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An aerial shot of the craziness courtesy of

I’m looking out over Sitka Sound. It’s the first day of spring and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. A seiner is making a set about two miles out from our water front suites. The stage is set for the annual herring fishery, what some call “The Super Bowl of Seining.” They seiners are on two-hour notice, meaning if the quality of roe in the herring being sampled is ripe enough, the bell will ring. If all goes according to plan, 16,000 tons of herring will be harvested in the next week at a value to the fishermen of $6 million. This isn’t combat fishing; it’s all out war.  One 15-minute set can yield a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of fish for one boat and nearly nothing for another.

Timing is critical in this race for fish. Their herring must be ripe, but not so ripe that they spawn and jettison their valuable cargo. The money is mostly in the roe which is exported to Asia. The processing capacity available in Sitka can handle about a maximum of five thousand tons and the fleet can catch that much in 15 minutes. Then it takes two days to process those fish before they can open again. So, three or four fifteen minute openings over the course of a well timed week yield a $6 million harvest.

Check out the event’s Facebook page. 

Opening announcement. 


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