The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in consultation with the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, lifted its federal restrictions Friday, July 6, beginning at 3 p.m.
This action places the entire Kuskokwim River drainage under state jurisdiction. Following this action, state managers issued a news release that allows gillnets to be used in open areas until further notice. Standard net restrictions apply: 6-inch or less mesh, not exceeding 45 meshes in depth, and 50 fathoms in length below the Johnson River, and 25 fathoms in length above the Johnson River.
Chairman of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Nick Kameroff reminds residents that king salmon remain under conservation. “I’d just like to encourage folks during times of conservation, if they would just take what is needed," said Kameroff during Friday's Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group.
Though most areas have opened, certain areas of the Kuskokwim river drainage remain closed to gillnets and the taking of king salmon. On the Kuskokwim main-stem, about a 2.5 mile long area in front of the Aniak river remains closed to protect king salmon heading into the Aniak river to spawn. Certain salmon spawning tributaries also remain closed: the Aniak, Kwethluk, Kasigluk, Kisaralik, and Tuluksak rivers are all still closed.
The federal and tribal managers rescinded federal restrictions based on the conclusion that most of the king salmon run has passed through the lower waters. By the state’s estimate, 87 percent of the king salmon run has passed Bethel based on historical run timing. Now, chum and red salmon compose most of the species in the lower river. Over the past six days, an average of 17 chums and reds have been caught for every one king salmon at the state-operated Bethel Test Fishery.
The federal government took over management of the federal waters of the lower Kuskokwim River on June 12 of this year to restrict king salmon harvests to subsistence families living along the river.