The Kodiak State-Waters Pacific Cod Pot Gear Season didn’t go well this year. It was open longer than normal and for the first time in its history didn’t meet its target harvest. Nat Nichols is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game area manager for groundfish and shellfish in Kodiak. He says the fishery didn’t even come close to hitting its goal.
The season opened in March, and Nichols says it’s usually done pretty quick, but this year it stayed open until September.
“We have some seasons that are really fast. Three weeks and it’s really hot fishing till the end. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen some slower seasons where we’ll start to lose some participation at the end of the season and it’ll get a little scratchy at the end, but we’ve always gotten there in the end. This year was unique in that the fleet quiet before we got there.”
A lot of vessels that fish for cod also go out for salmon in the summer. Once it became clear the season wasn’t going well, many boats switched over. The fishery only hauled in 3.7 million cod, which is 61 percent of its guideline harvest level. Nichols says no one fished for the whole season. The last cod landed, during the state fishery, happened in June.
There were a lot of obstacles facing fishermen. One, in particular, was a drop in the cod population. Nichols says no one knows what happened for sure, but there’s some talk among the North Pacific Fishery Management Council that it could have something to do with an event in 2015.
“A couple of years ago we had a lot of whales and birds coming up on the beach. In Chignik they saw a lot of Cod coming on the beach in 2015. So there’s the thought out there is that there’s possible a year class or more of cod that were affected by that same event.”
Nichols says it was a good thing Kodiak had a decent salmon season, and that there wasn’t a repeat of last year’s pink salmon disaster.
“Having a really poor pink salmon year this year would’ve been a lot more painful for some of these boats that had some lackluster cod fishing this winter.”
Even though the state season is closed, the federally managed Parallel Pacific Cod Pot Season is currently open and Nichols says a few boats are already out fishing.