Kuskokwim River Opening Indefinitely For Subsistence Fishing

Jun 26, 2019

A subsistence fisherman harvests a king salmon from the lower Kuskokwim River during a gillnet opening on June 12, 2018.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

The entire Kuskokwim River is opening on Wednesday, June 26 at 4 p.m. to subsistence fishing. The opening will remain in effect until further notice, and is intended to give subsistence fishermen ample opportunity to harvest reds and chums.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game chose to open the river after reviewing the number of salmon swimming upriver. An estimated 60 percent of kings have passed Bethel and are returning in slightly greater numbers than previous years at this point in the season. Red salmon are about 30 percent into their run and arriving as normal. Meanwhile, the chum are only about 14 percent into their run. Returns appear weak, but not worrisome to state biologists.

Gear regulations remain the same as in previous openers this season. Gillnets are limited to 6-inch mesh, 45 meshes in depth. Net lengths are restricted to 150 feet above the Johnson River and 300 feet below the Johnson River. Nets cannot stretch across more than half of a waterway. 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.

King salmon caught in these gillnets can be kept. Local residents who are federally qualified subsistence users can also keep kings caught in fish wheels, dip nets, beach seines, and hook and line. Non-federally qualified subsistence users must return kings caught in this live-release gear to the water alive until July 1. 

Salmon-spawning tributaries and the “Aniak Box” remain closed to gillnets.