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Federal managers announce three gillnet openings for the lower Kuskokwim River to target sockeye salmon

Sockeye salmon
K. Mueller
Sockeye salmon

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced three gillnet openings for the lower Kuskokwim River.

Gillnet openings:

  • Drift net opener on Saturday, July 9 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Set net opener on Sunday, July 10 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Set net opener on Saturday, July 16 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Why the openings are occurring now:

The federal emergency order announcing the openings said that they are meant to target sockeye salmon. Sockeyes are composing about 80% of the salmon in the lower river, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) sonar project near Bethel. Over 90% of the Chinook run has passed the lower river. Chums, meanwhile, remain at a record low.

“Thanks to high numbers of sockeye salmon we feel confident in allowing some limited harvest opportunities over the upcoming weekends. This is a precautionary approach to allow as many chum salmon to escape while balancing that with needed subsistence harvest,” Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Manager Boyd Blihovde wrote in an email.

Drift net regulations:

Drift gillnets must be 6-inch or less mesh, and no more than 45 meshes in depth. Gillnets may not exceed 150 feet in length upstream of the Johnson River and 300 feet in length downstream of the Johnson River.

Set net regulations:

Set nets are restricted to 6-inch or less mesh, 60 feet or less in length, and may not exceed 45 meshes in depth. Set nets must lie perpendicular to the river and may not be operated more than 100 feet from the ordinary high-water mark. They must be spaced 150 feet apart from other set nets.

Who can fish where:

The openers are limited to federally qualified subsistence users. The regulations apply to the lower Kuskokwim River from the mouth upstream to the Kalskag Bluffs. The waters upriver of the bluffs are open full time to gillnets.

Salmon spawning tributaries closed to fishing include:

• The Eek River
• The Kwethluk River drainage beginning at its confluence with Kuskokuak Slough
• The Kasigluk and Kisaralik river drainages including Old Kuskokuak Slough to ADF&G regulatory markers at the confluence of Old Kuskokuak Slough and Kuskokuak Slough
• The Tuluksak River drainage including its confluence with the Kuskokwim River and downstream approximately 1 mile to ADF&G regulatory markers
• The Aniak River drainage to ADF&G regulatory markers at its confluence with the
Kuskokwim River
• The Aniak Box defined as: the waters of the Kuskokwim River main stem from the Yukon Delta NWR boundary at Aniak downstream to a line formed from the northwest corner of the runway (latitude 61° 35’ 16” N, longitude 159° 33’ 28” W), due north to a point on the southeast corner of the sandbar (latitude 61° 35’ 37” N, longitude 159° 33’ 16” W)

Anna Rose MacArthur is the KYUK News Director. She has worked at KYUK since 2015 and previously worked at KNOM in Nome, Alaska.
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