After the earliest breakup on record, the smelts are spawning their way into the Bethel area.
Tuesday morning, Napakiak resident Michael Black posted a picture on Facebook of the smelts he caught near Napakiak. He was still smelting when he talked with KYUK.
“Yeah, they’re hitting pretty hard. I’m getting like half a net-full each time. Well, most of the time I’m getting half a net-full,” Black said.
He says he fished just below the Napakiak airport. As he was almost done filling up his three-gallon tin washer, Black said he plans on dipnetting for more smelts later during low tide.
Black says he plans on drying some of the smelts and freezing the rest to eat throughout the year.
Smelting, or dipnetting, for smelts is an annual event in the area, and smelts are traditionally an important subsistence resource for many in the region.
A study related to the Donlin EIS in 2014 revealed smelts move up the river at a rate of around 40 miles per day. According to local Yup’ik knowledge, the smelts usually arrive after the branches and leaves start growing and are ready to be used to hang the smelts.