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Photos: Kuskokwim River salmon fishing

The salmon caught by Joseph Jerry hang drying in the evening sun near the small boat harbor in the Kuskokwim River village of Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Jerry fishes with a set net that he checks by canoe right near the village. Krissy Medina cut the fish and Henry Combs built the drying rack.
Bob Hallinen photo
(From left) Lena Brink, Leroy Brink, Timothy Brink and Treyton White come into the small boat harbor in the Kuskokwim River village of Bethel on Wednesday, June 25, 2014. The Brinks are returning from fish camp where they were cutting fish and checking on the fish already drying. They had caught 101 salmon.
Bob Hallinen photo
Myron Naneng speaks at the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group meeting in Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Naneng is the president of the Association of Village Council Presidents based in Bethel.
Bob Hallinen photo
Joseph Jerry poses in front of the salmon he caught as they dry in the evening sun near the small boat harbor in the Kuskokwim River village of Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Jerry fishes with a set net that he checks by canoe right near the village. Krissy Medina cut the fish and Henry Combs built the drying rack.
Bob Hallinen photo
Butter jumps off his doghouse as the salmon caught by Joseph Jerry hang drying in the evening sun near the small boat harbor in the Kuskokwim River village of Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Jerry fishes with a set net that he checks by canoe right near the village. Krissy Medina cut the fish and Henry Combs built the drying rack.
Bob Hallinen photo
Mary Sattler talks during the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group meeting in Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014. The salmon working group advises fishery managers on salmon harvest issues. Sattler holds a Lower River Subsistence seat on the group.
Bob Hallinen photo
Tim Andrew, with the Association of Village Council Presidents, testifies during the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group meeting in Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014. The salmon working group advises fishery managers on salmon harvest issues.
Bob Hallinen photo
Gary Pete and Jim Pete have just returned to the small boat harbor with some red salmon, whitefish and Dolly Varden trout taken with their subsistence fishing net in the Kuskokwim River village of Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014.
Bob Hallinen photo
Zack Brink, the Executive Director of Orutsararmiut Native Council, shows the salmon drying in his smoke house in the Kuskokwim River village of Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014.
Bob Hallinen photo
Save salmon signs are staked in alongside Chief Eddie Hoffman way in the Kuskokwim River village of Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014.
Bob Hallinen photo
Salmon are drying in the smoke house of Zack Brink the Executive Director of Orutsararmiut Native Council in the Kuskokwim River village of Bethel on Thursday, June 26, 2014.
Bob Hallinen photo
Bob Hallinen

BETHEL -- High emotions over restrictions that prevented Kuskokwim River villagers from catching the king salmon that usually line fish racks in summer and fill freezers in winter eased over the last week when skiffs were allowed to drift with larger gear.

By then, most of the kings already had moved upriver. Subsistence fishermen on the Lower River instead are hauling in whitefish, chums, sockeyes and the occasional chinook. Once-bare racks finally are being hung with salmon cut to dry for winter, though not in the numbers of years past.

Many villagers and Bethel residents say limits are necessary to save chinook runs. But debate continues over how to best manage the prized kings. Villagers argue for at least some chance to target them. Some want to help run the fisheries.

When the first window for driftnetting opened up June 20, pent-up desire for salmon was so strong that there was a near-logjam of skiffs.

“I’ve never seen the river like that, even in commercial days,” Mary Sattler, a former state representative who lives in Bethel, said at a recent meeting of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group. The group advises fish managers about openings, fishing gear and harvests.

“You look out and you see 50 or 100 boats,” she said. “You are so close you could see the expressions in the boat next to you.”

READ MORE: On Kuskokwim River, villagers finally begin filling their nets with fish