Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Yukon River fall chum salmon run is lagging way behind expectations. State fall chum manager Jeff Estensen says past the normal mid-point of the run, less than half the median number of fish have been counted by the state’s sonar at Pilot Station.
Estensen says the entire fall chum run is projected at this point to come in below 400,000 fish. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Yukon Fisheries biologist Fred Bue says things look bleak, but it’s still possible that the latter portion of the run could pick up.
There’s been no commercial fishing for fall chums, and managers closed subsistence fishing until tomorrow, after that it will re-open for two 48-hour periods per week. Sport fishing for fall chums will close tomorrow. The restrictions come after weeks of high water that have already limited fishing success, a Yukon Chinook run that was very weak, and an average summer chum return. Bue says both the Chinook and fall chum runs are the product of strong parent years, but there’s speculation that heavy eggs production can lead to increased mortality.
Bue stresses that there are a lot of factors that affect salmon survival including water temperature and spring break up conditions. The weak Yukon Chinook and fall chum runs have hit Canadian fisherman especially hard, as the two species are the ones that migrate to upstream spawning grounds past the border. The last Yukon salmon of the season, silvers are just beginning to come into the river, but are also off to a slow start.
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