Fishermen report fishing bounty on the Kuskokwim River

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2002

BETHEL (AP) -- Reports from subsistence fishermen on the lower Kuskokwim River is that fishing is going good this year -- that is, if you can stand the hot weather and hordes of flying pests.

''It's perfect, if you can take care of these mosquitoes,'' said Wassilie George of Kwethluk who had been out fishing three times by last week.

George said that red salmon had yet to peak as of June 20, but the chums and king runs had been plentiful.

''We're late starting this year,'' said Xenia Nicori of Kwethluk who was fishing with George. ''We usually do it every day when we have to, but this year there's the subsistence schedule. Without the schedule it would be really good.''

Fish biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game took assessments of this year's runs by throwing a net out just above Bethel at low and high tides and comparing the results with runs in previous years.

''Both king salmon and chum are good,'' said Doug Bue, fish biologist with the state. ''The indexes in the Bethel test fishery are high for this time of the year.''

Thor Williams of Bethel was fishing near Kwethluk and said that the chum run was strong. He helped unload his catch at the family fish camp in order to get the year's processing under way.

Other people on the lower Kuskokwim River are further along in subsistence fish processing.

''We got our quota for my family for kings in two days,'' said Shirley Ahlo of Bethel.

Ahlo usually puts up about 40 kings for strips and about 30 reds to last her five-member family the year. She's also been fishing for white fish with a rod and reel in front of camp using salmon eggs. She had caught 18 white fish as of June 21, which she also cut into strips for drying.

Kwethluk elder Annie Andrew put up more than 100 reds, chums and kings at her fish camp upriver from Kwethluk with the help of her two daughters and husband, John. Two of Andrew's sons have already brought in enough fish for strips and fillets.

''Those boys are really fishing a lot,'' Andrew said. ''Today, I told them to get no more for the season.''

Andrew said last week that flies are already everywhere even though they usually come around in July. Normally, Andrew applies salt and garlic to the fish before hanging them, but this year was too hot to use salt, she said.

Most of Andrew's fish will be given away. After they are dried and smoked, they will be sealed in five-gallon plastic buckets and stored underground near the permafrost line.

''They keep cool, and then when the weather is getting colder, I have them dug up,'' Andrew said.

Most of what is being caught on the lower Kuskokwim River will end up on drying racks and then into smokehouses.

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