After the fisherman were given the OK to head out with their nets, the silver surge slowed, and what could have been a much-needed financial boost became yet another bust in an already tough season.
Jack Schultheis, general manager for Kwik'Pak fisheries, estimates a disappointingly low number of fish - about 400 or so -- were caught. He suspects the catch was low because of bad timing. Fish travel in groups, called pulses, and Schultheis thinks fishermen on Sunday caught the run at a lull.
Nick Tucker Sr., a fisherman from Emmonak, says that by the end of Sunday he had lost $40. He made $90 on the 11 silver salmon he caught. He would have needed $130 to break even after paying for gas and supplies.
Gauging from radio traffic on the boats, Tucker says about halfway into the six-hour fishing window, many of the 82 fisherman were calling it quits; better to cut the day short and divert to camps and moose hunting than to waste their remaining gas on a lost effort.
I don't know where to begin, but I'll try. 400 fish for the entire fleet? When I fished for Silvers on the Copper River, back in the 1970s, I was not what anyone might call a "highliner." I was a slacker during Silver season, decades before the term "slacker" was invented. But some nights, I caught 200 myself, over 400 for the opener. And my fuel cost me 60 cents a gallon.
Nothing would have been done this past weekend regarding any opener at all, had it not been for the persistence of people like Nick Tucker. The opener was most likely hastily improvised with no regard to sensible Alaska Department of Fish & Game information on the ground on the lower Yukon Delta. Probably, it was a Denby Lloyd-John Moller-inspired public relations stunt that they probably gambled upon. Not only didn't it work, it has got to have been a morale deflator in the towns along the lower Yukon.
Were Moller and Lloyd watching early last week and late the week before, attempting to assess the feasibility of a commercial opener for Coho? We'll probably never know. But the way this was handled shows as much lack of professionalism on the part of ADF&G and what Moller's office is supposed to stand for as I've yet seen.
Let's hope things get better. Maybe it is time for Lloyd and Moller to turn their office keys over to adults.