Wednesday July 26, 2023


This season, Bristol Bay sockeye are coming back bigger, and older. The average fish weighs over a pound more than last year’s, thanks to an extra year spent in the open ocean. But looking at the last few decades, sockeye have been getting smaller, and fishermen are noticing.

“Decades ago, it seemed like the five plus pound fish were the typical return,” said lifelong setnetter Nathan Hill in Naknek. “And I feel like in the last, oh, I would say five plus years, there’s been a smaller size, (and so) people have fished smaller gear.”

Smaller sockeye mean changing fishing practices, and implications for escapement.

Tim Sands is the area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for the Nushagak and Togiak Districts. He says smaller sockeye can slip through nets, and that escapement can add up.

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