Set-netting is the mainstay of life for fishing families in Yakutat.
Depending on debris, currents and drifting logs, a net only catches fish during a portion of each tide. Just like hook and line fishermen, set-net fishermen only fish part of each day—not around the clock. The nets are 120 feet long covering only a small part of the estuary. This allows many fish to continue upstream into the Situk River, even while nets are in the water.
How is the fishery managed? When are the nets in?
Historically, the Situk River and its fish runs were monitored and cared for by the Tekweidi or Brown Bear clan. Today, in addition to local stewardship, the Situk set-net fishery is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The commercial fishery runs from the third week in June, generally through the second week of October. It opens every Sunday and ends on Tuesday unless extended due to abundant fish returns. Click here for up-to-date opener information from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Anyone who owns a Yakutat set-net permit may participate. A few nets may be seen on Fridays and Saturdays when the set-net fishery is open to Alaska resident families to fish for food and customary use. It is a brief opening with set times and is not part of the commercial fishery.
Fish runs are managed to allow enough fish to pass upriver to spawn, to ensure future healthy returns. A fish counting weir is located in the lower river during chinook and sockeye seasons.
With fisheries management and stewardship in the sport, commercial and subsistence fisheries we can all share in this valuable resource.
To learn more about Yakutat's set net fishery, check out this video Patagonia Provisions produced on Situk Sockeye here.
set-netting: how it works
"I'm probably the only commercial fisherman fly shop owner in the world, so I'm dependent on the health of both fisheries. In most cases, the commercial nets take a small percentage of the total run, leaving a far greater percentage of fish to migrate upstream and perpetuate future runs."