An Estimated 20,000 Kings Harvested From Lower Kuskokwim, Moving River Further From Escapement Goal

Jul 3, 2018

Salmon belly strips hang to dry on a fish rack along the lower Kuskokwim River.
Credit Petra Harpak / KYUK

The king salmon harvest in one section of the lower Kuskokwim River has reached an estimated 20,000 kings; the total Kuskokwim king harvest is expected to be even higher drainage-wide. This catch comes during a year of intended king salmon conservation.

The estimate of 20,000 kings harvested from the lower river accounts for only the most populated section of the Kuskokwim: from Tuntutuliak upstream to Akiak, along the main stem. It does not account for king salmon harvested in areas outside these boundaries, including in state waters, in the Kuskokwim river mouth, and in non-spawning salmon tributaries.

Federal and tribal managers opened the lower Kuskokwim river to subsistence gillnets for six hours on Friday, June 29. The announcement came after the king salmon harvest had already surpassed the original harvest allotment. The opening occurred as a late-season surge of kings appeared to be passing the lower river. An estimated 3,160 kings were harvested that day. Far more chum and reds were also harvested at about 18,260 chum and 7,530 reds.

Federal and tribal managers made the decision to open the river after receiving reports of families who had not been able to fish during previous openers because of recent deaths, boat issues, and health problems. Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Chairman Nick Kameroff had urged residents to abstain from fishing during Friday’s opening unless they were one of these families facing tragedy or hard luck.

At the beginning of the season, tribal and federal managers had allotted 16,000 kings for subsistence harvest drainage-wide. With an estimated 20,000 kings having been harvested from a section of the lower river, federal and tribal managers do not expect to reach their escapement goal of 110,000 spawners. The escapement goal established by the State of Alaska is for a range of 65,000 to 120,000 king salmon.

Chum and red salmon have become more abundant in the lower river recently and have both begun reaching the upper river as well. Total salmon harvest in the lower river is estimated at 63,370 salmon. Chum salmon harvests are estimated at 31,660 and red salmon harvests at 11,900.