There are rare moments in a person’s life when they realize that they are actually living part of history. This summer in Alaska broke every preconceived notion about commercial salmon fishing. Was it the weather? Was the sheer volume of fish? Actually, it was a combination of a few inconsequential factors that made the summer what it was. The Summer Of Nevers!
Over 267 million salmon were rallied into fishermen’s hands this season, making it the single largest run in history. Southeast Alaska broke numerous two day harvest records, topping out at over 9 million pounds. Prince William Sound also pounded away at the pink salmon. The sheer volume of fish prompted many canneries and processors to institute limits of the amount of salmon each boat can catch. Rumors hint at limits of only 30,000 pounds for some of the Prince William Sound seiners. In southeast Alaska the limits affected nearly every cannery, with the exception of Ocean Beauty. Even the highly touted Silver Bay Seafoods, which is a recent fish buyer founded by fishermen, wasn’t able to keep up with the volume. Canneries were plugged for days and were challenged to find the workers to keep up with the pace. Icicle Seafoods in Petersburg had a mass walkout of nearly 60 cannery workers who felt the long hours were just too much to handle. Also, Alaska General Seafoods, which is based out of Ketchikan with some Canadian roots in Prince Rupert, couldn’t keep all of their canning lines running due to lack of canadian labor force. The overwhelming volume of pink salmon surprised everyone this season, including the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The run was upgraded twice over the season, once ADFG realized the full potential of the “humpynami.”
The sun just never stopped shining! Southeast Alaska experienced the single best summer for weather in ages. Temperatures soared throughout the region for a record-breaking numbers of days. The lack of rain caused a few problems with fish dying in dried up streams before spawning. In fact, Petersburg’s Blind Slough Hatchery experienced a huge die off of Chinnook salmon, as the heat and low oxygen content of the water was just too much for the fish to survive. The state’s all time record high was set in Talkeetna this summer at a whopping 96 degrees. Cordova also broke their all time heat record in July at 90 degrees. The swooping jet stream is to blame for the abnormal summer and the pattern leaves many meteorologists scratching their heads in amazement. This trend doesn’t bode well for southeast alaskan salmon, which thrive off of the moisture that the temperature rainforest provides. Only time will tell the full impact of this summer’s crazy weather.
On a more personal note, I would like to extend my gratitude to the captain and crew of the mighty F/V Quandary. After sixteen consecutive years of seining, I thought I had seen it all. This summer astonished me in so many ways that I can barely describe my joy. Thank you, Captain Tom, Taylor, Steve, and Kris! It will never be the same. I think this song will sum it up best! Enjoy. Also, stay tuned for daily updates and videos from the past season. I have an incredible tribute video coming up for my late friend Jay Fisher. Also, I have huge plans for the ComFishFilmFest this year.