The following is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:
(Fairbanks) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is closing the entire Kuskokwim River drainage (including all tributaries) to sport fishing for king salmon, effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 1, 2021. This does not include the Kuskokwim Bay drainages. All king salmon caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately. In addition, anglers may use only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure in the Kuskokwim River drainage. These restrictions will remain in effect through at least 11:59 p.m. Friday, June 11, 2021.
The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Plan (5 AAC 07.365) mandates that when the projected escapement is within the drainagewide escapement goal range, the sport and commercial fisheries are closed through June 11. The forecast of 94,000–155,000 king salmon suggests that the Kuskokwim River king salmon run in 2021 may be similar to 2020 when the Kuskokwim River experienced an estimated total run of approximately 124,486 and spawning escapement of approximately 88,285 fish. If the 2021 run materializes as expected there is not enough fish for a full subsistence harvest (i.e., 110,000 fish) and achieving the midpoint of the drainagewide escapement goal (i.e., 92,500 fish). In 2020, the drainagewide escapement goal (65,000–120,000 king salmon) was attained, however, there were substantial closures of the subsistence fishery. Restrictions to the subsistence king salmon fishery are expected again in 2021. The restriction of bait in the sport fishery is also a conservative measure to reduce the chance of king salmon being caught while fishing for other species.
The numbers of king salmon returning to the Kuskokwim River will be closely monitored using the department’s sonar, test fishery, and reports from fishers. In accordance with the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Plan, if the data suggests that the run is large enough to provide harvest opportunity on surplus king salmon in excess of escapement and subsistence needs, the sport fishery may open after June 11.
For additional information contact John Chythlook, Kuskokwim-Goodnews Area Management Biologist, 907-459-7361.