State Liberalizes Kuskokwim Fishery, Lifts Multiple Restrictions With Kings Reaching Escapement

Jul 26, 2018

Napaskiak fishermen pull a gillnet out of the Kuskokwim River during a fishing opening on June 12, 2018.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

Multiple fishing restrictions are being lifted on the Kuskokwim River at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, July 26. Kuskokwim tributaries are meeting their state-issued escapement goals for king salmon, and the state estimates that 99 percent of the species has moved out of the lower river. As a result, the state says that the situation no longer warrants conservation measures for kings in the lower waters.

“So right now what we’re looking at doing is to liberalize the fishery in the main stem,” explained Colton Lipka, Assistant Kuskokwim Fishery Management Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He announced the changes at Wednesday’s Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group meeting.

“This would include rescinding the mesh size and gillnet length restrictions in the main stem," Lipka said. "Removal of live release requirements for fish wheels, beach seines, and hook and line in the main stem. Opening of the Kuskokuak Slough, Old Kuskokuak Slough, and closed box around Aniak.”

However, the following salmon spawning tributaries will remain closed to gillnets: the Kwethluk, Kasigluk, Kisaralik, Tuluksak, and Aniak Rivers.

“And any chinook caught using hook and line gear in those tributaries while fishing for other species must be released back alive to those waters,” Lipka added.

The state requires that the kings be unhooked without being pulled from the water.

With conservation measures being pulled back, dip nets are no longer allowed in the Kuskokwim River's waters. Dip nets are listed as conservation gear under state regulation. The Alaska Board of Fish will consider a proposal in January to allow dip nets to be used as regular subsistence fishing gear on the Kuskokwim. Advocates of the proposal say that the change will allow fisherfolk to practice using dip nets during the silver season, when salmon are still abundant in the river and families feel less pressure to build their winter stocks.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the fishing restrictions were lifting at 12 noon on Thursday, July 26. The correct time that the restrictions recinded was at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, July 26.