Many ambitious hopefuls or romantic souls dream of flying to Alaska in the summer to win the salmon season lottery. I was one of those dreamers and fortunately worked in Bristol Bay for 10 summers. Although I didn’t get rich, I am rich with memories of hard work, camaraderie, and the long and light days in Naknek, Alaska.
There are many other Alaskan fisheries to work in besides salmon, however. Here’s a list of fisheries and opening dates compiled from information from Laine Welch, a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist.
January 1: Boats with hook and line gear or pots will fish the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska for Pacific cod, rockfish and other groundfish.
January 20: Trawlers fish for pollock, the world’s largest food fishery.
Crab boats will soon after fish in the Bering Sea for snow crab, Alaska’s largest crab fishery.
Early March: an eight month-long halibut and sablefish (black cod) seasons begins.
March: Alaska’s roe herring circuit begins, usually at Sitka Sound. That fishery will continue for several months up the coast to Norton Sound.
Mid May is considered the “official” start of Alaska’s salmon season, when king and sockeye salmon return home to the Copper River. King salmon is available to Southeast AK trollers for all but two weeks of the year, however.
All summer and into the fall: Salmon fisheries run fiercely.
Mid-October: Red king crab is caught in Bristol Bay.
In summary, the Alaska fisheries industry puts more people to work than oil/gas, mining, timber, and tourism combined. You’ll learn a lot about yourself if you decide to work on a boat or in a cannery. Be prepared to test your limits, and I hope you make a lot of money.