The escapement goal set at the beginning of the season for Kuskokwim River king salmon appears unlikely to be met, and another federal fishing opening has been scheduled, which will take more kings out of the water.
Before the fishing season began, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in consultation with the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, set an escapement goal of 110,000 king salmon. To meet that goal, the groups allocated 16,000 kings for subsistence harvest.
Already, harvests have exceeded that allocation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 18,000 kings have been taken from the Kuskokwim River this season, and more kings are likely to be harvested on Friday.
A six-hour gillnet opening is scheduled for Friday, June 29 from noon to 6 p.m. in the Kuskokwim River's federal waters. The usual net restrictions apply: 6-inch or less mesh and no more than 45 meshes in depth. Nets lengths are limited to 50 fathoms, or 300 feet, from the Kuskokwim River mouth to the Johnson River and 25 fathoms, or 150 feet, from the Johnson River to the Kuskokwim headwaters.
The ratio of kings to other salmon species in the river is running high. As of Monday, less than three chum and red salmon were harvested for every king salmon near Bethel.
Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Executive Director Mary Peltola explained the tribal commissioners' decision to approve the opening, saying that fish for drying is traditionally harvested before the wet season of July and that the opening allows subsistence users who are dependent on salmon for food security to better meet their harvest needs.