Low sockeye numbers prompt Buskin closure

The waters in and around the Buskin River will close this weekend to sport, commercial and subsistence sockeye fishing. The closure takes effect on Saturday, June 17 at 12:01 a.m.

A fisherman at the mouth of the Buskin River. (Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)

Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game announced the closure Wednesday, June 14 citing low numbers of sockeye passing through the Buskin River weir. The closure encompasses Cliff Point to Gibson Cove in Chiniak Bay; the Federal Subsistence Board has also issued an Emergency Special Action prohibiting sockeye take for all users in Women’s Bay. 

As of Tuesday, only 276 sockeye had passed through the Buskin River weir. Normally, about a third of the run has reached escapement by this time, according to Fish and Game. That’s closer to 3,000 fish.

“Even with considering the run being late, we’re well behind,” said Tyler Polum, an area management biologist with Fish and Game. “The only other comparable weir counts are years where we didn’t actually make the escapement goal.”

Polum said last year, the run came mostly in July, which is late for Buskin. And while it’s still early this year, there hasn’t been the same kind of build up so far indicating there might be a later run. 

The Buskin’s sockeye escapement goal is 5,000 to 8,000 fish. This is the third year in a row that the area has closed – at least for part of the summer – due to low numbers of fish. The subsistence closure will remain in effect until Saturday, July 15. Sport sockeye fishing will be prohibited until Dec. 31 unless numbers improve.

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