Commercial salmon season over for Kuskokwim

by Angela Denning-Barnes on August 26, 2013

Friday was the last commercial opener for the season for both the Lower Kuskokwim River and the Kuskokwim Coast. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Bethel announced Sunday that they will not be calling any more commercial fishing periods for the Lower Kuskokwim River and the Kuskokwim Coast at District 4 Quinhagak and District 5 Goodnews Bay.

The end of the season would end by regulation September 8. State biologists decided to end it early for a number of reasons, says Aaron Tiernan, Assistant Area Management Biologist.

“It’s not any one person’s full decision, it’s just like a collective decision I guess,” Tiernan says.

It includes combining the data the state is getting in its test fishery counting project and the processors capacity to keep buying fish. There has been just one processor buying coho salmon this year, Coastal Villages Seafoods, a subsidiary of Coastal Villages Region Fund and they don’t want to keep their plant open for a small number of fish coming in.

The Bethel test fishery has been showing a decline in coho numbers recently.

The last commercial period on the Lower Kuskokwim was Friday, August 23. 186 permit holders participated and brought in 5,454 coho and 16 chum salmon.

There have been a total of 11 commercial periods in Sub-district 1-B since the commercial season opened on July 16. In total, fishermen brought in 163 king; 52,231 chum; 768 sockeye; and 113,959 coho salmon. The total harvests of king, sockeye, and coho salmon were below average while the harvest of chum salmon was average.

Out on the coast at District 4, Quinhagak, they did not have a strong coho run there and closed early because of that.

“District 4, we haven’t seen good numbers for all of coho season,” Tiernan says. “So, part of that is to help conserve the coho salmon in that system, mainly being the Kanektok River.”

During the last commercial opener on Friday, 52 permit holders fished in the Quinhagak district. They brought in 1 king; 8 sockeye; 20 chum; and 1,361 coho salmon.

There have been a total of 18 commercial periods in District 4 since the commercial season began July 2. In total fishermen brought in 2,052 king; 57,978 chum; 26,389 sockeye; and 21,059 coho salmon.

The total harvests of king, sockeye, and coho salmon were below average while the harvest of chum salmon was average.

It was a different story for Goodnews Bay’s silver season.

“Goodnews Bay District 5, we’ve actually seen very good harvests there,” Tiernan says. “But it gets to the point again where the processor, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to keep the plant open for just one district and a couple thousand fish.”

In District 5’s opener Aug. 23, 28 permit holders fished and brought in 80 sockeye; 3 chum; and 3,159 coho salmon. There have been a total of 21 commercial periods in District 5 since the commercial season began June 29. In total, fishermen brought in 495 king; 12,651 chum; 24,521 sockeye; and 22,581 coho salmon.

The total harvests of king and sockeye salmon were below average while the harvests of chum and coho salmon were above average.

All the numbers are preliminary right now. Fish and Game is expected to complete a season summary around mid-September.

Coastal Villages Seafoods paid one dollar per pound for all salmon species this season. They did not purchase Kings on the Kuskokwim River.

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