a suspicious fire. Then early Sunday morning, three commercial fishing vessels burned while docked at a marina in North Cove in Craig (click here) .,,The Naukati fire follows another suspected arson case last week on Prince of Wales. On Tuesday night, someone set fire to a car parked at a boat launch near Klawock. click here to read the story 08:51

Halibut fishery kicks off in Bristol Bay

Last week the F/V Eagle Two was sitting alone in the Dillingham harbor, getting ready to fish halibut. The harbor has not been dredged yet, and the floats and arms are not installed for ease of use. Halibut fishing normally happens after Togiak herring, but about a month before any salmon openers in the Bay. “We’re always anxious to get started, but we’re waiting on ice,” said skipper William Johnson, whose crew was preparing the vessel for departure to the far side of the Nushagak Peninsula. “Heading west to go get bait and do a little fishing out there, and then come back and then finish out the season down here,” said Johnson. He noted they pack extra fuel for the long distance trip out in the quiet Bay. click here for audio, read the story 16:33

When sailboats ruled Bristol Bay

One hundred and thirty-two years ago, the Bristol Bay commercial fishery began on the shores of the Nushagak River when the first cannery went into operation and canned a little more than 4,000 salmon. Within four years, three more canneries appeared on the Nushagak, and within a decade canneries were built on the Naknek and Kvichak rivers. The dawn of the 20th century saw dozens of canneries around Bristol Bay catching, processing and canning millions of pounds of sockeye salmon every summer. By 1910, Bristol Bay accounted for 40 percent of Alaska’s commercially caught salmon. Even today, Bristol Bay makes up about 40 percent of Alaska’s salmon value. Canneries are large industrial operations. In the early days, coal and steam provided the power to run complex systems of boilers, belt-driven pulleys and winches needed to butcher, cook, can and deliver salmon to the world. But when it came to actually catching fish in Bristol Bay, canneries relied upon the muscle of men and the power of wind. click here for images, and read the story 11:27

Bad salmon run hints at trouble ahead

Count backward three years and we come to 2014 — precursor to this spring’s extremely poor salmon returns. Fewer than 20,000 adult spring Chinook and about 1,500 immature jacks have been counted at Bonneville Dam, compared to 10-year averages of about 127,000 and 17,000. Shad, another species that should begin surging toward inland spawning grounds about now, reached a count of 26 at Bonneville late last week, compared to the 10-year average of more than 11,000. In the case of Chinook, actual returns may not be quite so bleak as the dam count indicates. Heavy mountain runoff has made the Columbia’s water cloudy and cold. Test fisheries found quite a few Chinook loitering here in the estuary, delaying their swim upstream. But with the start of summer only a month away, there isn’t much time left for the spring run to come through. If they don’t make it to spawning grounds, the run three years from now also will be weak. click here to read the op-ed 09:36

Three commercial fishing boats burn in Southeast Alaska marina fire

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating a fire that burned three commercial fishing boats at a Southeast Alaska marina early Sunday morning. Fire was reported aboard the 57-foot Seaborn, 56-foot Pacific Lady and 49-foot Julia Kae at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, the Coast Guard said in a statement. The three boats — two of them steel-hulled seiners, the third fiberglass — were tied to each other at the North Cove harbor in Craig, Harbormaster Hans Hjort said Sunday. People living on vessels in the harbor first alerted authorities of the fire, he said. Craig and Klawock volunteer firefighters worked to extinguish the flames. Click here to read the story 08:17

Three-vessel fire under investigationclick here for more images 12:25

Coast Guard investigates a 3 vessel fire in Craig, Alaska

The Coast Guard is investigating a three-vessel fire aboard the 57-foot fishing vessel Seaborn, 56-foot fishing vessel Pacific Lady and the 49-foot fishing vessel Julia Kae, at a marina in North Cove in Craig, Alaska. The Craig harbormaster and fire department have contained the fire. Marine Safety Detachment Ketchikan investigators are responding to monitor for signs of pollution, investigate the cause of the incident and assess extent and cost of damage.  Coast Guard Sector Juneau was notified early this morning about the fire that occurred at approximately 3:30 a.m. The Pacific Lady has a max capacity of 1,500 gallons of fuel, the Julia Kae has a max capacity of 3,800 gallons of fuel and the Seaborn has a max capacity of 2,000 gallons of fuel. Sheening appears to be minimal, but boom has been deployed around two of the vessels.There were no injuries reported. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time. USCG 19:17

Golden fish

Update: This story was updated on May 21, 2017 to include new prices. In economic crisis, there is often opportunity. Commercial fishermen in Cordova, Alaska are at the moment worrying mightily about what the rest of their fishing season will bring given the prediction of a record weak-return of Copper River king season. But what the ocean gods have brought so far are sky-high prices for a higher than expected catch of a thought-to-be struggling run of fish. The first, 12-hour opening of the season was expected to result in the harvest of only a few hundred kings given a prediction of a weak return and fishing-area closures the Alaska Department of Fish and Game ordered to protect areas where kings have usually been caught in the past. Despite those closures, however, fishermen caught almost 1,900 of the big fish, a catch bigger than in last year’s opener. Most fishermen in the Cordova fleet of 500 gillnetters were reported to be getting dock prices of $10.30 per pound for king, but some were doing much better. click here to read the story 18:20

Company to boost Kotzebue summer chum operation

Following a slim couple of years, the summer Arctic keta, or chum, fishery in Kotzebue should see a significant boost this summer. Seattle-based E&E Foods, which runs both land-based and vessel operations in Bristol Bay, Southeast, and the Kenai Peninsula, plans to bring its floating processor to the waters outside of town this summer. “I feel really good about this opportunity where they’re going to be able to have a volume fishery now, and not have the limitations that they’ve had with a pure buy-and-fly-type fishery,” said Roger Stiles, business manager for the company’s Southcentral operations. E&E Foods is already planning to send its floating processor, the Cape Greig, to Bristol Bay for the area’s lucrative summer season. It will be accompanied by the freighter Sea Bird and combined, the two vessels have a carrying capacity of 1.2 million pounds of frozen finished product, Stiles said. After that seasons winds down at the end of July, the two boats will head up to Kotzebue and set up shop for the keta harvest, starting Aug. 1. Click here to read the story 13:27

Millennial fishermen and women carry out an Alaska state tradition on the Copper River Delta

Cordova is only accessible by boat or plane. It’s a place where neighbors take care of one another, all united by passion for their community and the land they call home. This humble town is home to a world-class fishery: the Copper River. Like most things in Cordova, the salmon fishery is largely independent, and the operation is as local as the shops and restaurants that line Main Street. More than 540 independent boats fish for Copper River salmon each year. These boats, known as bow pickers, are manned by one to two fishermen who cast their nets over the bow and then hand-pick the salmon off as they reel the net in. Nets stretch 900 feet long and are mended by hand. And, many of those boats are owned by increasingly younger generations of fishermen and women. Click here to read the story 16:57

Fisheries board says no to emergency petition on Copper River fishery

An emergency petition that would have increased closures and restrictions on the Copper River commercial salmon fishery that gets underway this week was defeated May 17 during a special meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries in Anchorage. The vote was 3-4. The Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee had submitted the petition asking the board to require the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to publish an additional emergency order on commercial fishery management actions to be taken to assure the sustainable escapement goal for king salmon for the Copper River in 2017. ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten responded to the petition earlier, saying that he concluded that the situation did not warrant such action. click here to read the story 08:53

We’re On Board with These Two Fishermen – Salmon Fishing Season Starts Today

Our town of Cordova, Alaska is humming with the sounds of diesel engines firing up, big trucks hurrying around the harbor and fishermen catching up with each across the docks. This week holds so much excitement and anticipation here. Today, May 18th, the fleet of 540 fishermen from this tiny coastal community take off for the Gulf of Alaska where we’ll be setting our nets to catch the first wild salmon making their way back to the Copper River. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game carefully monitors our fishery for long term sustainability and have designated the salmon season to start this week with a 12 hour commercial fishing period starting bright and early at 7 am on Thursday. Click here to read the story 07:42

Bristol Bay fleet chilled more salmon in 2016 than ever before, according to study

The Bristol Bay salmon drift fleet sold more chilled salmon to processors last year than ever before. Bristol Bay is the world’s largest salmon fishery, and is making efforts to sell a larger portion of its catch as fillets, rather than canned. Filling those fresh and frozen orders requires chilling at the point of harvest, which more fishermen are apparently doing.  According to the BBRSDA survey, chilling bonuses averaged 16 cents per pound last season. Depending on the base price, the percentage that 16 cents represents can be too large to ignore. While most new boats come with refrigerated seawater systems installed and more are added to older vessels each year, the study found there are still plenty of skippers who are holding out. Click here to listen, and read the story 16:30

Strip club onboard Alaskan fishing boat making comeback

An Alaska man is resurrecting a strip club he operated on board his converted crab boat before he was convicted on waste disposal charges involving the vessel. This time, he’s billing the enterprise as a nightly protest. Darren Byler says he will begin his summer-long “First Amendment Freedom of Assembly” demonstrations Thursday on the 94-foot Wild Alaskan. He says the demonstrations will feature exotic dancers on board the boat, anchored off a harbor near the island city of Kodiak. Byler has long alleged he was hit with the federal “poop” charges because authorities and others disapproved of the exotic-dancer business he ran in 2014. He is appealing his federal case. “I’m protesting the fact that I was singled out and targeted for morality,” he said. “I don’t like being bullied by the government, and I’m doing this because I can. This is my way of winning.” Click here to read the story 08:53

Southeast Alaska winter troll catch falls short of limit, Spring troll fishery underway

The preliminary harvest total is just over 43,000 kings. Most of those, around 40,000, are fish managed under the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. Those fish mostly come from hatcheries in Canada and the Pacific coast of the U.S. The rest come from hatcheries in Southeast Alaska. The last two years the winter season has ended early as the fleet has surpassed a 45,000 fish guideline harvest level, or GHL, for Treaty kings. “So a down year,” said Grant Hagerman, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s troll management biologist for Southeast.,, Last year the season ended in record time, closing March 8. This year fishing remained open for the full season, through the end of April. Both catch rates and effort picked up in the final weeks of the season. Click here to read the story 08:46

Fishermen’s voices will not fall silent

As we look to the summer ahead, the Bristol Bay commercial fishing fleet again faces a season of uncertainty. To be sure, our fishermen face unknowns every year: be it the price per pound, strength of the run, or the possibility of dangerous weather. For over a decade though, our fleet has been living with an uncertainty more dangerous than them all. After 10 years of actively fighting the prospect of a mine that could end our centuries-old commercial fishery, we go into this fishing season with the proposed Pebble Mine as close as it has ever been to permitting. The issue weighs heavy over the fleet, and there is no denying we are more than a little tired of the fight. But that is what this foreign mining company is waiting for, us to get tired and quit fighting. That’s why I am excited about a new effort; Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries (SBBF), founded to represent commercial fishermen in the fight to protect our livelihoods. Click here to read the rest 09:16

Boat owners fooled by website charging high prices for vessel documentation

This is the time of year when Alaska fishermen make sure they have their paperwork in order so they’re ready to hit the water. But recently, some of those boat owners were targeted by a third-party service that charges much higher rates for Coast Guard certification. “I want to go fishing, I want to be done with all this paperwork,” said Haines commercial fisherman Norm Hughes. Earlier this month, he received a letter in the mail telling him to renew his Coast Guard documentation. It directed him to a website: uscgdocumentation.us. Hughes went to the website right away and paid $150 for a two-year renewal.,,, It’s not just Alaska fishermen and the Coast Guard here that have raised alarms about the US Vessel Documentation website. Click here to listen/read the story 18:02

Copper River disaster

This is a developing story – No one seems to have any idea what sort of astronomical price a rare and iconic Copper River king salmon from Alaska might demand when the commercial fishing season opens in about a week – if there are any fish to be sold. The Alaska Board of Fisheries is facing an emergency petition to ban the sale of the big fish in the name of conservation. Alaska subsistence fishermen who are supposed to have a fishing priority but have already been told they will be restricted to a limit of two kings each for the entire season are talking about the possibility of a lawsuit if the state allows the commercial king fishery to open. And even if the start of the fishery proceeds as scheduled on May 18, the opening day catch is expected to be no more than a few hundred fish, if that, given that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has already ordered the closure of fishing areas where most kings are caught. click here to read the article. 09:45

Five names added to Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial in Juneau at 27th Blessing of the Fleet

It was a warm, sunny Saturday in downtown Juneau. Dozens gathered for the 27th annual Blessing of the Fleet and to honor the commercial fishing fleet and also to remember the lives of five commercial fishermen whose names will soon be engraved in the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial. The memorial is a curved, smooth granite wall engraved with over 200 names. Some have small stars next to them, indicating fishermen who died at sea. Paul Dayton Fredrick’s name is one waiting to be engraved. His name will have a star next to it. Kyle Moselle is Fredrick’s son-in-law. He said Fredrick passed away last June. click here to read the story 14:04

Copper River salmon return may not be huge, but at least they’re en route

After a long hard winter, Alaska’s commercial salmon fishing season officially gets underway in less than two weeks. The first big fishery for sockeye and king salmon is set for May 18 at Copper River, and the town of Cordova is buzzing, said Christa Hoover, executive director of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association. “The mood changes at the start of May with all the folks back in town and boats going in and out of the water,” she said. Enthusiasm among the fleet of more than 500 drift gillnetters has not been dampened by a reduced harvest projection. Fishery managers expect a Copper River salmon catch this season of just 889,000 sockeyes, 4,000 kings and 207,000 coho salmon. “Regardless of the forecast from one year to the next, fishermen just want to have their nets in the water. It’s what they do and they are ready to go,” Hoover said. click here to read the story 08:34

Petersburg fishermen share concerns with ADFG leadership

Two of Alaska’s top Fish and Game leaders visited Petersburg April 28 to hear from local fishermen. They discussed a variety of topics including state budget cuts to herring management and the federal observer program. About two dozen fishermen are packed into the office of the Petersburg Vessel Owner’s Association. Among the makeshift circle is Sam Cotten, the Commissioner of Fish and Game and Scott Kelley, the Director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries. Besides herring, the local fishermen also want to discuss the observer program for long liners of halibut and sable fish. It’s not a hugely popular program with fishermen because it requires them to take along a designated person to watch the fishing and document the catches. And fishermen help pay for the program through fees. They’re wondering why isn’t the program getting cut? And why are they having to fill out surveys on their catches and get observed? click here to read, listen to an audio report 10:55

‘Deadliest Catch’ star Nick McGlashan says he was ‘a full blown junkie’ addicted to heroin, meth

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski’s longtime deck boss, Nick McGlashan, revealed he was a former drug addict during Tuesday’s episode of Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch.” And now, McGlashan detailed his addiction to fans via an article he linked to on Twitter. He revealed his substance abuse was even worse than what “Deadliest Catch” showed. click here to read the story 16:10

The Deadliest Disease – A lifestyle of the Bering Sea Crabber is a dream for many, but a reality for few. Hard work and fast money make this a lucrative industry enviable for the hopeful masses. The ruthless, persistent, yet beautiful Mother Nature is our greatest adversary. She hits us with winds exceeding 60 miles per hour, bites us with temperatures that dip below -30 degrees, and relentlessly threatens us with waves taller than a three story building. With an injury rate over 90%, it’s one of the most dangerous working environments on the planet. It’s no wonder why there is only 350 people in the world who can claim this as a career. My life went from Bering Sea badass to full blown junkie very rapidly. Hidden from me was that passion I had for life. Taken from me was my ability to live. I was at war with my addiction and it was winning. click here to read the article by Nick McGlashan 16:17

Blessing of the Fleet takes place May 6 at 10 a.m. at the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial

The annual Blessing of the Fleet and Reading of the Names ceremony is set for Saturday, May 6. Organizers of the local event encourage the public to attend to honor commercial fishermen, past and present, and the industry as a whole at the start of the fishing season. It’s taking place at 10 a.m. at the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial next to Taku Smokeries. The blessing takes about an hour. The guest speaker this year is Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. This year marks the 27th year that the fleet has been blessed. Attendees are advised to dress warmly. For those who can’t attend or those on the water, the event will be broadcast over VHF Channel 10. click here to read the story 16:33

Billings fishing company offers sustainability and affordable wild salmon

Every June, Joe Echo-Hawk makes the long trek to Bristol Bay, Alaska to catch thousands of pounds of sockeye salmon. The area around the Kvichak River has hosted generations of commercial fishermen. But a growing number of operations like Echo-Hawk’s have adopted a new business model that’s beneficial to the people fishing and consumers who enjoy their catch. Echo-Hawk operates Kwee-Jack Fish Co. with his wife, Angela Echo-Hawk. The Billings-based company does more than just catch the fish. It also distributes directly to consumers as a community supported fishery, or CSF. Customers can place orders for flash-frozen salmon fillets in 10-pound increments until May 26. Joe and a crew of two or three other fishermen travel to Bristol Bay in June and fish through July to catch the salmon to fill orders in Montana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The fish is shipped on a barge to Seattle and trucked to Billings. Kwee-Jack guarantees delivery of the fish by early September. click here to view the photo gallery and read the story 12:16

When Alaska shellfish turns deadly – Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning

In the Alaska wilderness, at least you can see the things that’ll kill you. That’s what I say when I get tired of questions about bears. But it’s not true. The smallest things that can kill you here are single-celled creatures you need a microscope to see. They can find their way into the food chain, into your clam bucket, your chowder, and then into your nerve cells. Minutes or hours later, you tingle or go numb. Nerve cells shut down in a rapid cascade until you lose control over limbs and lungs. This is paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP. It comes from a tiny species of plankton called Alexandrium, which produces an even tinier chemical called saxitoxin, which is a thousand times more toxic than sarin gas, and was once studied as part of our biological weapons program in the 1950s and 1960s. click here to read the story 09:00

2017 sockeye forecast weak for Cook Inlet

Upper Cook Inlet’s commercial salmon fishermen are predicted to have another slow season, if the forecast proves accurate. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s 2017 commercial salmon fishery outlook predicts a total run of about 4 million fish to all the stream systems in Upper Cook Inlet, which includes the Kenai, Kasilof and Susitna rivers as well as a number of smaller streams. Commercial fishermen are projected to harvest about 1.7 million of that, the lowest projected harvest in the last 15 years. It’s largely the Kenai River not living up to the recent 10-year average. The river is projected to see a return of 2.2 million sockeye, about 39 percent below the recent 10-year average of 3.6 million fish. By contrast, the Susitna River is projected to see about 366,000 sockeye return, about 5 percent below the average; the Kasilof River is expected to see about 825,000 sockeye, about 16 percent below the recent average, according to the forecast. Better than 2016 – Improving prices – Board of Fisheries changes – click here to read the story 08:29