Fishermen call for early meeting about Kuskokwim salmon

BETHEL — Residents of the Bethel area hope to work out a Kuskokwim River salmon management plan with state biologists as soon as possible, as signs show there will be fewer fish in the river this summer.

The Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group has sent a letter to the State Fish and Game Department asking for a meeting to work out a preseason plan for the fishery, KYUK-AM reported Thursday.

In the letter, members of the group said biologists had the information they need to begin a summer management plan by January. They said state officials should have consulted with the working group by February.

“We need to have a preseason plan. And our preference is that preseason plan doesn’t start being discussed the very last few days of March, or April, or May. (In) May we are all preparing for fish camp,” said Mary Sattler Peltola, a member of the working group.

Peltola said the she and other signers of the letter are worried state biologists’ estimates on King salmon returns this summer are too optimistic. She said when looking at the parents of this year’s Kings, which swam up the Kuskokwim in 2013, they showed up in low numbers.

“So I think it would be best if the department did have conversations with us about the possibility about it being another tough summer,” she said.

The King salmon runs on the Kuskokwim have been struggling for some time. Peltola said she grew up fishing the river and first noticed the King run was in distress in 2010.

“When I think about fish camp and King fishing I have the pre-2010 memory, and then the more recent memory after 2010 that has been much much tougher,” said Peltola. “Even with me it was very emotional. Thinking about Kings being weak, weak runs, it was like a family member being sick.”

Fish and Game is trying to schedule a meeting in Bethel in March.

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