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2020 Prince of Wales Whalefest

Abby Twyman
March, 2020
Today is: June 14th, 2024

The end of March and beginning of April is an important time in Southeast Alaska for commercial fisherfolk and local residents alike. This time of year is lovingly referred to as "fish egg season" which is used to talk about the fishery as well as the weather which rapidly goes from rainy/windy to sunny.

During this time of year, on Prince of Wales Island, the herring coalesce in the waters around Craig for their annual spawn. The commercial fishery for herring eggs is a large and interesting one. The process for gathering the fish eggs for sale on the international market is called "herring pounding".

The people who do this work spent weeks preparing their gear by gathering kelp and hemlock branches. These are then strung out on rows of lines and then the herring are either allowed to come through the area naturally or are corralled to increase the likelihood of spawning in the area.

Photo from www.sitkawild.org

The eggs stick to the kelp or branches and then these are pulled out of the water and sold. This natural food source is very popular with locals and on the overseas market. In addition to the importance of this fishery for our economy, we get the added bonus of increased whale and sea life activity.

Fish egg season is the reason for our annual Whalefest celebration. This year the events are scheduled for April 1st-5th, 2020. Local business owners provide many opportunities to learn about local history related to the fishery, share stories, view the abundant wildlife, and participate in cool art classes.

This year's events include:

  • April 1st: At 6:30 PM at the Hill Bar Kathy Peavy and Dr. Jim Baitchel will present on the history of whaling in Southeast Alaska and Marine Reptiles, Ancient Beasts and Forests.
  • April 3rd: Whale Spouts and a Little Stout is the annual open mic event at the Hill Bar during which local fisherpoets, musicians, writers, and storytellers share their crafts.
  • April 4th: Come to the Shelter Cove Lodge at 9:00 AM to hear Stephanie Jurries speak and present a slide show about local birds and birdwatching. Then at 11:00 AM at Strictly Local, there will be a whale painting class. Finally, at 6:30 PM at Craig Highschool, Taylor White and Carrie Newell will present about their marine research projects and findings.
  • April 5th: Cheryl Fecko will provide a guided hike up Sunnahae at 9:00 AM, and then there will be a variety of art classes held at Craig High School 4:00-6:00 PM.

Throughout the weekend, 3 local guides, Stephanie Jurries (Emerald Island Adventures; 907-321-5772), Kathy Peavy (Island Charters; 907-401-0790), and Katie Rooks (POW Excursion Outfitters; 907-401-0909) will be providing opportunities for paid wildlife viewing trips aboard their boats.





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