chinook salmon

FishThe Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group wants the state to end to all commercial openings for the remainder of the summer. The say despite unmet subsistence needs the state has allowed commercial salmon openings. Some upriver fishermen are fed up with the state, and want the Federal Subsistence Board to manage the river from here on out.

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ADF&GAnother commercial opening for salmon fishing on the Kuskowkiwm starts Monday, July 21st. Waters from Bethel to the mouth will open to commercial salmon fishing from noon to 6pm. Read more →

An ancient smokehouse near the village of Napaskiak. Photo by Daysha Eaton

An ancient smokehouse near Napaskiak. – Photo by Daysha Eaton

It’s an annual tradition going back thousands of years for Yup’ik people living along the Kuskokwim river: fish camp. Each summer families relocate to catch, dry and smoke fish to sustain them through the long winter, the most coveted of which is the King Salmon. But fishing restrictions this year, have hit many families hard.

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The Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group discusses the first 6" gillnet openings.  Photo by Ben Matheson/KYUK.

The Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group discusses the first 6″ gillnet openings. Photo by Ben Matheson/KYUK.

Four weeks into salmon fishing restrictions, the atmosphere along the Kuskokwim River is tense. At a meeting Tuesday the stress the closures are causing was obvious. But gillnet fishing for salmon is near.

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After five days of fish meetings that brought state and federal managers together, along with tribal leaders, advisory council members, and Working Group members from up and down the Kuskokwim River, fishers still don’t know exactly what’s going to happen during the 2014 fishing season.

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James Charles discusses salmon management at the Yukon Kuskokwim Subsistence Regional Advisory Council meeting in Bethel. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

James Charles discusses salmon management at the Yukon Kuskokwim Subsistence Regional Advisory Council meeting in Bethel. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

The Yukon Kuskokwim Subsistence Regional Advisory Council on Monday pushed forward a recommendation to close fishing for king salmon to all but federally qualified subsistence users. They also moved to prioritize the allocation of any surplus to those who cut, dry, and smoke kings in the traditional way.

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KRSMWG members discuss possible fishing schedules. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

KRSMWG members discuss possible fishing schedules. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Two months before what would normally be time for king salmon fishing, Kuskokwim residents have a sketch of what the summer’s conservation measures will look like. There will be no directed king salmon fishing and the season will start closed for subsistence salmon fishing. As for the chum and red salmon openenings, managers are setting no hard dates for the first gillnet opening, other than it’s anticipated in last week of June. The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group last week painstakingly came to a consensus on conservation measures.

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Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Work Group members and biologists meet in Anchorage to discuss 2014's fishing plan. Photo by Ben Matheoson / KYUK.

Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Work Group members and biologists meet in Anchorage to discuss 2014’s fishing plan. Photo by Ben Matheoson / KYUK.

Fisherman will start the summer with the season closed to subsistence salmon fishing. Severe restrictions will carry throughout June as managers attempt to bring more king salmon to the spawning grounds. The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group is meeting this week and attempting to finalize something resembling a fishing schedule. Given all of the unknowns of the 2014 run, the plan is still elusive.

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The summer of 2014 promises to be a fishing season unlike any others. As managers attempt to preserve the King Salmon run for future years, fisherman can expect to start the season closed to subsistence salmon fishing. There could be new gear, due to the recent approval of dipnets. Against a background of unknowns,the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group will attempt this week to nail down a plan for the summer.

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Federal management responsibility map, from Office of Subsistence Management.

Federal management responsibility map, from Office of Subsistence Management.

If a proposed federal special action passes, residents in 29 of 40 villages near the Kuskowkim River would have priority to harvest Chinook, or King Salmon, if available. That’s according to a draft analysis released Tuesday. The Office of Subsistence Management has completed a so-called section 804 analysis to determine which communities have the priority in times of King Salmon shortages.

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