On Wednesday, June 19 the lower Kuskokwim River will open to gillnets for 12 hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The opening applies to the federal waters of the Kuskokwim from the river’s mouth to the National Wildlife Refuge boundary at Aniak.
In these federal waters, gillnets are limited to:
- 6-inch mesh.
- 45 meshes in depth.
- 150 feet in length above the Johnson River and 300 feet below the Johnson River.
- Nets cannot stretch across more than half of a waterway.
- King salmon caught in these nets can be kept, as can king salmon caught in fish wheels, dip nets, beach seines, and hook and line.
- All gillnets must have an attached keg or buoy with the fisherman’s first initial, last name, and address written on it. Phone numbers are helpful, but not required.
Salmon-spawning tributaries remain closed to gillnets.
Following Wednesday's opening, a portion of the middle river will remain open. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is lifting federal restrictions on king salmon fishing on Wednesday at 6 p.m. from the refuge boundary at Aniak, downriver to the bluffs below Kalskag.
At that time, these waters will fall under state management, joining the middle and upper Kuskokwim in full-time subsistence fishing that remains open until further notice. This decision to open the waters in front of Kalskag follows precedent from previous years and comes about a week earlier than past summers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the decision to open these waters in consultation with the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The reasoning is that Kalskag area fishermen need more time to achieve the same salmon harvests as lower river fishermen, since Kalskag area salmon catches are reduced during federal openings.
The entire Kuskokwim River is scheduled to fall under state management on July 1.