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Nushagak River king salmon run appears strong

By Rhonda McBride 5:45 PM June 17, 2014

While other king salmon runs in Western Alaska are struggling, the Nushagak River in Bristol Bay seems to be a different story.

The driftnet fleet harvested 1,200 kings during a commercial opener on Monday and people in the region seem to be getting enough salmon to meet their subsistence needs.

“So far, so good,” said Tim Sands, the area biologist for the Nushagak and Togiak management area.

The Nushagak has the largest king run in Bristol Bay. The river has been open with no restrictions on harvesting kings for subsistence, unlike the Kuskokwim River, which has been closed to king harvests since May 20.

Sands said if another pulse of fish enters the river there could be another commercial fishing period, for a total of three this season.

Escapement, the number of fish needed to reach their spawning grounds, is ahead of last year, Sands said, with 26 percent of the escapement goal met – about 55,000-120,000 fish.

So why does the Nushagak seem to be the exception to the rule this year when it comes to king salmon?

“I really can’t point to anything,” Sands said. “We’ve been very fortunate here.”

Sands is hoping the strong numbers are not just the product of early timing but one that could be shaping up to be a solid run.

The Nushagak sockeye run far overshadows its king production. An above-average forecast of eight million sockeyes is expected this season. Sands says management for the Nushagak will likely shift over to sockeyes in the next four to five days.

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