Bethel prepares for low king salmon run
People looking to get a taste of one of the Kuskokwim’s most prized fish, the king salmon, may be disappointed this season.
Current projections show that king salmon return will be poor, similar to 2012 and 2013, and is estimated to be at approximately 100,000. The assumption is the escapement goal of 85,000 will not be met without restricting subsistence harvest and that the available surplus will only be about 12-20 thousand for subsistence fishers. No king salmon harvest will be available for commercial or sport fisheries.
Last week, the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group met in Anchorage to fine tune the management plan for the upcoming 2014 fishing season. As expected, in an effort for conservation, opportunity to fish for king salmon will be scarce.
Currently, subsistence users should still be able to get a “first taste” of the king salmon starting in early May. But on May 15, there will be rolling fishing closures beginning in the lower Kuskokwim and working its way up to the upper Kuskokwim, based on the travel speed of the fish. Subsistence fishing will then be closed for all of June and through July 23.
However, if escapement goal is not met, then the scheduled fishing periods will be closed entirely.
The board also accepted an emergency petition to add dip nets as legal gear for the taking of salmon other than king salmon during times of king salmon conservation was heard. This allows the department to open subsistence fishing periods with dip net gear and provide more opportunity to harvest chum and sockeye salmon while conserving king salmon. All king salmon caught must be returned immediately to the water alive.
The maximum distance between any two points on the net frame may not exceed five feet; the bag of the frame must be at least one-half the distance of the maximum frame opening; the webbing of the net may not exceed 4.5-inches stretch mesh.
The board accepted another petition that would restrict the length of subsistence gill nets from 50 fathoms to 25 fathoms (150 feet) during times of king salmon conservation. Longer gill nets do not need to be sacrificed or cut, but they must be tied or bagged in a way that only 25 fathoms can be used to fish.
The board gave the commissioner the authority to make these emergency regulations permanent. Any questions regarding the regulatory changes in the Kuskokwim Area can be directed to Aaron Tiernan at 907-267-2303. When final regulations are published the department will provide further information to the public. Updates can be found at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyareakuskokwim.main