A Snapshot of an Alaskan Commercial Fishing Season
The first impression of rural Alaska as you fly into the fishing grounds in Bristol Bay. This aerial view shows why this area is called The Land of 10,000 Lakes.
This is Mt. Peulik, one of the many volcanoes on the Alaskan Peninsula.
In late June entire fields of 'Alaskan Cotton' blooms and provides soft bedding for the brown bears.
This 2 year old brown bear is walking through the remains of an old salmon saltry built in the early 1900's. Fishermen using linen nets and 32' sailing boats delivered their catch here. The salmon was then salted to preserve it, and tugged out on barges for sale around the world.
This American Bald Eagle sits atop a U.S. Army Monkey Boat that was purchased by the cannery after WWII and used as a tug for towing their fleet of sailboats out to the fishing grounds.
Bears are common on the beach at dawn and dusk. They walk the tide line looking for food and training their young. The largest brown bear reserve, Katmai National Park, lays just to the East of Bristol Bay.
Beachcombing shows sign of earlier visitors. Some large and some babies. Look close and you can see how long their toenails are.
Life on the tundra is abundant! Salmon is just one piece of the life cycle here. These little ground squirrels live in colonies and create a vast tunnel system through the tundra. They hibernate under snow and ice through 8 months of the year. Locals call them Parka Squirrels and the Native Alaskans have been known to use their fur for parka ruffs.
Blue lupine commonly known as "fireweed" blooms in late July and appears to set the cliffs on fire.
The Willow Ptarmigan (pronounced TAR-mi-gun) is the Alaska State bird. They nest on the ground under shrub Alder in large communities of adults and young. Mother Ptarmigan will flutter their wings and act injured to draw predators away from their chicks.
At low tide the American Bald Eagle stretches his 6' wingspan and looks for lunch.
Some of the smallest birds in the area burrow into the silt along the tops of the cliffs to nest. They and their eggs will be safer from the red fox here.
These Red Fox kits were just outside of the den using their littermates to practice prowling and pouncing techniques while mom went hunting for dinner.
This American Bald Eagle patiently watches as the fleet of 500 fishing vessels and their captains and crew go to work.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issues a limited number of Commercial Fishing Permits. These Permits can be bought and sold as you would any other real property. They can be (and often are) willed to the next generation. This limited entry program is one of the many ways the State of Alaska keeps the balance between the economic needs of fishermen and the State, and the sustainability of the salmon run.
Here is Captain Carl on the bridge catching their own salmon. Carl commanded a crew of four and was always on the lookout. He was responsible for knowing what the net was doing, where other fishing nets were in relation to his, what the weather conditions were, where other fishermen were successfully catching fish, how our salmon were being handled by the crew, following all State of Alaska Commercial Fishing regulations, and of course keeping his crew and himself safe. We lost Carl November 21, 2011.
These nets are waiting to be repaired or fished. The lead-line holds the net down in the current while the cork-line floats and keeps the net from sinking (unless you catch too many fish :) Commercial Drift Fishermen are entitled to fish nets that measure 150 fathoms long, the length of 3 football fields and 29 meshes deep, about 14'.
This is a net full of Wild Alaskan Sockeye (Red) Salmon. In Bristol Bay the average yearly salmon run ranges from 40-50 million Sockeye salmon. 10-15 million Sockeye will reach their spawning grounds. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game continuously monitors the run and sets Commercial Fishing openers as daily spawning escapement intervals are met.
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