Since 2010 the Kuskokwim River has experienced the two lowest returns of king salmon on record – 2013 being the lowest ever. Neither 2010 nor 2013 surpassed the lower bound of the desired drainagewide escapement goal of 65,000. The 2014 return is expected to be similar to last year.
Because of the drastic decline of the king salmon, the Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group realizes that king salmon conservation measures are necessary to provide king salmon for future generations.
In an attempt to get adequate kings to the spawning grounds in 2014, the Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group supports the following measures:
- No targeted king salmon fishing in 2014.
- Commercial and sport fishing for king salmon will be closed.
- Starting May 20 – subsistence salmon fishing in the lower river will be closed.
- 4” mesh gillnets no longer than 60 feet in length will be allowed for the harvest of whitefish and other non-salmon species. Whitefish nets should be secured on one end to the bank as is typical for whitefish harvest (incidentally harvested king salmon in these nets can be kept).
- Dip nets to be allowed starting around mid-June to harvest chum and red salmon and other non-salmon species – all king salmon captured in a dip net cannot be removed from the water and must be released immediately.
- In-season information will be assessed daily to determine at what point additional opportunities may be employed to harvest chum and red salmon (for example, the allowance of 6” or less drift and set gillnets during late June).
The graph below shows how the king salmon escapement goal, or the amount of kings returning to spawn, was not met in 2010 or 2013. The minimum of 65,000 kings for the entire Kuskokwim River was barely met in 2011 and 2012.
This is why the Working Group members all agree that conservation measures are necessary to bring back the king salmon to normal levels…but it will take sacrifices by all.