The Silvers Are Picking Up Near Bethel

Here are the latest numbers from the Bethel Test Fishery as of yesterday the 29th of July.

Note that besides hardly any kings and sockeye being caught that there are relatively few chums in the catch – but these would more than likely be considered fall chums like the Yukon experiences.  However, compared to the Yukon River, the Kuskokwim’s fall chum run is much smaller.

 

Bethel Test Fishery Catch-Per-Unit-Effort as of July 29

Collecting Holokuk Water Chemistry Data With KNA Intern Dakota Phillips

This week in between rain events, Dakota Phillips, a college intern with KNA, and Dave Cannon collected water chemistry data on the Holokuk River and several tributaries.  We also set up a stream gauge and measured the discharge of Kogoyuk Cr. (a.k.a. Big Swan); unfortunately, because of the recent rains the Holokuk River was too high to wade its entire width safely for stream measurements (both down near the mouth and up on each fork beyond the forks area).

Data collected is considered baseline information since nothing like this has been collected before.  One of the more important measurements taken is that of stream flow, for some day it could be advantageous to determine minimum in-stream flows to protect the fishes and other aquatic resources if any developmental activities were to remove water from the river (e.g., mining operations).

Here is Dakota putting the finishing touches on the stream gauge located several miles up from the Holokuk’s mouth.

Here is Dakota getting a pH reading on Kokoyuk Cr.

Collecting water chemistry parameters on the Holokuk River near the forks.

Getting ready for collecting readings at a beaver pond lower down on the Holokuk R.

Heading out on the Kuskokwim to take the readings.

 

 

Rolling Closures & Latest From ADF&G

Here’s the most recent information on the rolling closures and commercial fisheries openings.

Below is a summary of what has happened since the July 14 Working Group Meeting. Please see ADF&G news releases for official regulations.

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyareakuskokwim.salmon#/management

1.) There is a commercial opener today (July 16) in Commercial Fishing District 1-A, so subsistence fishing in that district will be closed from 6 am to 7 pm.  District 1A is from Bogus Creek down to Bethel.

2.) Tomorrow, July 17, there will be a commercial opener in Commercial Fishing District 1-B. Subsistence fishing will be closed tomorrow in that district from 6 am to 7 pm.

3.) Starting today, subsistence fishing for Chinook salmon with rod and reel in Section 5 will be open.  Subsistence Fishers in Section 5 will be subject to a  bag limit of 3 Chinook salmon per day.

4.) “Rolling Openings” that allow unrestricted mesh size and rod and reel subsistence fishing for Chinook will start at Section 1 and move up the river section by section. These are the days that each section opens (please see attached schedule). During Rolling Openings, there will be no daily bag limit on rod and reel fishing for Chinook salmon.

Section 1:  today

Section 2:  July 19th

Section 3:  July 23rd

Sections 4 and 5:  To be decided

IMPORTANT NOTE:   Rolling Openings do not apply and commercial fishing is not allowed (if applicable) in these areas until after July 25, 2012 (tributaries restricted to 4-inch mesh this year because of Chinook conservation concerns).

The Kwethluk River drainage including its confluence with Kuskokuak Slough and downstream to ADF&G regulatory markers located at the downstream mouth of the slough.

The Kasigluk and Kisaralik river drainages including Old Kuskokuak Slough to ADF&G markers at the confluence of Old Kuskokuak Slough with 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 George River drainage including its confluence with the Kuskokwim River and downstream approximately a half mile to ADF&G regulatory markers.

Schematic showing the closures throughout the Kuskokwim

 

 

 

 

 

July 14 ADF&G News Release – Some Restrictions Still In Place & Others Lifted

Here is a partial News Release covering restrictions still in place for Sections 3 through 5 (From Tuluksak on upstream beyond McGrath).  The entire News Release can be found at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/news/pdfs/newsreleases/cf/175985323.pdf.

Note that in Section 5 above Sleetmute rod and reel can now be used for king salmon with a daily limit of 3 per person.

Tuluksak to Chuathbaluk: Section 3

Subsistence salmon fishing is currently restricted to the use of gillnets with 6-inch or less mesh not exceeding 50-fathoms in length until 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 22, 2012. Effective 12:00 a.m., Monday, July 23, 2012 subsistence salmon fishing with gillnets is open to unrestricted mesh size and Chinook salmon fishing with hook and line gear is open. Additionally, a fish wheel used to take fish is NOT required to have a livebox.

This area is defined as that portion of the Kuskokwim River and its tributaries upstream from a line between ADF&G regulatory markers located approximately half a mile upstream of the Tuluksak River mouth to a line between ADF&G regulatory markers located at the downstream edge of Chuathbaluk. This section does NOT include the slough (locally known as Utak Slough) on the northwest side of the Kuskokwim River adjacent to the Tuluksak River mouth. Subsistence Chinook salmon fishing in the Aniak River remains closed. Excluded waters are non-salmon spawning tributaries: the Whitefish Lake drainage near Aniak and those portions of Discovery, Birch, and Swift creeks more than 100 yards upstream from the mouth of these rivers, are open with any mesh size gillnet and are not affected by these closures.

Chuathbaluk to the Holitna River mouth: Section 4

Currently subsistence salmon fishing is restricted to the use of gillnets with 6-inch or less mesh not exceeding 50-fathoms in length. Additionally, a fish wheel used to take fish must be equipped with a livebox that contains no less than 45 cubic feet of water volume while in operation. The livebox must be checked at least once every six hours while in operation and all Chinook salmon must be returned to the water alive. Chinook salmon fishing with hook and line gear remains closed.

The Department will continue to monitor escapements to determine when restrictions will be lifted in Section 4 and will make an announcement when that decision has been made.

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This area is defined as that portion of the Kuskokwim River and its tributaries upstream from a line between ADF&G regulatory markers located at the downstream edge of Chuathbaluk to a line between ADF&G regulatory markers located downstream of the Holitna River mouth. Subsistence Chinook salmon fishing remains closed on the mainstem Kuskokwim River between ADF&G regulatory markers located at the mouth of George River to ADF&G regulatory markers located approximately half a mile downstream of George River.

The Holitna River mouth to the Headwaters of the Kuskokwim River: Section 5

Effective 12:00 a.m., Monday, July 16, 2012 subsistence salmon fishing is restricted to the use of gillnets with 6-inch or less mesh not exceeding 50-fathoms in length. Subsistence Chinook salmon fishing with hook and line gear is open with a daily bag limit of 3 and no possession, season, or size limits. Additionally, a fish wheel used to take fish is NOT required to have a livebox.

The Department will continue to monitor escapements to determine when restrictions will be lifted in Section 5 and will make an announcement when that decision has been made.

This area is defined as that portion of the Kuskokwim River and its tributaries upstream from a line between ADF&G regulatory markers located downstream of the Holitna River mouth upstream to the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River.

Run Assessment

Based on the Bethel Test Fishery the Chinook salmon run is nearing the end in the lower Kuskokwim River. The sockeye salmon abundance has also been declining over the past week. Chum salmon abundance has declined slightly in the past three days.

Further announcements will be made from the Bethel Fish and Game office and through local radio stations. News releases will be faxed to area villages and local fish processing companies.

For additional information concerning this news release: ADF&G: Travis Elison in Bethel 907-543-2433 USFWS: Gene Peltola in Bethel 907-543-3151

Kings Are Winding Down, Silvers Will Soon Be Here & Maybe The Weather Will Finally Get Nice

It’s been another fairly wet summer, but hopefully that bum weather is behind us.  Here is a rainbow seen from Napaimute last evening.  Remember – you’ve got to have the rain before the rainbow!

The Rainbow Over The Middle Kuskokwim

Here are the BTF results as of July 15 for kings, sockeye and chum (Only from July 2nd on)

 

Those three species are certainly winding down, but note the bump in chums on July 11th and another on the 14th.

Here are two different ways of looking at the king abundance and why the Fish & Game believes that a commercial opening targeting sockeye and chums will incidentally take a relatively small number of kings.

Note how the right side or tail is looking much like the left side which showed the slow buildup of kings in June - this is more of the bell shaped curve discussed the other day.

One must keep in mind, however, that 8″ gear is not being used now in the Bethel Test Fishery because it is not very effective at catching chums and sockeye – which heavily predominate the run.

This graph shows the relative abundance of kings in regards to the other two more abundant species. This data comes from the Bethel Test Fisher CPUE.

Subsistence fishermen in Section 5 from Sleetmute upriver are now allowed to use rod and reel for subsistence fishing for kings, with a daily bag limit of 3 per person.

Many villages from Akiachak to Napaimute are done fishing for now, with most fishers awaiting the return of the silvers to supplement their winter supply of fish.

As noted earlier – hopefully the bum weather is behind us and we see a strong run of silvers.  Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

Before we know it, birds like this one will be heading south for the winter.

 

 

ADF&G Holds Off With Commercial Opening Until At Least Thursday

The Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group met Monday and heard ADF&G’s plans for commercial fishing in the lower Kuskokwim.

During last Saturday’s meeting the Department proposed possibly holding a commercial opening tomorrow (i.e., Tuesday) since there seems to be plenty of chums and sockeye passing through (see the accompanying tables) and we should normally be seeing a decline in the abundance of kings.

Subsistence success was discussed by the Group members, with mixed results.  James Charles reported that people in the lower river have not been able to put up many kings.  Mike Williams noted that people around Akiachak have had decent success, with a mixture of kings, chums and reds.  Mike Thalhauser, with KNA, stated that half the people of Aniak had what they needed while the other half were still fishing.  Further upriver in Crooked Creek, Evelyn Thomas said that the only fish that people around the village have been catching are chums – even very few sockeye have been harvested.

Evelyn made a plea to the F&G that they hold off with any commercial openings until everyone had a chance to put up more fish.

Casie Stockdale with AVCP noted that AVCP was aware that managing the needs of the subsistence fishermen with the commercial fishermen is a tricky balancing act.  She said that AVCP was aware how many people are reliant on the income that commercial fishing generates, and that if there was an opening that the Department do it’s best to minimize the king incidental harvest.

Casie recommended that any incidental king harvest be given to those folks in need, especially villages upriver.

But the Department and the Fish & Wildlife Service, after having already looked at the numbers, felt that there was still a fair amount of king salmon passing through the lower sections of river and that too many would be incidentally harvested – thereby cutting into the escapement numbers.

The data show that weir counts and the Bethel Test Fish Catch-Per-Unit-Effort are showing that this year’s run is still tracking below the previous two years that were the lowest on record.

Here is the table showing the cumulative king catch for the Bethel Test Fishery.

Stewart Curry, representing the processors, concurred with the Department’s decision to hold off commercial fishing for a few days to allow for further escapement and subsistence fishers the opportunity to put up more fish.  He asked what numbers in the BTF would need to be for the Department to consider  holding a commercial opening.  Kevin Schaberg with the Department said that a definite downward trend in the single digits was necessary.

Here is a graph showing the entire season’s daily catch of kings for the BTF; note how the far left gradually picks up but the far right still shows a catch of around 12-14 kings a day.  Under normal conditions for most years this graph will end up being shaped somewhat like a bell – hence it is called a bell curve.  In a few days we should see the right side gradually dropping down to form the other tail of the bell.

In theory here’s what a normal bell curve looks like:

Typical Bell Curve - As the king abundance declines the right side of the graph will tend to resemble the left side

What the Department will be looking for is when the right side begins to closely match the left (i.e., steady decline); that’s when 95% of the kings will have passed by.

Here are the numbers in table form for the daily CPUE for sockeye and chum:

CPUE for sockeye in the Bethel Test Fishery

CPUE for chums in the Bethel Test Fishery

Bethel Test Fish Numbers As Of July 6 – ADF&G Proposes Commercial Opening For Tuesday The 10th

Here are the Cumulative Catch-Per-Unit-Effort numbers as of July 6th.

During the Kuskokwim Salmon Management Working Group held on Saturday the 7th, the Department of Fish and Game proposed a commercial opening for Tuesday the 10 that will target chums and sockeye.

The Department realizes that some incidental harvest of kings will occur, but they believe that the numbers will be negligible since the king run is waning and the requirement for all fishers to use 6″ gear.

There will be another KSMWG meeting on Monday at 10:00 to assess additional information (i.e., BTF and weir escapements).

Bethel Test Fish King CPUE As Of July 6

BTF Red CPUE As Of July 6

BTF Chum CPUE As Of July 6

 

Looking At Various Weir Projects And Chinook Numbers

The salmon have started showing up at the various weir projects, some of which weren’t operable on time due to high water – but several have good reliable counts.  Unfortunately the weirs are verifying what the Bethel Test Fish showed – not only a late run but a weak one too for kings.

You can see for yourself.

Still tracking even below the worst years on record.

Here's a partial table showing the past few days of the BTF king cumulative CPUE

And now several weir projects validating the weak run as indexed by the Bethel Test Fishery:

George River Weir King Counts

Kogrukluk River Weir About 130 Miles Upriver Of Sleetmute On The Holitna

Tatlawiksuk River Weir King Counts

Tuluksak River Weir King Counts

The Tuluksak River Weir And Crew Of A Few Years Back

This type of weir is called a floating weir because the downstream end floats on the surface held up by styrofoam floats – the other end is anchored to the stream bottom.  Fish are passed through the counting chute where Age-Sex-Length data are collected.

Samples of fish are regularly observed where the proportion of females to males is quantified, the length of the fish are measured, and scales are collected to determine the age of the fish.  These are the data used to assess the characteristics of each year’s returns that can be compared to previous years.

One of the more important parameters of any run is the sex composition, because you may get a relatively large amount of fish back to a river but if the vast majority are males – that doesn’t bode well for future returns.

Weirs are the only way to get that type of information.

 

 

 

The Catch Of A Weak Salmon Run And The Schedule For Section 4 – Chuathbaluk To Sleetmute

Although the king run was weak and late in coming, middle river fishers have been able to put fish in the smokehouse.

Section 4 of the Middle Kuskokwim from Chuathbaluk to Sleetmute opened for subsistence fishing with gear mesh of 6″ or less at 12:01 AM July 4th and will close at 11:59 on Monday July 9.  After that 4″ mesh or smaller will only be allowed as long as the net is less than 60 feet long.

Here are the efforts of Nastasia Avakumoff and Shelly Leary and other family members.

Nas Avakumoff and Kristy Wise (grandaughter) cutting chums and reds together

The Fine Art Of Cutting Salmon With An Ulu

Have you ever seen a prettier color in nature? And all the result of marine derived nutrients from the food salmon eat all their adult lives.

Kristy Wise with a recently prepared salmon

Nas Avakumoff's smokehouse

Inside that smokehouse

Can't wait till it's done!

Now doesn't that look good?

Inside the Leary's smokehouse

What a fine job of cutting by Shelly and daughters

What’s Bugging Alaska’s Forests? Shipping The Wood Downstream

The following information is from the State’s Division of Forestry website and has some facts about the spruce bark beetle – one of the reasons that the Native Village of Napaimute is logging  our land and hoping to expand that effort to adjoining lands.

This is the URL for more information: http://forestry.alaska.gov/insects/sprucebarkbeetle.htm

Here’s what we are seeing throughout the Middle Kuskokwim Region – mature and fully mature trees that are on their way out, many of which are susceptible to blowdown.  Something needs to reset the clock – either fire or management of the timber which is what Napaimute is choosing to do.

Leaning trees just waiting for an excuse to fall over and attract beetles

What’s at the heart of the problem?

Heart Rot - an indication of an unhealthy forest, one that is over mature and rife for an insect infestation

The first 130 cords heading downriver to the coastal villages.

Loading It Onto The Barge

There She Goes