Recent Kusko Openings Leave Boats Heavy With Chum

Jul 6, 2017

Summer chum
Credit USFWS

The numbers are in from the two recent gillnet openings on the Kuskokwim River. Although Monday’s opening stretched twice as long as Saturday’s, more people fished during the weekend window.

From Tuntutuliak to Akiak on the Kuskokwim main-stem, an estimated 320 drift boats fished on Saturday, compared to 250 boats on Monday. The difference showed in the harvests. Approximately 30,190 salmon were taken on Saturday, compared to 17,950 on Monday.

Chum salmon dominated the catches with about 19,640 netted Saturday and 11,990 Monday.

Reds followed with about 9,550 harvested Saturday and around half that, about 5,270, on Monday.

Kings made up the smallest portion of the catch: 990 on Saturday and 690 on Monday.

These estimates come from a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bethel Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC), the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission, and the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.

Reactions to the abundance of chum varied. Some families told ONC that they witnessed "chum chucking" during the openings. Others said that they had stopped fishing because of too many chum in the water. Some said they were waiting for silvers to begin fishing again.

However, many people told members of the Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group that they were grateful for the chance to fish with gillnets.

Fishery managers say that the chum and red salmon are running strong on the Kuskokwim. Both are tracking along the state’s 10-year historical average. Meanwhile, the kings are running below average and have a low chance of meeting drainage-wide escapement goals.