kuskokwim

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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Chum salmon numbers are well below average. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

Chum salmon numbers are well below average. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

The Kuskokwim River is experiencing a poor chum salmon run, according to state managers, and with it, a restrictive fishing schedule.
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The state is taking over day-to-day management of Kuskokwim salmon. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

The state is taking over day-to-day management of Kuskokwim salmon. Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will be managing the salmon fishery for the entirety of the Kuskokwim River drainage beginning Thursday. Fishing with gillnets remains closed on the Kuskokwim River and several tributaries.

Federal managers through federal special action took over day-to-day management of the Kuskokwim within the Yukon Delta refuge boundaries during the king salmon run for conservation purposes. They have the ability to restrict fishing to local residents. Read more →

An fish rack in Bethel sits empty this month. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK.

A fish rack in Bethel sits empty this month. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK.

Fishermen are looking forward to the next driftnet opening on the Kuskokwim River. Federal staff are waiting for the Bethel Test Fishery to show more chum and red salmon compared to kings before finalizing the next opening. 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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An fish rack in Bethel sits empty this month. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK.

A fish rack in Bethel sits empty this month. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK.

For the first time ever, the state is opening a brief elder’s fishery for king salmon on the middle and upper Kuskokwim. The fishery runs Saturday, June 20th, from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

The fishery is open to people age sixty and over. They can have specific family members help, but the elder must be present when they are fishing.
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Bad ice at the Gweek river area. Photo courtesy BSAR.

Bad ice at the Gweek river area. Photo courtesy BSAR.

A string of warm days and minimal runoff from the reduced snowpack is contributing to the 2015 Kuskowkim mushout. Hydrologist Crane Johnson with the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center says the Lower Kuskokwim’s snowpack is well below average, while the rive ice has consistently measured thinner than normal. Those factors, plus warm weather are combining for a mushout.
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Open water was evident Monday at Brown's Slough. Photo Dean Swope / KYUK.

Open water was evident Monday at Brown’s Slough. Photo Dean Swope / KYUK.

Following a string of warm weather and a beating sun, Bethel Search and Rescue’s Peter Atchak flew a portion of the lower river Monday afternoon in a Super Cub with support from troopers and the state.

“All the side sloughs we observed were for the most part broken up. some that didn’t appear broken up were showing definitely signs of weakened nice and needle ice on the remaining ice on side sloughs. We’ve seen a lot of melted out overflows. All the islands were surrounded by deep overflow,” said Atchak. Read more →

The Kuskokwim Ice Classic Tripod stood tall Monday. BSAR says the river is not safe. Photo by Dean Swope/KYUK.

The Kuskokwim Ice Classic Tripod stood tall Monday. BSAR says the river is not safe. Photo by Dean Swope/KYUK.

Bethel Search and Rescue is warning people to stay off the weakened Kuskokwim river. Several days of warm sun have made the ice unsafe. BSAR head Mike Riley says the river has deteriorated.

“The ice is not safe at all. All the creeks, and everything else, all the side sloughs: all you have is top needle ice, there’s nothing’s supporting [travelers]. We hope everyone stops using the river,” said Riley. Read more →