2020 Kuskokwim Area Salmon Assessment

by Sean Larson, ADFG

Kuskokwim Area fishers and management agencies are gearing up for another salmon season. Amid concerns over COVID-19, it seemed prudent to let folks know what to expect this year in terms of salmon assessment throughout the Kuskokwim Area.

We worked very closely with local communities and project partners to develop plans to operate as “normal” as possible this summer, while also minimizing or eliminating community interaction to address concerns for the COVID-19 virus.

ADF&G’s assessment program will operate as scheduled. ADF&G will operate the Bethel Test Fishery and the Kuskokwim River Sonar to assess salmon abundance inseason. The Kuskokwim River Sonar will be extended this year and, for the first time, will operate through August to assess coho salmon abundance.

The George, Kogrukluk, and Salmon Pitka Fork river weirs will operate to monitor salmon escapement. In addition, Chinook salmon aerial surveys will be flown throughout lower, middle, and headwater tributaries.

Weirs within Goodnews Bay will not operate in 2020 due to funding limitations; however, Chinook and sockeye salmon aerial surveys will occur as normal.

ADF&G will perform postseason subsistence surveys to estimate the total annual salmon harvest. However, we are still working to develop survey plans and contingency options to conduct postseason surveys safely amid the COVID-19 concerns.

In addition to ADF&G assessment projects, other organizations will be operating projects to help inform salmon management this coming season. The Aniak River Test Fishery and the Salmon (Aniak) River weir will be operated by the Native Village of Napaimute. The Takotna River weir and inseason harvest monitoring program will be operated by the Kuskokwim River Intertribal Fish Commission. The Telaquena River Weir will be operated by the National Park Service, with funds provided by ADF&G.

The Orutsararmiut Native Council will continue to conduct subsistence harvest surveys at Bethel area fish camps from the top end of Church Slough to just below the mouth of Oscarville Slough. Please contact ONC Biologist, Janessa Esquible-Hussion, at 907-543-0523 if you would like to participate in this valuable program and sample your harvest for age, sex, and length. We would like to thank all these organizations for their commitment to salmon assessment on the Kuskokwim River.

ADF&G is forecasting a Chinook salmon run of between 193,000-261,000 fish and average or above average runs of chum, sockeye, and coho salmon. If runs come back as anticipated, ADF&G expects escapement goals to be achieved and full subsistence harvests may be realized.

ADF&G’s inseason assessment information will be made available daily for use by mangers. We hope all fishers along the river will experience a safe, fun, fruitful, and rewarding fishing season in 2020.

Please contact Sean Larson ([email protected]) or Nick Smith ([email protected]) with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game if you have any questions on the upcoming salmon season. For news releases and daily assessment data, like our Facebook page:


Sean Larson is the Kuskokwim Area Research Biologist for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game Division of Commercial Fisheries.