SITKA — Herring are spawning again in Sitka Sound on the shores of Baranof and Kruzof islands.
The second wave comes after a previous peak of spawning was observed about two weeks ago, around the time of the commercial sac roe openings.
Dave Gordon, area management biologist for Fish and Game, said a second spawn is not unusual, and he is not looking at reopening the sac roe fishery.
“It’s not unusual to see what you’d call a second wave of fish after the first spawn,” Gordon said. “I was impressed with the intensity of spawning on Kruzof. I would expect it to expand to include more shoreline. We’ll have to wait and see where it goes at this point.”
Fish and Game measured about 1.9 miles of spawn on Monday, and a total of 6.3 miles today on the Kruzof Island shoreline, Krestof Island and Starrigavan Bay.
The 48 seiners in this year’s sac roe fishery took 5,850 tons of herring on March 27, 28 and 30. The fishery was closed April 3 after days of extensive surveying by the fleet failed to turn up suitable schools of marketable fish. The season’s catch was 5,700 tons short of the guideline harvest level of 11,550 tons.
In the days following the closure, Fish and Game conducted spawn deposition surveys and continued mapping spawn along the shoreline of Sitka Sound. On April 9, Fish and Game noted “a substantial biomass” of herring in Salisbury Sound, north of town. Samples showed average weights of 125 grams and mature roe content of 12 percent and higher, which generally indicates marketable quality high enough for a sac roe opening.
“They were not tiny but there was a high mix of younger fish involved, which is typically the case with the later spawning fish,” Gordon said.
He said Fish and Game considered reopening the fishery at that time, but in the end opted against that course of action.
“We decided not to since we had announced that the fishery was closed for the season,” Gordon said. “We thought it was a bad policy to reopen it at that time.” The majority of the fleet was gone, as was the Fish and Game research vessel Kestrel. Spawn deposition surveys ended April 12.
Fish and Game will continue mapping this late spawn through aerial surveys but Gordon said this year does not look particularly unusual.
“We’ve had some significant spawn after the initial spawn in past years,” he said. “It doesn’t happen every year but it does happen.”