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Herring seiners hit target — and then some — in quick Saturday opener

A seiner purses up as a tender pulls alongside to start pumping herring, during the fourth and final opening in the 2014 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

A seiner purses up as a tender pulls alongside to pump herring out of the net, during the fourth and final opening in the 2014 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

The 2014 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is over.

The 48 permit holders caught the last remaining fish in this year’s harvest limit — and then some — in a wild 45-minute opener Saturday afternoon right in front of downtown Sitka.

The preliminary estimate from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game for Saturday’s harvest is just shy of 4,000 tons, bringing this year’s total catch to 17,200 tons — about 900 tons more than the guideline harvest level.

The final harvest numbers will be known once processing is complete. In both 2012 and 2013 seiners undershot their harvest limit significantly, as widespread spawning occurred just as fishing started.

ADF&G will continue to conduct aerial surveys of the shoreline as the spawn progresses. At last word, there were 3.8 nautical miles of spawn. The herring typically continue spawning into late April, depositing eggs along 70-80 miles of beach.

The department’s research vessel, Kestrel, will also return to the Sound sometime after the first week in April to conduct dive surveys of egg deposition. These studies help determine the biomass forecast for future years, and the associated harvest level.

Meanwhile, the traditional subsistence harvest of roe-on-hemlock and roe-on-kelp is beginning in earnest in the areas around Middle Island. One subsistence fisherman at Sealing Cove Sunday morning reported making three large sets of hemlock branches, all of which had received a heavy coating of eggs.

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