King, red and chum salmon meeting ADF&G escapement goals in Kuskokwim tributaries

A fisherman pulls a king salmon from the Kuskokwim River during a subsistence fishing opening on June 12, 2018. (Photo by Katie Basile / KYUK)

Healthy numbers of salmon are reaching their Kuskokwim spawning grounds this season, according to state standards. Across salmon species, state-issued escapement goals are being met. These goals are set to help ensure sustainable runs and future subsistence harvests.

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The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is operating six weirs on Kuskokwim tributaries to monitor king salmon escapement. Each weir continues to track between the five- and 10-year average for kings. Nick Smith is a researcher with the department and points out that the numbers show consistency with recent runs.

“The five- and 10-year averages have included those years of low productivity,” Smith said. “So to be tracking the five- to 10-year average is telling us that we’re following the same general pattern that we’ve seen over the past five to 10 years.”

High water prevented four of the six weirs from gaining accurate counts earlier in the summer. The water level has slowly dropped, and this week the water level along the upper river main stem lowered to its historical average for the first time this season.

The two weirs able to make accurate counts for the entire season indicate a familiar set of numbers. The George River weir is tracking right under the 20-year average for king escapement and has now reached the upper end of its escapement goal. The Salmon River Pitka’s Fork weir is tracking with the 2017 king salmon run.

Escapement goals for king salmon aerial surveys have been met for the following tributaries: the Salmon River Pitka’s Fork, Cheeneetnuk River, Gagarayah River and Holitna River.

Other salmon species are logging more robust runs.

Chum salmon have surpassed their escapement goal at the Kogrukluk River weir, the only weir with an escapement goal for chum. Meanwhile, red salmon escapement is tracking above average at the three weirs that have escapement goals for this species: the Kwethluk, Salmon and Kogrukluk River weirs.

Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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