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Hunting & Fishing

Federal Management Of Lower Kuskokwim Kings Likely This Summer

Kuskokwim king salmon caught near Bethel, Alaska on June 12, 2018.
Katie Basile
/
KYUK

Management of lower Kuskokwim River king salmon will likely be similar to last year. That would mean federal management, only a handful of fishing openers during the month of June, and restricting king harvest to local subsistence users. 

Boyd Blihovde is the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Manager. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assumes management of the kings, Blihovde would be the federal manager of that lower Kuskokwim king run, from the Kuskokwim River mouth upriver to Aniak. During a public listening session on April 22, he said that federal management of kings this summer was likely.

“We at the Fish and Wildlife Service, working with the Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, we haven’t made a clear, definite determination on what type of federal management may be needed, but we do assume that it will be needed this year,” Blihovde said.

That’s because state biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game predict another low king salmon run this summer. The forecast is for 94,000 to 155,000 kings returning to the Kuskokwim. That’s about how many king salmon state biologists estimate returned to the Kuskokwim last year, when an estimated 95,000 to 143,000 salmon returned. It was the lowest king run since 2014.

“Right now we do assume, just based on the preliminary estimates from the state, that we will need to have restrictions in place similar to last year, but we haven’t made a clear determination,” Blihovde said.

In 2020, federal managers managed the kings during the month of June. The managers allowed three 24-hour set net openings and four 12-hour gillnet openings in June on the lower Kuskokwim River mainstem. They made these management decisions in consultation with the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Executive Director Mary Peltola said that the commission believes that there is need for federal management again this year.

Federal managers are able to take over management of king salmon under Title 8 of ANILCA, the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act. The act allows the federal government to restrict who is eligible to subsistence fish more narrowly than the state.