Despite Pleas, ADFG Keeps Kuskokwim River Coho Fishery Closed

Earlier this month, for the first time the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the Kuskokwim River to coho salmon fishing after a low fish count came through.

“The cumulative catch per unit effort for coho salmon at the Bethel Test Fishery is the second lowest on record since 2017. As of August 14, only 747 coho salmon have been counted at the Bethel Test Fishery. On average, 77% of the coho salmon run has passed Bethel as of August 15,” the press release stated. “The coho salmon run to the Kuskokwim River drainage appears weak. Therefore, a closure of sport fishing for coho salmon in the Kuskokwim River drainage is warranted to help maximize spawning escapement.”

After local organizations asked the state to re-consider opening back up a portion of the closed waters, ADFG said no. Here’s more from KYUK Public Media:

Hours after the closure took effect, the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, a group of local subsistence users who advise the state on salmon management, asked ADF&G to open the upper Kuskokwim river upstream of Aniak full-time to coho salmon fishing. They also asked the state to open the lower river to 4-inch mesh set gillnets three days per week for whitefish harvest.

But in a letter issued on Aug. 19, two days after the closure took effect, ADF&G Kuskokwim Fishery Manager Nick Smith said that he could not fulfill those requests.

“While ADF&G understands and appreciates the motivation behind these motions to provide for ongoing subsistence coho salmon harvest, it cannot accept and act upon them at this time,” Smith wrote. “Following through with any of these motions would be contrary to state statue, regulation, and fundamental principles of sustainable salmon fisheries management.”