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Initial Harvest Estimates Show A Low King Salmon Run

A fisherman pulls a king salmon from the Kuskokwim River during a subsistence fishing opening on June 12, 2018.
Katie Basile

It is still very early in the season, but so far the Kuskokwim River king salmon run appears to be either late or low.

Sean Larson, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, described the Kuskokwim king run to local stakeholders this way:

“So the story with kings at this point is that they're trickling in, and they're not trickling in in a particularly big way,” Larson said. 

Larson delivered his report to the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group on June 9. The group advises the state’s fishery management. As of the afternoon of June 10, Larson said that the Bethel Test Fishery had caught 33 king salmon, one sockeye salmon, and no chum salmon this season. Most of those fish were caught in the past two days. Larson said that puts this year’s king salmon run on about the same trajectory as last year’s run.

Initial harvest estimates along the federally managed portion of the Kuskokwim paint a similar picture of a low king run thus far. ONC, the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have teamed up again this year to provide harvest estimates. The estimates are based on aerial surveys and interviews with fishermen from Tuntutuliak to Akiak. 

Three set net openings have been called. In the first set net opening on June 2, approximately 30 king salmon were harvested and an estimated 29 set nets were counted. Both numbers jumped in the second opening on June 5. An estimated 91 nets were set, harvesting about 310 king salmon, 20 chum, and 50 reds. And in the most recent opening on June 9, surveyors counted 107 set nets. An estimated 480 king salmon were harvested, zero chum, and 20 reds.

Greg Kim is a news reporter for KYUK covering environment, health, education, public safety, culture and subsistence. He's covered everything from Newtok's relocation due to climate change-fueled erosion to the Bethel chicken massacre of 2020.