Kuskokwim River Opens Full-Time To Gillnets July 31
The entire Kuskokwim River will open full-time to subsistence fishing with gillnets beginning at 12:01 a.m. on July 31. At that time, gillnet restrictions on the river will be liberalized to include any size mesh, and nets can stretch up to 50 fathoms in length.
Data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shows that king, chum, and sockeye salmon have almost entirely passed Bethel, and coho is now the dominant salmon species in the lower Kuskokwim.
The Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, in consultation with the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, instated gillnet restrictions on June 1 to conserve king salmon. As the summer progressed, conservation concerns extended to the river’s record low chum salmon run.
In mid-June, fishery managers opened the Kuskokwim River upstream of the Kalskag Bluffs full-time to gillnets. Last week, the lower Kuskokwim River subsistence salmon fishery, from the mouth upriver to Aniak, transferred from federal jurisdiction under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state jurisdiction under the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
With both king and chum salmon having passed through the lower river, state managers say that the gillnet restrictions are no longer needed. However, gillnet fishing will remain closed in the tributaries where the salmon spawn until the end of August. These tributaries include the following rivers: Eek, Kwethluk, Kasigluk, Kisaralik, Tuluksak, and Aniak. Fishing with live release gear is allowed in these tributaries, but through the end of August, any king salmon caught with this gear must be returned to the water alive.