Kuskokwim River Area
Subsistence Fishing

Fishing Information

The Kuskokwim is a significant salmon fishery and serves as the running grounds for chinook, chum, sockeye, pink, and coho salmon. The Kuskokwim River subsistence salmon fishery is one of the biggest subsistence fisheries in the state, with more than 1500 households currently fishing and many more involved in processing. While subsistence salmon is the predominate fishery on the river, and subsistence salmon fishing defines the summer activities of most Kuskokwim River communities, Kuskokwim salmon have also been sold commercially since 1913.

Licenses and permits have never been required for subsistence salmon fishing in the Kuskokwim area. However, statewide eligibility criteria require individuals to be Alaskan residents for the preceding 12 months before harvesting salmon for subsistence uses. Salmon utilized for subsistence can be harvested by set and drift gillnets, beach seines, fish wheels, and rod and reel. Spears can be used only in the Holitna, Kanektok, Arolik, and Goodnews river drainages. Generally there are no restrictions on the number of salmon allowed to be taken by individual fishers or households for subsistence in the Kukskokwim area. However, rod and reel harvests in certain locations are sometimes assigned bag limits and net mesh size and depth are also subject to restrictions. Additionally, subsistence closures during commercial fishing openings in the lower river region, as well as rolling subsistence closures and openings river-wide, do occur in the Kuskokwim area. Subsistence fishers should always check current regulations prior to conducting fishing activities.

Salmon species available for harvest in the Kuskokwim River include:

  • Sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka)
  • Chinook (O. tshawytcha)
  • Coho (O. kisutch)
  • Chum (O. keta)
  • Pink (O. gorbuscha)

Subsistence harvests of non-salmon fish occur year-round in the Kuskokwim area. Most non-salmon fish harvests are used for human consumption, but some are used for dog food. Regulations do not limit the number of freshwater fish harvested for subsistence. Gear used for harvesting freshwater non-salmon fish in the Kuskokwim area includes set and drift gillnets, seines, fish, wheels, long lines, dip nets, jigging devices (hook and line through ice), rod and reels, and pots (locally called “traps”). Additionally, it should be noted that Subsistence fishing for Pacific herring in the northeastern Bering Sea is very important in the villages of the Yukon-Kuskokwim River delta.

Non-Salmon species available for harvest in the Kuskokwim River include:

  • Sheefish (Stendodus leucichthys)
  • Humpback whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis)
  • Broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus)
  • Round whitefish (Prosopium cylindraceum)
  • Bearing cisco (Coregonus laurettae)
  • Burbot (Lota lota)
  • Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus)
  • Northern pike (Esox lucius)
  • Arctic lamprey (Lampetra japonica)
  • Smelt (Osmerus mordax)
  • Char (Salvelinus alpines)
  • Rainbow trout (Oncorhychus)
  • Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush)
  • Dolly varden (Salvelinus malma)
  • Threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
  • Ninespine stickleback (Pungitius pungitius)
  • Longnose sucker (Catostomus)
  • Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii)