by the Yukon Delta NWR and the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
On May 2, 2022, the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Manager announced by emergency special action 3-KS-01-22 that the Federal government will assume management of Federal waters of the Kuskokwim (from the mouth of the River to the Yukon Delta NWR boundary in Aniak) beginning June 1, 2022, for the conservation of Chinook and chum salmon.
As Yukon Delta NWR’s collaborative management partner, KRITFC’s In-Season Managers and Elder Advisors are working with Yukon Delta NWR’s fisheries management team to manage the 2022 salmon runs.
WHAT FEDERAL MANAGEMENT MEANS
A conservation concern for Chinook salmon exists based on the failure to meet long-term, necessary subsistence harvest levels since at least 2014. In addition, the pre-season forecast of 99,000–161,000 Chinook salmon falls below long-term return numbers that are critical for rebuilding king salmon populations.
A conservation concern for chum salmon exists after the 2021 season, in which Kuskokwim fishermen experienced the lowest chum salmon on record. Uncertainty for the return and health of these species necessitates Federal fishing restrictions to protect these fish, as provided in Title VIII of the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
The goals of Federal management are to protect fish populations and the rights of subsistence users. Therefore, under Federal management, Federally qualified subsistence users will have opportunities to fish for Chinook, chum, and other salmon species on the Kuskokwim, even with gillnet restrictions and salmon bearing tributary closures.
PRE-ANNOUNCED FISHING OPPORTUNITIES
In addition to announcing the beginning of Federal management, the Yukon Delta NWR Manager pre-announced five early season set and drift gillnet fishing opportunities in federal waters of the main stem Kuskokwim for Federally qualified subsistence users. Before, during, and after these opportunities, salmon bearing tributaries are closed to all Chinook and chum salmon harvest and all gillnets.
SET GILLNET OPPORTUNITIES (16 hours each):
•June 1, 2022, from 06:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
•June 4, 2022, from 06:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
•June 8, 2022, from 06:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
During these three opportunities, gillnets are restricted to set gillnets with 6-inch or less mesh, 60 feet or less in length, and may not exceed 45 meshes in depth. Additionally, set gillnets must be attached to the bank, oriented perpendicular to the river and may not be operated more than 100 feet from the ordinary high-water mark. Set gillnets need to be spaced 150 feet apart from another set gillnet. All salmon species can be retained during these opportunities.
SET OR DRIFT GILLNET OPPORTUNITIES (12 hours each):
•June 12, 2022, from 06:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m.
•June 16, 2022, from 06:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m.
During these two opportunities, gillnets are restricted to 6-inch or less mesh and may not exceed 45 meshes in depth and 50 fathoms (300-feet) in aggregate (total set and drift gillnet) length below the Johnson River and 25 fathoms (150 feet) in aggregate (total set and drift gillnet) length above the Johnson River. All salmon species can be retained during these opportunities.
ALTERNATIVE FISHING OPTIONS
While the main stem Kuskokwim is closed to fishing with gillnets, Federally qualified subsistence users can continue fishing by:
•Fishing using selective alternative gear types, like dip nets, rod and reel, fish wheels, and beach seines. Chinook or chum salmon caught using these gear types can be kept.
•Fishing in non-salmon bearing tributaries, like the Johnson River, Gweek River, and Pailleq River. Gillnets must be set or drifted at least 100 yards upriver from the tributary’s mouth (confluence with the main stem Kuskokwim).
For more information, including a list of salmon bearing tributaries, view 3-KS-01-22 online at kuskosalmon.org/2022-fishing-info or contact Yukon Delta NWR at (907) 543-3151.