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Fish & Game Starts Salmon Season with Periodic Fishing Openings in Norton Sound

Chum salmon leaping near Cold Bay, AK. Photo: K. Mueller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Chum salmon leaping near Cold Bay, AK. Photo: K. Mueller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game consulted with stakeholders in Shaktoolik and Unalakleet this week. As a result, subsistence salmon fishing periods for those areas have been updated.

According to an announcement from ADF&G’s Norton Sound office, those fishing in marine waters of the Shaktoolik and Unalakleet Subdistricts have until midnight tonight (Thursday) to cast their nets. This was part of a 36-hour fishing period in marine waters, which the department plans to schedule once per week for those communities.

This period applies only to marine waters between Cape Denbigh, south to Black Point. Gillnets cannot be bigger than 50 fathoms in length and must have a mesh size of six inches or smaller.

During a brief commercial fishing opportunity in Norton Sound on Monday evening, fishers throughout the region successfully caught salmon. Jim Menard, the area manager for Norton Sound, shared results from the 24-hour fishing period during a KNOM fish report.

“Golovin led with 276 chums, three reds, five kings, and a pink caught by five permit holders. Nome had 66 chums, 14 reds, and two kings caught by five permit holders. And Elim had 51 chums, four kings, and one red caught by nine permit holders.”

And from Menard’s perspective, those results did NOT exceed expectations.

“It was pretty quiet. Of course, we haven’t fished this early in many a decade. They did okay down in Golovin. I think it was a lot smaller in Elim than we expected. But it’s so early in the season (that) we don’t have a good feel for any numbers yet.”

The Fish & Game Norton Sound Area Office announced another commercial salmon fishing period for Nome, Golovin, Elim, as well as the Norton Bay Subdistricts, opening for 24 hours starting at 6pm on Friday (June 21).

Menard says numbers and data from the commercial fishery test this week will be useful for the department, as not all of its counting projects or weirs are ready yet.

“The crew is getting the Unalakleet floating weir in. They expect to get it in Friday night or Saturday, so that’s much better to the south. We are having our troubles up north here. We’re not going to be able to count at the NSEDC tower for a little bit, or we may only be counting with one tower.”

High water is giving Fish & Game some trouble in the Northern Norton Sound area. According to Menard, the water levels need to come down before their counting stations can be set up, but even then, he expects some may not be done until early July.

In the meantime, the department will rely on subsistence fishers’ reports and will backtrack their data on salmon numbers once counting crews are in place.

Image at top: Chum salmon leaping near Cold Bay, AK. Photo: K. Mueller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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