There are not as many king salmon in the Kuskokwim River this spring as expected and Assistant Area Management Biologist Aaron Tiernan of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says that they are taking a conservative approach to get as many kings as possible up the river to spawn.
State biologists reviewed the numbers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Inter-tribal Fisheries Commission, and the Kuskokwim River Salmon Working Group.
"They weren't amazing, " says Aaron Tiernan. "They weren't terrible, but they weren't amazing. There's just not a whole lot of fish in the river. But in both of those meetings, everybody kind of came to consensus that we're going to take a step back and watch to see how the run is going to progress the next few days before we start thinking about having additional opportunity in the future."
For now, the nets have to stay out of the water. The number of kings that have shown up overall is less than expected in the forecast, but it's early and things could turn around. There is a difference this year from when the same scenario unfolded four years ago: biologists like Tiernan are not pinning their hopes on a late run that, four years ago, never showed up.
"You know we don't want another thing like 2013 to come about where the run just crashed and we weren't able to meet our escapement goals. We want to err on the side of caution right now."
Tiernan says that this year, Fish and Game is taking extra care to make sure more kings get up the river early in the season to help build the run for the future.