ANCHORAGE -

This year’s outlook for king salmon on the lower Yukon River is bleak, with more low runs expected and closures are already in place for fishermen there -- but there are still opportunities to catch other fish.

On Monday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the river to gillnet salmon fishing from the coastline to Districts 1 through 4. The closure is expected to last for most of 2014’s Chinook run.

Traditionally, both commercial and subsistence fishermen cast a gill net to haul in their catch. That won't be the case during this closure, and user groups on the river are reacting differently to the various fishing opportunities available.

Salmon are returning to the Yukon, and Fish and Game is informing fishermen of the latest indicators from a test fishery. Out on the river chum salmon feed a cash economy, but kings won't be served at many tables here.

“Not being able to harvest that resource could invariably impact the health of our people,” said fisherman Nick Tucker Sr.

Gillnet salmon fishing is closed on the Yukon, a conservative decision by the state aimed at protecting kings. Using a gill net can be an efficient way to feed a family, but so far this year only dip nets are being allowed.

“We are hampered adversely by the type of gear that we are allowed to use,” Tucker said.

Dip net users say they require more time on the river, but the state says right now that's the only way to preserve salmon runs.  

“If we weren't using that, where we could release the king salmon, we'd be closed totally -- so it's allowing opportunity for other salmon, and yet protecting kings,” said Dan Bergstrom, Fish and Game’s Arctic/Yukon/Kuskokwim regional fisheries management coordinator.

This year’s Chinook run is expected to be the state’s worst ever.

“Our main thing with the dip nets is we want people to be able to catch chum salmon for subsistence needs but really be careful with the Chinook,” Bergstrom said.

On the other hand some commercial fishermen on the Yukon, like Kwik’Pak Fisheries general manager Jack Schultheis, see the situation as a win-win.

“Having the dip net fishery allowed us to do two things -- it allowed us to have a commercial fishery and at the same time we weren't harming kings,” Schultheis said.

Kwik’Pak reports doubling its chum harvest last year, a big plus for towns like Emmonak.

“It's helped tremendously to keep the communities going here,” Schultheis said.

Commercially the gear appears to work, but subsistence fishermen say it's a hindrance for drying and smoking salmon. Both are adapting to new rules for fisheries that have survived for so long, but now expect small king returns.

The state says it's too early to say just how many kings are returning this year. Sonar equipment officials use to count the fish is expected to come online at Pilot Station Wednesday.