Alaska’s personal use and sport fisheries will stay open amid COVID-19 pandemic

Fishers line the banks of the Russian River in June 2019. (Photo by Abbey Collins/Alaska Public Media)

The COVID-19 pandemic will not prevent Alaskans from fishing this summer.

But residents are being asked to take precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re not closing anything,” said Rick Green, special assistant to the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Every fishery out there is going to run as they would normally.”

On Monday, Fish and Game released guidelines aimed at allowing Alaskans to participate in sport and personal use fisheries, while following state health mandates.

“We came up with the guidelines of how basically you can get through a community without interacting with the locals to stave off any possibility of spreading of COVID,” said Green.

According to the guidelines, residents should fish as close to home as possible and should not plan on stopping for supplies outside of their home communities. Fish and Game says fishers should know and abide by any local health mandates. While fishing, the department encourages the use of face coverings and says fishers must practice social distancing.

Social distancing could be challenging in popular fishing spots. For instance, when salmon are running the Russian River, a few hours south of Anchorage, fishers historically line the river banks in close proximity to one another.

Green said he’s hopeful Alaskans will adapt if they need to.

“It’s going to be a challenge at the Russian River,” said Green. “There’s no doubt, having 6 feet between them when usually you’re shoulder-to-shoulder. But we could be through this by then, we just don’t know. We just wanted to give people an avenue to get out while these mandates were in effect, and how they could do it safely.”

The Cook Inlet herring and hooligan fisheries opened April 1.

Subsistence fishing remains open and unrestricted under state health mandates.