Kuskokwim Chums Still At Record Low, Reds Coming In Strong, Weather Makes Drying Fish Difficult
Kuskokwim River chum salmon numbers remain off-the-charts low. However, sockeyes are still coming in strong. Meanwhile, the summer rain has not been conducive for drying fish.
During the July 14 Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group meeting, state fishery biologist Sean Larson showed a graph representing the chum run so far this season. It was basically a flat line.
“So the story remains the same for chum. It's an incredibly small run,” Larson said.
It’s the smallest chum run ever recorded for the river. During the July 14 working group meeting, Larson said that the chum escapement looked to be about a quarter of what it was at this point last year, and last year was a low, late chum run.
On the bright side, numbers for sockeye, or red, salmon have been strong this year. Working group member Barbara Carlson provided this fishing report from Sleetmute.
“We're really saturated with reds, and they're very, very nice reds. That cold rain has kept our water temperatures cool, and our reds are just spectacular for this late in July,” Carlson said.
Fishermen could begin catching another salmon species as well. The Bethel Test Fishery caught its first silvers of the season this past week, but it’s too early to know what the silver run will look like.
Many families along the Kuskokwim have had trouble drying fish because of the rain and cold temperatures that have dominated this summer’s weather.
“I know other people who have lost their entire catch to mold or becoming sour, because last week was just impossible to dry in and smoke in,” said Mary Peltola, state working group member and executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Peltola also mentioned that a family lost their entire fish harvest recently when their fish camp on Napakiak Slough burned down. She said that the state’s Bethel Sonar program helped the family replenish their stock with sockeye salmon.