The state will open the entire Kuskokwim to gillnet fishing on July 23
The state will open the entire Kuskokwim River fulltime to gillnets beginning July 23. Gillnet subsistence fishing will be open from 12:01 a.m. on July 23 until further notice. Fishers can use set or drift nets. Nets must be shorter than 50 fathoms in depth and can be any mesh size.
The state has chosen to relax restrictions since most of the chinook and chum run has passed through the lower river. So has the sockeye run.
State fishery biologist Sean Larson said that about 10% of the chum run has yet to pass Bethel, and he expects chum to remain the dominant salmon species in the lower river until more coho arrive. State data indicates that more chum have returned this year than in the past two years. By tomorrow, the state estimates that 1% to 5% of the coho run will have begun swimming up the river.
Members of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group urged the state to open the river to gillnets. The group advises the state on salmon management. Members said that most people have the chum they need, and will be waiting to fish for coho. Member James Nicorai and others expect the fishing pressure on the final chum to remain light.
“People would only be going out for something for the dinner table,” said Nicorai.
The following Kuskokwim River tributaries will remain closed to gillnets through the end of August: the Eek, Kwethluk, Kisaralik, and Kasigluk Rivers. The Tuluksak and Aniak Rivers will also remain closed during this period through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game markers past their confluence with the Kuskokwim.