The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group in their Thursday meeting passed a motion to support the Inter-Tribal Fish Commission’s request for a 3 day 4-inch set net fishing opportunity in the Kuskokwim despite fishing restrictions in place until after June 11. Managers say it contradicts their mission to provide an equitable harvest up and down the river.
The Working Group in their meeting last Thursday voted to support the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission’s proposal for a 72-hour set net opportunity in the main stem of the Kuskokwim River. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Kuskokwim Area Biologist Aaron Poetter says the proposal goes against a Board of Fish decision from January to close the lower river early in the season.
“Basically it was our determination that any opportunity at this time with gillnets where Chinook salmon could be harvested either directly or incidentally, would be in direct conflict with the intent of that front end closure," said Poetter.
Poetter said the department decided not to allow set nets since, in the past 2 years, state and federal managers have heard multiple reports of people using 4-inch set nets to target king salmon. In fact,
“Net manufacturers in Anchorage were asking folks if they wanted their 4-inch nets hung “Kusko Style,” which means baggy with the intent of tangling Chinook salmon," said Poetter.
Chair Mike Williams Sr. said the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission proposed the 72-hour grace period since the closure from May 20th- after June 11th was too long, and that by now most people have used up their stocks of fresh fish from last year.
Starting today, June first, additional closures upriver also came into effect with gillnets restricted from the mouth of the Holitna River to the Kuskokwim headwaters. The Kwethluk River, Kuskokuak Slough, Old Kuskokuak Slough, Kasigluk, Kiseralik, Tuluksak and Aniak Rivers are all closed to gillnets. Poetter says there are no restrictions for tributaries not mentioned.
“In addition to being able to gillnet in any tributary other than those specified, folks can fish with their fish wheels, dip nets, hook and line, and beach seines in the main stem. But they have to release any king salmon that they catch," said Poetter.
Poetter says closures will run until after June 11th when a quarter of the run is expected to be complete so as to ensure an equal harvest opportunity up and down the river. At that time, wildlife managers will consider harvest opportunities for salmon.