Silver salmon are now arriving in the lower Kuskokwim River. The state-operated Bethel Test Fishery began catching silvers on Sunday of this week.
Many families along the Kuskokwim have paused fishing during this time. They’re focusing their subsistence efforts on gathering salmonberries and blueberries during the gap between the king run ending and the silvers arriving. Many families plan to resume fishing once silvers become more abundant in the river and chums have largely cleared out.
Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group members provided subsistence reports during Wednesday’s meeting. Lisa Feyereisen in Crow Village along the middle river says that families are in a “holding pattern” until silvers arrive. LaMont Albertson says that a few silvers have already been caught with rod-and-reel near Aniak.
Other families, wanting to avoid kings for conservation reasons, say that the silvers’ arrival will mark the beginning of their subsistence salmon fishing. This is the case for Working Group Chairwoman Alissa Nadine Rogers.
“My family doesn’t go fishing until silvers," she said. "We did attempt earlier this year, but after I caught my third king I said I was done. Like I said, I save my kings for my elders.”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates 2 percent to 9 percent of the silver salmon run will pass Bethel over the coming week. State biologists speculate that the silvers could be arriving later than usual this season. The timing comes during a summer when both the king salmon and red salmon also seemed to arrive late on the Kuskokwim.
Both the king and red salmon species have almost entirely passed the lower river. The Bethel Test Fishery has caught only a few kings since last week. Though most days, no kings have been harvested at all. Reds are being caught in minor amounts, and chum remain the most abundant salmon species in the river, though their numbers are significantly declining as the run nears its end.