The prospect of commercial fishing again dominated the discussion at a Wednesday meeting of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group. There haven’t been any openings since July 21st, and that’s the way many upriver subsistence fishermen with empty freezers wanted it to stay.
Alice Kameroff from Lower Kalskag responded to reports from lower river fishermen bringing in plenty of cohos and says she hasn’t put any silvers up yet.
“I wish they wouldn’t open commercial and let the silvers reach up here so we can put a lot of fish away too,” said Kameroff.
Greg Roczicka of Bethel suggested managers wait until at least the midpoint of the run before any opening.
“We want to make sure there’e enough fish to get past in sufficient numbers and densities and because of that increased subsistence need and demand that’s there from chinook restrictions,” said Roczicka.
Theodore Brown spoke in support of an opener and said plenty of fish will make it past his and others’ commercial nets.
“This lower river area is like 5 miles from bank to bank, there’s a lot of escaping where the fish pass through, even if there’s an opener, like a 4 hour opener, we’re lucky to fill half a tote of fish for 4,5,6 hours,” said Brown.
State Area Management Biologist Aaron Poetter says the cohos have not reached the 25-percent point of the run at the Bethel Test Fishery yet. He’s waiting for more information before making the call on any commercial opening.
“We’re so early in the run, when we try to make projections out to what the run could be or will be at the end of the season with such little, data, the precision is not there yet. Given the needs expressed by middle and upper river about the amount of coho needed for subsistence, we’re going to take it day by day and look at the projection each day,” said Poetter.
In other action, the group passed a motion in support of a proposed exchange program between different parts of the river.