Laine Welch: Kodiak marina to light up with holiday flair

Laine Welch

It's traditional during the Christmas season for communities to decorate their downtowns with lights. For Kodiak and other port towns, "downtown" means the boat harbor.

This month, alongside the local businesses ashore, Kodiak's floating storefronts -- meaning the 650 or so fishing businesses that each support one or more families -- will be showcased in the downtown lighting festivities. Think of it as a mall in a marina!

The revamped Harbor Lights Festival is an old theme with a new twist, according to Toby Sullivan, director of the Kodiak Maritime Museum.

"The only difference is that the boats won't be parading down the channel. They will just stay in the harbor," he said.

More than a decade ago, festively adorned fishing and sport boats would motor through the channel while people enjoyed the displays from shore. But the light show too often had to be cancelled because of bad weather, said Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson, who braved many a blustery boat parade.

"It was tough to get your boat all decked out in lights and then have foul weather postpone the event," she said. "We decided to hold it in port and allow the lights to shine regardless of the weather."

The mayor, the Maritime Museum and the Downtown Revitalization Committee believe it will bring more attention to the hundreds of "small businesses" afloat in Kodiak's two harbors.

"That's what we are all about -- the boats and the harbor and the commercial fishing industry," Sullivan said.

The Harbor Lights Festival will be at the Fishermen's Hall from 5-9 p.m. on Dec. 21. The Isle Belles and St. Innocents Academy Choir will perform.

Help out with halibut

Halibut scientists plan to expand the depth and breadth of their stock assessments by adding 390 survey stations to the existing 1,300, which range from Oregon to the Bering Sea.

Since 1998, the halibut surveys have been done at depths of 20 fathoms to 275 fathoms, where most of the fishing occurred. But halibut watchers are seeing changes in the fishery.

"We're seeing the catch coming out of deeper areas, particularly out in the Unalaska region, out through the Aleutians and on into the Bering Sea," said Claude Dykstra, survey manager for the International Pacific Halibut Commission. "And we've seen shallower-water captures being pulled out of various Gulf areas as well." Surveys will be added in the ranges of zero to 20 fathoms and 275 to 400 fathoms next summer. That will necessitate more boats, Dykstra said, which is posing a bit of a difficulty.

"Finding boats and crew experienced in fixed gear is one challenge; the other is that a lot of these guys diversify their operations and they move into salmon fisheries in the summer," he said.

Each charter region requires about three weeks of test fishing; boats can bid for up to three regions. Vessels also get 10 percent of the halibut sales and 50 percent from any other fish that is retained and sold. Typical payouts range between $70,000 to $120,000, depending on the survey regions.

Interested? Contact, or (206) 634-1838.

Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Her Fish Radio programs can be heard on stations around the state or found at Contact her at

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