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State announces gillnet fishing opener in waters above federal refuge

A gillnet is used to harvest salmon on the lower Kuskokwim River in 2021.
Dean Swope
A gillnet is used to harvest salmon on the lower Kuskokwim River in 2021.

The state has announced a gillnet opening to provide an opportunity for middle and upper Kuskokwim River communities to harvest chinook salmon.

Sections 4 and 5

Beginning Wednesday, June 12, gillnet fishing will open until further notice in the area stretching from the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge boundary near Aniak to the Kuskokwim River’s headwaters (Sections 4 and 5). Fish wheels, dip nets, beach seines, and hook and line gear are also permitted. All salmon species may be retained.

During this opportunity, gillnets are restricted to 6-inch or less mesh and must not exceed 25 fathoms (150 feet) in length and 45 meshes in depth.

According to the state, the harvest of chinook salmon in Sections 4 and 5 of the river in 2023 was roughly 800 fish, or less than seven chinook per household. In addition to providing communities with chinook salmon, the opening is also intended to provide increased opportunities to harvest non-salmon species.

Aniak River

On the Aniak River from the refuge boundary near the Buckstock River to the headwaters, previously announced restrictions will remain in place.

Targeting chinook salmon with hook and line gear will be strictly prohibited. Subsistence fishing using fish wheels, dipnets, and beach seines will be permitted, but all chinook salmon must be returned alive to the water. Fish wheels are required to have a live box with no less than 45 cubic feet of water, must be checked every six hours, and must be closely attended while in operation if a chute is attached.

Evan Erickson is a reporter at KYUK who has previously worked as a copy editor, audio engineer and freelance journalist.
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