The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game is conducting the first aerial survey of the herring season today (Thurs., Mar. 14).
During this first flyover, biologists are looking at the distribution of herring predators, like sea lions and whales. That gives them an idea of where the fish are located in the sound, and can help them target areas for fishing.
Fish and Game biologist Dave Gordon says they will also conduct the first herring roe test on Monday (Mar. 18) to see how much mature roe is in the herring.
“I don’t expect there to be a real high percentage of mature roe in the sample,” said Gordon. “There may not be any actually at this point in time. This is on the early side. It’s probably more normal to see the fish ready for harvest around the 25th of March. But we have fished as early as March 16th. The timing changes from year to year, so you want to stay on top of it.”
He says fishery managers will conduct regular tests until the roe reach a certain percentage of their body weight.
“Once you get up to samples that are 8,9,10 percent roe, then you think about putting the fishery on a two-hour notice,” said Gordon. “That’s when everyone needs to think about going fishing with as little notice as two hours. They better be here, and they will be, once they announce two-hour notice.”
On Sunday night (Mar. 10), there was a personal use bait harvest north of Middle Island, just north of Sitka. The average weight of these fish was 161 grams. A number of samples were taken, but the harvesters found NO mature roe.