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With Chinook and chum counts low, USFWS announces two openers for subsistence users to target sockeyes

A gillnet soaks in the Kuskokwim River during an opening on June 12, 2018.
Katie Basile

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced two set net openings for this week and next on the lower Kuskokwim River. The set net openings are meant to target sockeye in order to protect Chinook and chum returns. The Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge manager said that Chinook and chum are running in low numbers this year.

Only the Federal government has announced openers for these dates, and only federally qualified subsistence users are allowed to participate in the opener. Last week, a U.S. district court issued an order preventing the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) from announcing openers that allow all Alaskans to fish. The order also prevents ADF&G from announcing openers on days that the feds have closed the river.

The openings apply to the lower Kuskokwim River from the mouth upstream to the Kalskag Bluffs. The waters above these Bluffs are open full-time to gillnets.

Upcoming opener dates:

June 29 at 6:00 a.m. to June 30 at 6:00 p.m.

July 3 at 6:00 a.m. to July 4 at 6:00 p.m.

The gear:

Set nets must be 6 inch or less in mesh, and cannot exceed 75 feet in length and 45 meshes in depth. Users must set their nets near the bank, not more than 100 feet away from the ordinary high water mark. That’s because Sockeyes tend to swim near banks, whereas chum and Chinook veer towards the middle.

Salmon spawning tributaries still closed to fishing include:

• The Eek River
• The Kwethluk River drainage beginning at its confluence with Kuskokuak Slough
• The Kasigluk and Kisaralik river drainages including Old Kuskokuak Slough to ADF&G regulatory markers at the confluence of Old Kuskokuak Slough and Kuskokuak Slough
• The Tuluksak River drainage including its confluence with the Kuskokwim River and downstream approximately 1 mile to ADF&G regulatory markers
• The Aniak River drainage to ADF&G regulatory markers at its confluence with the
Kuskokwim River
• The Aniak box defined as: the waters of the Kuskokwim River main stem from the Yukon Delta NWR boundary at Aniak downstream to a line formed from the northwest corner of the runway (latitude 61° 35’ 16” N, longitude 159° 33’ 28” W), due north to a point on the southeast corner of the sandbar (latitude 61° 35’ 37” N, longitude 159° 33’ 16” W)

Olivia Ebertz is a News Reporter for KYUK. She also works as a documentary filmmaker. She enjoys learning languages, making carbs, and watching movies.
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