The Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Emmonak is restricting all Yukon District 1 and 2 fishermen to beach seine gear and dip nets.
As of this morning, commercial fishermen have netted more than 27,000 summer Chums. Fish and Wildlife biologist Aaron Martin says the new gear requirements aim to balance conservation efforts with commercial chum fishing.
“They’re providing a new management tool by being more focused on a species and providing an opportunity to release fish live, non-targeted fish, in this case Chinook,” Martin says.
According to current restrictions, commercial and subsistence fishermen must release all live Kings back into the river. Martin says 177 Kings have been recorded as being caught and released.
Kwik’Pak Fisheries General Manager Jack Shultheis says they prepared for these gear restrictions after the Board of Fisheries passed the regulation in January.
“We brought a certain amount of gear in, thinking it would happen,” Shultheis says. “So we had a stockpile of nets here to sell to people,” Shultheis says.
And they’ve already sold that stockpile of dip nets—each one costing $150—and have since ordered a new shipment.
Shultheis says when fishing began June 18 only 10 commercial fishermen were on the water selling their catch. That number’s increased to 90 since then. He estimates that number at less than half of the fishermen who were on the river this time last summer.
Beach seine nets are restricted to 4-inch mesh and dip net mesh size is restricted to 4.5 inches.
Dead kings must also be recorded on a fish ticket and forfeited to the state.