chinook

Marie Andrew was busy this July at her Napaskiak fish camp. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Marie Andrew was busy this July at her Napaskiak fish camp. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Subsistence fishing is open indefinitely on the Kuskokwim River. But that hasn’t been the norm this summer, as the river underwent two management regimes —state and federal—and strict closures for two species. Lower river fishermen are adjusting to the new reality of Kuskokwim subsistence—where conservative management is now the status quo.

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There will be a brief salmon  fishing period July 8th. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

There will be a brief salmon fishing period July 8th. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

Another subsistence fishing opener takes place Wednesday on the Kuskokwim River. 50 fathom, 6-inch nets are allowed. The timing varies on different parts of the river.

The opening comes as fishermen watch what looks like a very weak chum salmon run. Aaron Poetter is the state management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for the Kuskokwim area. Read more →

The season's first drift gillnet opener takes place Monday on the lowest part of the river. Map from USFWS.

The season’s first drift gillnet opener takes place Monday on the lowest part of the river. Map from USFWS.

The Kuskokwim River’s first 6-inch drift opening happens Monday afternoon from the Johnson River down to the refuge boundary at the mouth of the river. It runs from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, June 22, 2015.

Nets must be no longer than 300-feet in length, and 45 meshes in depth. Read more →

Gillnet fishing is closed below Tuluksak. Map from USFWS.

Gillnet fishing is closed below Tuluksak. Map from USFWS.

There will be no weekend set net fishing below Tuluksak this weekend after managers shut down the fishery to protect king salmon. A scheduled 72 hour opener is expected to go ahead from Tuluksak up to the refuge boundary at Aniak as planned.

Managers say that the hundreds of set nets pose a risk to this year’s and future king salmon runs. ONC counted a large portion of them set near the choke point area below Bethel, known for catching king salmon.
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Bethel Test Fishery numbers are behind 2014 so far. KYUK file photo by Ben Matheson.

Bethel Test Fishery numbers are behind 2014 so far. KYUK file photo by Ben Matheson.

As early June turns to the middle of June, early season worries were evident at the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group meeting Wednesday. So far, the Bethel Test Fishery Chinook numbers are behind last year’s pace. Federal In Season Manager Neil LaLonde is not drawing any conclusions, yet.
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Fresh Kuskokwim salmon. File photo by KYUK.

Fresh Kuskokwim salmon. File photo by KYUK.

King salmon are beginning to show up on the Kuskokwim River. All eyes are on the few kings that are appearing in the Bethel Test Fishery and in subsistence fishermen’s nets during limited 4-inch openings. At a Wednesday work session of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, members prepared for more restrictions as the run picks up and a limited directed harvest.

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Federal staff will manage the 2015 king run within the Yukon Delta refuge boundary. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

Federal staff will manage the 2015 king run within the Yukon Delta refuge boundary. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

Federal staff will again manage king salmon on the lower Kuskokwim River after requests from tribes. Earlier this year, a handful of tribal governments asked the federal subsistence board to implement federal management. The Federal Subsistence Board deferred last month, but at a Friday meeting of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, US Fish and Wildlife Service leaders announced a plan for federal management.

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Fishermen and managers discussed ways to improve fishery management Thursday at the Kuskokwim Fishermen's Meeting. Photo by Ben Matheson /KYUK.

Fishermen and managers discussed ways to improve fishery management Thursday at the Kuskokwim Fishermen’s Meeting. Photo by Ben Matheson /KYUK.

Expecting another below average king salmon run and a slate of early season closures, fishery managers circled up with Kuskokwim fishermen Thursday, in Bethel, to set in motion preparations for a tough season ahead.

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2015 is predicted to be a below-average king salmon run. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

2015 is predicted to be a below-average king salmon run. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

The state is expecting a bigger run of king salmon on the Kuskokwim this summer, but still well below average. State managers say they expect strong conservation measures to continue in 2015 to ensure enough fish make it up the river to spawn. Leading up to the season, managers are seeking early input to make the season a success.

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Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission steering committee members hear from AVCP attorney Sky Starkey. Photo by Ben Matheson  / KYUK.

Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission steering committee members hear from AVCP attorney Sky Starkey. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Efforts to establish tribal co-management of Kuskokwim salmon are slowly progressing. A steering committee is in Bethel to sketch out the future of who regulates the river. Kuskokwim fishermen are eager to be managers, instead of simply advisers.

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