Kuskokwim River Federal Public Waters Closed to Gill Nets and the Harvest of Chinook, Chum, and Coho Salmon

Temporary Special Action No:  FSA-YD-24-01             Issued at Bethel, AK May 21, 2024

Effective Date:  June 1, 2024, 12:01 AM

Expiration Date:  August 31, 2024 11:59 PM or until superseded by special action 



The Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge (YDNWR) Manager determined that Federal management is necessary for the conservation and the continuation of subsistence uses for Chinook, Chum, and Coho Salmon within the Federal public waters of the Kuskokwim River drainage. This action is based on the provisions of Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and delegation of authority letter from the Federal Subsistence Board. The Federal in-season manager intends to use an adaptive management approach to manage the salmon fishery from June 1st to August 31st, 2024.  As part of this approach, the YDNWR will continue the partnership with the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (KRITFC) and will coordinate with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), and other local partners.

REGULATION: 50 CFR 100.27(e)(4)(ii) is amended to read:

(A) Unless re-opened by the YDNWR Manager, the following federal public waters of the Kuskokwim River within and adjacent to the exterior boundaries of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge are closed to the use of gill nets and the harvest of Chinook, Chum, and Coho Salmon by all users from June 01, 2024 at 12:01 a.m. to August 31, 2024 at 11:59 p.m.:

(1) The Kuskokwim River main stem within the boundaries of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.

   (2) The following tributaries are closed:

  • The Eek River.
  • The Kwethluk River drainage beginning at its confluence with Kuskokuak Slough.
  • The Kasigluk and Kisaralik River drainages including Old Kuskokuak Slough to ADF&G regulatory markers at the confluence of Old Kuskokuak Slough and Kuskokuak Slough.
  • The Tuluksak River drainage including its confluence with the Kuskokwim River and downstream approximately 1-mile to ADF&G regulatory markers.
  • The Aniak River drainage to ADF&G regulatory markers at its confluence with the Kuskokwim River.
  • The Aniak box defined as: The waters of the Kuskokwim River main stem from the Yukon Delta NWR boundary at Aniak downstream to a line formed from the northwest corner of the runway (latitude 61° 35’ 16” N, longitude 159° 33’ 28” W), due north to a point on the southeast corner of the sandbar (latitude 61° 35’ 37” N, longitude 159° 33’ 16” W).

Fishing from tributaries not listed above is restricted to fishing 100 yards upriver from the mouth of the river (confluence with the main stem Kuskokwim River).

(B) For non-federally qualified users: The use of gill nets and the retention of Chinook, Chum, and Coho salmon is not allowed. Other means and methods, and the retention of Sockeye Salmon (and other non-salmon species), is allowed as defined under the State of Alaska fishing regulations.

(C) For federally qualified subsistence users: Dip nets, beach seines, fish wheels, and rod and reel will remain open throughout the closure and retention of all salmon (and other non-salmon species) is allowed within the main stem of the Kuskokwim River. Retention of Chinook, Chum, and Coho salmon within the tributaries is not allowed.  Sockeye Salmon (and other non-salmon species) can be retained within the tributaries.  Gill net opportunities within the main stem Kuskokwim River may be announced.


The closure of Federal public waters to the use of gill nets and the harvest of Chinook, Chum, and Coho salmon beginning June 1 is based on conservation concerns throughout the Kuskokwim River drainage.  The Federal in-season manager may announce openings to federally qualified subsistence users when salmon run strength and timing permit, while balancing the need for conservation and providing opportunities for the continuation of subsistence uses.

The 2024 anticipated Chinook Salmon total run (based on the 2023 total run) is about 134,000.  Historical, and mostly unrestricted, harvest levels are 67,200  109,800 fish (data from years 1990  2009). Additionally, Chinook Salmon runs have continued to be depressed.  Therefore, based on the anticipated run size, subsistence need, and prior years of low productivity, harvest restrictions will be necessary to meet a sustainable drainage-wide escapement goal. 

Due to the recent steep declines and high uncertainty of the 2024 Chum Salmon run, restrictions are necessary to protect Chum Salmon populations within the Kuskokwim River drainage.  Chum Salmon populations showed a precipitous decline for years 2020-2023.  The 2020-2022 average escapement at Kogrukluk River weir had an 81% decline compared to the 2000-2019 average, and the George River weir had a 69% decline for the same period.  While the 2023 Chum Salmon run count was higher than the 2022 count (which was the lowest on record), the 2023 run was significantly declined compared to 2018-19 Chum Salmon counts at the Bethel Sonar Project.   


The 2023 Coho Salmon run size at Bethel Test Fishery was considered near average, having improved from one of the lowest run counts on record in 2022. Escapement goals for the Kwethluk and Kogrukluk Rivers (Kuskokwim River tributaries) were also met in 2023. However, having just one year of improvement just after a dismal 2022 run leaves uncertainty over the 2024 Coho Salmon numbers. Therefore, a conservative approach to Coho Salmon management is warranted.


Restricting the use of gillnets during June through August is intended to conserve Chinook, Chum, and Coho salmon.  However, it is recognized that Sockeye Salmon, which overlap with mostly Chinook and Chum salmon runs, have been increasing in number.  Therefore, consideration will be given to providing harvest opportunities to target abundant Sockeye Salmon while minimizing impacts to other salmon species.

Alternative gear types including dip nets, beach seines, fish wheels, and rod and reel are mostly intended to allow people to catch abundant Sockeye Salmon during the gill net closure.  Federally qualified subsistence users that retain all salmon species using these methods are expected to have minimal impact.


A public hearing on the proposal to close the Kuskokwim River drainage to the use of gill nets and the harvest of Chinook, Chum, and Coho salmon was held on May 15, 2024.  Some comments were in support of the temporary special action to close the Kuskokwim River drainage starting June 1, 2024.  None were in opposition.  Other public comments were of concern as to why salmon numbers were low.  Public testimony shared at this meeting was considered when making the final determination.

News Release



Last edited 05/22/2024

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