Quinhagak fisherman demand equality from sport fisherman on Chinook conservation

by Sophie Evan on June 26, 2013

Alaska West Sport Fishing Camp on the Qanirtuuq River, photo by Alaska West

Alaska West Sport Fishing Camp on the Qanirtuuq River, photo by Alaska West

The Qanirtuuq River in Quinhagak is world famous for sport fishing, and has been the only consistent commercial fishery on the Kuskokwim for many years. But this year, commercial fishing during the King salmon run has been closed, and the Native Village of Kwinhagak is asking that sports fishermen to also stand down.

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The summer started with much anticipation this year, from a late break up to wondering how strong or weak the Chinook run will be. Here on the main stem of the Kuskokwim, people have been successfully harvesting salmon without any major restrictions. It’s the same for subsistence fisherman in Quinhagak, their river, the Qanirtuuq, also hosts up to at least fifty (50) sport fisherman on any given day during the summer, not including private unguided camping and fishing individuals.

The Native Village of Kwinhagak recently drafted a resolution directed to the Department of Fish and Game Sport fish division, asking for an emergency order, to close all waters to commercial sport fishing.

Natural Resources Director, Jackie Cleveland says “everyone here wanted more equality with sport and comm, we’re making one sacrifice, that was the whole point of the resolution, we wanted them to equally sacrifice for the future of the Kings.”

Cleveland says there are three sport fishing camps on the Qanirtuuq, Alaska West hosts up to twenty-four (24) clients per week, and the other outfit, Duncan and Sons hosts twelve (12) each out of two camps. Alaska West spokesman Mike Sanders says although sport fishing is open on the Qanirtuuq, with a bag limit of one king per day, it used to be three per day, Alaska West has opted for a 100-percent non retention of King Salmon this summer by any of their paid guests.

Duncan and Sons are still setting up their camps and have not had any clients yet. In an e-mail, Clint and Brad Duncan say they have not allowed their anglers to keep any King Salmon in the past, and do not allow them to be taken home as well. They added that when they do eat fish it is a red, chum, or dolly.

The Quinhagak district and nearby Goodnews Bay district will open for commercial fishing next month to target chums. John Chylook, with the Division of Sport Fishing, says once that happens, there will be a sizable incidental Chinook catch. Chylook, who didn’t want to be recorded, says commercial fisherman caught just fewer than seven thousand Kings last summer. The ten-year average by sport fisherman is 600- kings per season.

As it stands now, subsistence fishing on the Qanirtuuq is open and unrestricted, sport fishing is going on, without the taking of Kings, and a commercial fishing opening is scheduled for the early part of July.

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