Watch a video on how salmon are caught and processed.
The primary commercial method of catching salmon is via purse seine and gill nets.
Purse seiners primarily catch pink salmon. The boats are by Alaskan law are less than 58 feet in length. Purse seine fishing involves locating salmon and encircling the school with a large net that has a float line that keeps it on the surface and a weighted lead line on the bottom of the net that sinks the net vertically into the water. A smaller boat takes one end of the net and pulls it around the school and reconnects the net to the main fishing vessel. The purse line that runs through the bottom of the net up to the fishing vessel is slowly pulled tight using a hydraulic power block, closing the bottom of the net (like a purse string) to contain the school of fish. As the purse line and net is pulled aboard the boat, the circle gets smaller and the fish closer to the surface. At this point, the fish are dipped from the water into the fishing vessel hold where they are refrigerated for transfer to a tender that transports fish to the processing facility.
Gillnetters primarily catch the sockeye and chum salmon Bumble Bee cans. Gillnetters are typically 30 – 40 feet in length. They catch fish by setting curtain-like nets vertically into the water and perpendicular to the direction the fish are traveling as they migrate towards the coast towards their streams. Like the purse seine net, gillnets have a float line on top and a weighted lead line on the bottom. The mesh openings are designed to be just large enough to allow male fish, which are usually bigger, to get captured while avoiding capture of most smaller females. The net is retrieved on board hydraulically and the fish are hand picked out of the net as it is brought aboard. As with the purse seiners, fish are refrigerated for transfer to a tender and eventual transportation to processing facilities.