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Restrictions Set on ‘Concerning’ King Salmon Stocks in Norton Sound

King salmon laying on wooden floor of fishing boat

Norton Sound residents hoping to catch the coveted king salmon this season will have more restrictions to comply with before they start fishing. The Department of Fish and Game is already projecting a below-average king run in Norton Sound, as well.

“And they are considered stocks of concern, by the Alaska Board of Fisheries, since 2007. We’ve had difficulty meeting escapements.”

Jim Menard is Fish & Game’s area manager for Norton Sound. He says Shaktoolik and Unalakleet are where most of the king salmon in the region end up, so that’s where most of the restrictions are put in place.

“We have been closing at the start of the second week (of June), and then we only opened up one 24-hour fishing period a week in marine waters for Shaktoolik and Unalakleet last year, and we did make the escapement, whereas previous years we didn’t. We ratcheted it down from a 36-hour fishing period once a week, so last year we ratcheted down to 24-hours; it didn’t make a difference. We also kept the Unalakleet River closed.”

For this season, Menard suspects the restrictions in Norton Sound will be similar to last year’s so the escapement goals for king salmon can be met again. He says kings are the only type of salmon giving his department trouble right now.

“We did let them go a little longer. We are going to close it in mid-June now, and then we are going to get down to Shaktoolik and Unalakleet, talk with the fishermen, see how they’ve done — and see about opening at least once a week, a 24- or 36-hour period. We’ll see how they’re doing.”

Starting tonight at midnight, all marine and freshwaters in Shaktoolik and Unalakleet subdistricts will be closed to subsistence salmon fishing. However, the department plans to open a fishing period next week in marine waters.

Going into effect at the same time tonight, all flowing waters draining into the Inglutalik and Ungalik rivers, and all marine waters of the Norton Bay Subdistrict, will be placed on a subsistence gillnet fishing schedule of two 36-hour periods per week. Periods will be from 6:00 a.m. Mondays to 6:00 p.m. Tuesdays, and from 6:00 a.m. Saturdays to 6:00 p.m. Sundays.

The latest information can be found online, at the website of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Menard hopes things go well in terms of meeting escapement goals this summer so Fish & Game can release restrictions in early July. 1,200 to 2,600 is the escapement range on the North River, but the Unalakleet River doesn’t have an escapement goal.

On the commercial side of things, Menard says commercial fishing in Nome, Golovin, and Elim, as well as the Norton Bay, will be opened for a 24-hour period starting Monday at 6pm. For more information, tune in to KNOM fish reports during the 12 and 5pm Hotline programs.

Image at top: A king (chinook) salmon. Photo: Flickr user Emma Forsberg; shared via Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).

Correction: due to a cataloging error in KNOM’s media library, an earlier version of this story used an image of a coho (silver) salmon rather than a chinook (king) salmon. The photo has been replaced.

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