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Alaska Fishing Seasons

Alaska Fisheries Calendar and Seasons

Alaska commercial fishing seasons photo

 

The areas of Alaska as we describe them are divided up into 5 areas. We describe these areas in greater detail in a section that follows but will go over them briefly because it will give you a better understanding of the fishery calendar in this section.

The areas of Alaska are divided up 1 through 5. If you picture Alaska on a map, Area 1 resides in the Southeast, of which the region is named after. It is the portion of Alaska that is furthest to the south and nearest Canada. From there the areas sprawl counter clockwise moving through the northwest. Thus Area 2 of Prince William Sound is closest to Area 1, followed by Area 3 (Kodiak Island), Area 4 is further north and further west in the Aleutian Islands and finally Area 5, the furthest north of the Alaska’s areas, in Bristol Bay. Here is a Calendar outlining the Fishing Seasons in Alaska with the regions in which they run indicated as well.

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ALASKA FISHING AND DECKHAND JOBS

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January

– Jan. 1 – Aug. 15: Pacific Cod (Pots) “A” season begins.
– Jan. 20 – Nov. 1: Pacific Cod (Bering Sea via Trawlers)

February

No fisheries begin in the month of February but several are ongoing from other seasons.

March

– March 1 – Nov. 15: IFQ Blackcod (sablefish) season
– March 1 – Nov. 15: IFQ Halibut season
– March 17 – June 15: Area 1 – Herring (roe specifically) begins and vary by area

April

– Apr. 15 – June 30: Region 1 – Spring King Salmon (Trolling)

May

– May 1 – Dec. 31: Area 3 – Dungeness Crab
– May 1 – Feb. 28: Area 1 – Yakutat Shrimp (Pots)
– May 1  – Feb. 28: Area 1 – Beam Trawl Shrimp Season
– May 12 – June 15: Hake (off of the OR and WA coast lines)

June

– June 1 – Aug. 15: Area 1 – Sablefish (blackcod via longliners)
– June 1 – Sept. 30: Area 1 – Summer Salmon Troll Season
– June 2 – Oct. 31: Area 1 – Yakutat Set Net Salmon
– June 8 – Sept. 15: Area 2 – General salmon season (gillnetting and purse seiners)
– June 8 – Sept. 30: Area 1 – Salmon gillnet season
– June 10 – July 25: Area 5 – Sockeye salmon season in Bristol Bay
– June 10 – Aug. 20: Area 4 – Salmon seasons with varying dates
– June 10 – Sept. 1: Pacific Cod Catcher/Processor via trawling “C” season
– June 10 – Sept. 1: Pacific Cod Catcher Vessel via trawling “C” season
– June 10 – Nov. 1: Pollock Season in the Bering Sea “B” season
– June 10 – Nov. 30: Pacific Cod Catcher/Processor via hook & line “B” season
– June 10 – Nov. 30: Pacific Cod Catcher Vessel via hook & line “B” season
– June 29 – July 15: Yellowfin Sole (at open sea)
– June 29 – July 15: Rockfish

July

No fisheries begin in July but there are several ongoing throughout the summer. It’s a peak month!

August

There are very few fisheries that begin in August, but several ongoing. Here are the few that begin during August.

– Aug. 15 – May 15: Gold King Crab in the Aleutian Islands
– Aug. 5 – Nov. 25: Pacific Cod in the Bering Sea via Hook & Line

September

– Sept. 1 – Sept. 15: King Crab
– Sept. 1 – Sept. 15: Mackerel
– Sept. 1 – Dec. 15: Pacific Cod “B” Season
– Sept. 1 – Nov. 15: Region 1 Sablefish (Blackcod)
– Sept. 1 – Nov. 20: Region 4 ATKA Mackeral Eastern “B” Season
– Sept. 1 – Nov. 15: Region 4 ATKA Mackeral Centerl “B” Season
– Sept. 1 – Nov. 15: Region 4 ATKA Mackeral Western “B” Season
– Sept. 1 – Oct. 15: Pacific Cod in the Gulf of Alaska

October

– Oct. 1 – Feb. 28: Area 1 Dungeness Crab Season
– Oct. 1 – Feb. 28: Area 1 Shrimp season
– Oct. 1 – Apr. 14: Area 1 Winter King Salmon Season via Trolling
– Oct. 15 – May 31: Area 4 Tanner Crab
– Oct. 15 – May 15: Opilio in the Bering Sea
– Oct. 1 – Oct. 8: Pollock “D” season in the Gulf of Alaska
– Oct. 1 – Feb. 28: Area 1 Shrimp Season via Pots

November

– Nov.1 – Nov. 13: Area 1 King Crab (red)

December

– Dec.3 – Feb. 28: Area 1 Herring

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I have spent quite a few years on the ocean in a variety of ways. I spent about 6+  years in Alaska, some for commercial fishing, and some for pleasure. I have owned many vessels, mostly for pleasure.

Commercial Fishing in Alaska for King Crab!

At one time (late 1970’s) I was in the King Crab Industry in Alaska for 6 years. Yep, it is the Worlds #1 Deadliest Job. Working in some of the toughest weather and ocean conditions (you can’t imagine unless you see a film, or were there) serious. Not for the faint of heart. Many people came and tried and most left after one trip. It is really that tough. You just can’t imagine the conditions unless you were there.

Today we have more modern boats, equipment,etc., but you still have to do the work, and it is the toughest weather and hardest job there is. That does not mean that there are not just as tough jobs around, but this is a total experience, meaning once you leave the dock the nightmare begins. If you work as a jack hammer for instance, or work high up on a 30 story building, or whatever, you usually are able to go home at night to whatever. But not in the King Crab Industry. You are there until you have enough crab to return to the Cannery and make a delivery.

But back in the heyday in the 1970’s it was an all out living hell (and I’m sure it still is). The captains I was with were not bashful about getting out and doing it. Long, long hours, 30-40hrs. You had to do that to make a lot of money. These vessels cost anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to millions of dollar. Many big boats, new and old, went down. Some deck hands can make $2,000 an hour when you figure up after your delivery. At other times you might make hardly anything, if you did not do well at catching a lot of crab.

Boats carried from 100 to 600 pots. What is a pot? Most were called 6by’s. There were some 7 & 8  footers, but the 6 & 7 footers were easiest to work with. A 6 bye is a 6′ x 6′ by about 2.5 feet deep. How much do they weigh? Made out of heavy metal ( so they sank on their own). They had a bio degradable netting so after a few years they would disintegrate. That is, pots that have gotten lost or lines cut accidental by other boats and were irretrievable. They have one long door on the end of the pot.

Ok, so we work on getting the gear ready to fish a month or so before you leave and head to the Aleutian Islands to go fishing.  Most work is done in Seattle, WA in the boat slips. We put in 20 to 30 hours a day to get us accustomed to working those hours. Working out at the gym, helps as well. So we make new sets of lines one set that floats and one set that sinks for each pot. Two types of lines. Poly and Nylon.

The pots are loaded a few days before we are ready to leave. Also, the grocery shopping for the long haul, which means lots of food, both fresh and frozen, is done as well as lots of fuel loaded on board. One of the crew will be the cook, as well as work, but we had at times hired a gal for a couple hundred dollars a day to cook, etc. We all chipped in. It was worth it. Then off you go to Alaska. We usually went through the inside passage and up to Kodiak where we would refuel, then on to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Now at that time, and the weather permitting, we may just go set some pots which is sometimes called prospecting. This means setting pots in different places quite a ways from each other, maybe even a few miles to see where the crab are. Then usually a trip into Dutch Harbor. The chain is the string of the Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Mean nasty weather out there. Some of the worst in the world at times.

Once the pots are set (non stop) then we head back towards the first pots, take a break and eat some food, get a little sleep and then start pulling the pots, once again non-stop unless there is a serious problem. So you could count on working 20 to 40 hours without sleep. Yes we did stop working for a quick bite of food, but  the boat never stopped moving.  We didn’t get a break to talk off our gear, no, just grab a bite and keep working. We worked day and night, around the clock and then some. Foul weather clothes, rain gear, very warm water proof clothes were a necessity. We had very strong halogen and sodium lights on the top of the rigging’s so it was as bright at night as it is in a sunny day. Most of the time it did not matter.

The vessel never stops when pulling or setting pots. If you have to stop, it better be a very damn good reason why the boat had to stop. OK, we cruise along about 5 knots. When you spot the floating buoys coming along side the vessel, (they might be out quite a ways) (2) You have a grappling hook on a long line ready to toss. When ready you toss the hook between the two buoys, (don’t miss) then you start pulling in as fast as you can and (that is flat out pulling). Then you bring the line and one the bags in and run the line through the line puller then you get the other bag through and set aside. You are now letting the line puller, pull the line up with the pot on the other end. In the old days I was there you let the line pile up nice and neat as you can working full out on the deck. Then you hooked the pot hauler cable through a loop on the pot line. You pull up the pot, then place it on the pot ramp. You may have to turn the pot so you wait for the boat to roll just a bit they push the pot out and let it turn then pull it up on to the pot launcher. You are now hoping that the pot is full of crab. Anyway, however many crab are in there you raise the pot just a bit with the launcher and then untie the door and then let the crab fall out. Used to be on the deck. Now they have sorting tables, much better. Now you have to determine if the crab is legal size and “NO FEMALES”. So if you think the crab might be undersized then you use the measuring device. If not legal then throw it overboard. Once you are finished stowing the crab in the live well then you bait the trap and load one shot of the line on the top of the pot and get ready to launch.  The Captain taps the horn and you launch. The pot with the top line goes overboard, then you grab the other shot of line and toss it as far as you can from the boat. There you have one pot down, Ok only 599 more pots to go. Once you have gone through all the pots and you have re-baited them and put them back into the water you can go eat and sleep. The pots are usually far enough apart so you don’t have to slow the boat down when you pick the pots. But it is very demanding so fast, demanding work.

Alaska Fishing Boat Deckhand Jobs

 

Dutch Harbor, in the Aleutian Islands is quite a place. Look it up sometime.

Other places to visit about the Aleutian Islands

Area 4 –
Aleutian Islands – Commercial and Private Fishing

Bering Sea Alaska photo

Alaska’s Bering Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1) Military History of the Aleutian Islands

2) Alaska Fishing Boat Deckhand Jobs

 

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