No salmon openers this summer for Kuskokwim gillnetters

Outlook is grim for all salmon species except sockeyes.

by | March 31, 2023

Filed Under Forecasts | Salmon

Low returns, no buyers beach local boats

No commercial fishing for salmon is expected this summer at major districts of Kuskokwim Bay according to a March 29 news release by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.

Districts 4 and 5 are off the shores of Quinhagak and Good News Bay.

The news is not surprising for salmon fishermen in the region. The commercial fishery has been closed nearly every year since 2016 due to no buyers.

Quinhagak, Alaska Credit: CS Monitor

One salmon processor operated within Kuskokwim Bay in 2020 and 2021 but the fishery was delayed both years to allow for Chinook salmon escapement due to continued low returns.

Fishery managers make no formal forecast for salmon returns to the Kuskokwim Bay and base expectations on parent year escapements and recent year trends. The 2023 preseason outlook for Chinook and chum salmon is for well below average runs. The sockeye salmon outlook is for an average to above average run.

Aerial survey data for Chinook salmon are available in 8 of the last 10 years with the escapement goal being met every year except 2013 and 2014. Aerial survey counts were near the lower bound of the goal range. ADF&G said.

The news release added that the department relies on subsistence reports from local residents and commercial catch statistics to approximate run strength for Kanektok River chum salmon. Chum salmon escapement has not been formally assessed since
2015 when the Kanektok River weir ceased operations.

Kanektok River feeds into Kuskokwim Bay Credit: ADF&G

Commercial catch statistics and local observations have indicated that chum salmon run strength between 2020 and 2022 was poor. These observations are corroborated by the unprecedented extremely poor chum salmon returns to the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.


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