BETHEL — King salmon are starting to arrive along Western Alaska’s two major rivers, and amid deep worries about the cherished but troubled runs, hints of hope are emerging.
It’s early in the season, and rural Alaska residents crave fresh fish. Salmon are pushing into the Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers later than last year. Residents are catching what they can under ever-tightening rules designed to save kings.
Yukon River subsistence fishermen are muscling dipnets in the hope of scooping up fat-rich chum salmon to dry and smoke for winter. If they catch any kings, which enter the river about the same time, they must toss them back alive. A unique commercial dipnet opportunity for chum opened Thursday, too.
“Our morning test-fish crew caught a good group of kings this morning, so I think this is the real start of the run,” Stephanie Schmidt, Yukon area management biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game, said in an email Thursday morning. “We should see three pulses of kings enter the river now through the next couple of weeks.”
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