Smelts Arrive in Napakiak

May 10, 2016

Smelts caught just below the Napakiak Airport
Credit Michael Black

After the earliest breakup on record, the smelts are finally 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," said Black.

He says he fished just below the Napakiak airport. Almost done filling up his 3-gallon tin washer Black said he plans on dipnetting for even more smelts later in low tide.

The cellphone audio was distorted during the phone call but Black says he plans on drying some of the smelts and freeze the rest to eat for the rest of 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.