Kuskokwim River May Meet Its Chinook Escapement Goal

Unprecedented closures kept fishermen this summer from targeting king salmon in an effort to bring more fish to spawning grounds after several poor runs. The drainage-wide results showing how well the management worked are now beginning arrive, and the state says the Kuskokwim may have achieved its critical Chinook escapement goal.

Download Audio:

Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.
Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

John Linderman is Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Regional Supervisor with the Division of commercial fisheries. He says the fisherman deserve a thanks for their sacrifices this summer.

“The result this year is that we saw escapements overall compared to 2013 well, about double, or a little bit higher than that. So, much improved escapement this year compared to 2013, with many more escapement goals being achieved, however, two primary tributaries: the Kogrukluk river at the headwaters of the Holitna river and the Kwethluk in the lower river, their escapement goals were not achieved this year,” said Linderman.

A preliminary report published last week says the drainage wide escapement goal was likely met. Managers however are not committing until they’ve worked through all of the data in the coming weeks.

“There’s a chance that yes we could have achieved the goal this year. But the big wild card in that equation is the fact that two signification tributaries did not meet their escapement goals. It makes it that much more difficult. If it was a bit more black and white, if a minority of goals were reached or all goals were reached it’d be easier to try and draw conclusions at this point,” said Linderman.

Lisa Olson, the deputy director for State’s Subsistence Division says work is underway for next year’s planning.

“Now is the time to starting thinking what would work for 2015, what did not work well in 2014, and I hope that people in the area get involved,” said Olson.

Federal managers were in control of the Chinook fishery last summer after the federal subsistence board took action to federalize the management. No one knows yet what will be happen next year in terms of management, but Linderman says fishermen will likely see restrictions on par with this year.

“It’s an unfortunate reality of the current situation and the current poor abundance that the Kuskokwim Chinook run finds itself in, there just isn’t enough to provide for the demand that’s out there with respect to chinook salmon. That is the current expectation that we would expect the season to start with similar restrictions to what we saw in 2014,” said Linderman.

Subsistence fishing will likely be at the forefront at the Association of Village Council Presidents Convention, which hosts a subsistence panel Tuesday afternoon. The forum will include Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, AVCP Attorney Sky Starkey, and Federal Manager Gene Peltola Junior, plus Victor Joseph, the CEO of the Tanana Chiefs Conference.