March means more fishing boats are out on the water with the start of the Pacific halibut and sablefish (black cod) fisheries on March 6, followed by Alaska’s first big herring fishery at Sitka Sound.
For halibut, the coastwide catch from waters ranging from the west coast states to British Columbia to the far reaches of the Bering Sea was increased by 5.7% this year to 41.22 million pounds.
Alaska always gets the lion’s share of the commercial halibut harvest which for 2022 is 21.51 million pounds, a nearly 10% increase. Expectations for a good fishery are high and “rumors of opening dock prices around $8.00/lb have folks very excited,” said Alaska Boats and Permits in its weekly Fish Ticket report from Homer.
The average dock price for Alaska halibut in 2021 was $6.40/lb.
Alaska fishermen also are seeing increased abundance of sablefish and the combined 2022 Gulf and Bering Sea catches were increased by 32% to 76 million pounds.
A herring spawn on kelp fishery opens on March 17 at Craig and Klawok with a harvest limit of 5,060 tons.
The roe herring fishery at Sitka Sound that typically kicks off in late March has the highest harvest level ever at 45,164 tons (90.3 million pounds).
Shrimpers at Prince William Sound must register to drop pots by April 1 for the mid-April start of a fishery that could yield 66,900 pounds.
Lots of crab action in the Gulf and Bering Sea
A Tanner crab fishery kicked off on March 1 at Prince William Sound with a 61,800 pound catch limit. It could run through March 31 unless the quota is taken earlier.
The Tanner crab fishery at Southeast that began on February 11 should be a wrap by March 9. No word yet on catches but managers reported “historically high crab levels” and the take should easily top last year’s 1.27 million pound harvest. Crabbers have fingers crossed that the Southeast price will mirror Kodiak’s jaw-dropping $8.50/lb.
Southeast crabbers also can concurrently pull up golden king crabs with a harvest limit of 75,300 pounds, a nearly 24% increase from last year. The goldens weigh 5-8 pounds on average and last year averaged $11.55/lb at the docks.
Crabbers at Norton Sound are setting pots through the ice for 27,328 pounds of red king crab. Fewer than 10 permit holders will sell their catches locally as no buyers signed up due to concerns over the dwindling crab stock.
The Bering Sea snow crab fleet has pulled up about 70% of its 5.6 million pound quota (about 4.3 million animals), down 88% from 2021. Yet bottom trawlers targeting flounders are allowed 5.99 million snow crabs as bycatch, equal to 7.8 million pounds.
Crabbers also have taken 68% of their one million pound Bering Sea bairdi Tanner quota. The bycatch allowance for trawlers is 3.07 million animals topping six million pounds.
AK fishing never stops — the 2022 Salmon forecast will be out any day!
Boats also continue to fish for Alaska pollock in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, where combined catches could top three billion pounds. Fishing also is ongoing for cod, rockfish, perch, flounders and many other species.
Finally, it’s hard to believe but fishery managers at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game will announce the catches for Alaska’s 2022 salmon fishery any day.