2017 Chum Troll Update

Neets Bay Chum Troll 2017 Summary:

ADF&G closed the troll fishery in Behm Canal on 20 September.

As has been the case in past years, there were discrete fisheries for summer and fall chum, with a few boats fishing through the summer without leaving. The highest daily boat count for the summer period was 60, with a range of 40 to 60 boats fishing daily through the peak of the return (9 through 22 July).  The high boat count in the fall was 16.  Most of those boats fished until several days before the closure.

The fishery was continuously tendered with a few short breaks when few boats were fishing. There were two processors involved through the summer fishery and one in the fall.  The total harvest was approximately 236,000 fish at a total weigh of about 2.3 million pounds and an estimated value of slightly more than $2 million.

The fish were more catchable than they have been in a number of years. This could in part be the result of less gear in the water.

21 August 2017 SSRAA Chinook In-season Update:

With very poor natural returns and a low-end US/Canada treaty allocation, this was a seriously constrained chinook season. The spring hatchery access fishery was tightly managed  in time and area.  This is the fishery that produces a large percentage of the Alaska hatchery troll harvest.  Likewise, some of the corridor fisheries that provide drift harvest were also closed or harvest was constrained to protect natural stocks.  The primary 2017 opportunity to harvest SSRAA enhanced stocks was net rotational fisheries in the SHA’s.  This management scenario had a lot to do with which group was able to harvest most of the returning fish.

The value of terminal fish, prior to the first few days in July, has been good for a number of years. Once this became the case, the comparative harvest between the gear groups started to shift from a very dominant troll position toward the net fleets.  Troll value was not lost, but instead, the net fleets realized more revenue from a chinook salmon.  With serious management constraints on the fishery in 2017, most of the opportunity shifted to the SHA’s where the net fleets fished, while at the same time it was lost from troll spring hatchery access fisheries.  This is evident in the graphics where harvest by the drift fleet is considerably greater than the other two fleets; and, as it has been in the past several years, even seine exceeds troll harvest of SSRAA chinook.   The difference in harvest numbers does not directly relate to a difference in the value of harvest.  Because of the high value of a troll-caught chinook, trollers received the greatest value from this fishery despite the greater number of fish harvest by the other two fleets.

Related to SSRAA stocks, the attached graphics represent the total return as best we can put it together at this date. Please note that the sport harvest is not included as we are not yet comfortable with that data.  Historically the greatest sport harvest occurs with Herring Cove and Crystal Lake fish.  The addition of sport harvest will raise the comparative total returns of those releases, though it will not change the ordering of the different sites.  In short, Neets Bay produced the most chinook while the Anita Bay release probably had the best survival.  This is because more fish are released at Neets Bay than at Anita Bay.

In a very quick and dirty assessment (more precise numbers will be available this fall), the survival rate at these two sites was close to 2%, perhaps a little better. In a year when almost all chinook returns in SE Alaska were very poor at best, this is an anomaly.  These returns are at the low end of the long-term average survival for SSRAA fish, but they are not worse than that.  SSRAA has no silver bullet for chinook production; survival is probably most related to where they are released.  Whatever the case, and though there is certainly some variation between years, SSRAA returns have been relatively consistent for more than 10 years.

Neets Bay Chum Troll Report, through 6 August:

The SHA closed Saturday night, July 22, at midnight; the area from Bug Island to Chin Point opened again on 2 August. From 10 to 15 trollers have been fishing the outer part of Neets Bay since it reopened.  Surprisingly, fishing was pretty much the same as when the area was closed 10 days before.  Generally these are the final days of the run, at least in terms of significant harvest.  It is very possible the recent period of high pressure has kept the fish in one spot longer than usual.  Fishing was good through the past 5 days, but we don’t anticipate this continuing very far into the future.  At the same time, there is generally always some harvest between the summer and fall run which starts at the end of August; but, the harvest isn’t always good enough to keep people fishing and tenders in the bay.

Neets Bay Chum Troll Report, through 29 July:

The SHA closed last Saturday night, July 22, at midnight; very few trollers stayed behind to fish in Behm Canal just outside of Neets Bay. Troll counts have ranged from 2 boats to 5 boats.  We estimate that about 1100 fish have been caught in the fishery this week.  The fishery is still being tendered by one processor several times a week.  We anticipate participation will increase on 2 August when the area outside of Bug Island is once again open to trolling.  It is likely harvest will improve at that point. The summer chum return is now past its peak, but some fish will continue to enter Neets Bay through most of August.  Fall chum should begin to arrive toward the end of August.  Tender availability will depend on participation in the fishery.

Neets Bay Chum Troll Report, through 23 July:

The daily boat count through the past week was constant, 44 boats plus or minus a few. Mid- week we estimated the harvest would reach 200,000 or slightly more by the end of the week. Fishing was good throughout the week and the estimate was correct. The SHA closed Saturday night at midnight.  That area will reopen, Chin Point inward to Bug Island, on 2 August when the SHA shrinks to the Bug Island Line and the outer bay becomes part of the Behm Canal common property fishery.

Because of the SSRAA cost recovery revenue shortfall in 2016 and the current 2017 forecast, suggesting meeting the current revenue goal would be difficult, the SSRAA Board set a 200,000 fish cap for the chum troll fishery. If that number was reached, the SHA would be closed to trolling.  It’s important to realize that these fish are also harvested in Behm Canal just outside the SHA, but often the most effective fishery is along “Football Beach”, stretching from Chin Point to the Bug Island Line, within the SHA.

Only 4 boats were in the area fishing chums this morning after the SHA was closed. We don’t know if the current fishery will be tendered or not.  This depends on participation – check with your processors.

Though the return will quickly begin to taper off, summer chum will continue entering Neets Bay for at least the next 10 days. In about the third week of August we begin to see some fall chum returning to Neets.  The peak of that return is from late August through about mid-September.  Trolling has been effective on fall chum; please note that the fall chum return to Neets Bay is much smaller than the summer chum return.

Neets Bay Chum Troll Report, through 16 July:
The daily boat count through the past week has ranged been between 50 and 60 boats fishing. Harvest to date (17 July) is approximately 172,000 fish. The fish are still averaging about 10 pounds. The fishery is being tendered daily by two local processors. We anticipate the peak of the Neets Bay return to pass through this fishery in the next 5 to 7 days, though the summer chum run will continue into early August. This summer’s harvest continues to be better than average, particularly considering the level of participation. We will update this information weekly.

Neets Bay Chum Troll Report, through 10 July:
Chum trolling began on about 1 July when there were 8 trollers in the fishery. The current boat count, afternoon of 9 July, was 43. Harvest to date is approximately 85,000 fish. The fish are averaging slightly more than 10 pounds. The fishery is being tendered daily by two local processors. We anticipate the peak of the Neets Bay return to pass through this fishery through the next two weeks or slightly longer. This summer’s harvest has been better than average to date. We will update this information weekly.