Salmon runs on Yukon River strong enough to allow for larger, mesh nets

Yukon River subsistence fishermen are getting a chance to put their king salmon nets in the water.

So far this summer, state and federal managers have allowed for the retention of kings from 6-inch mesh gillnets, which are designed for chum salmon. But now, short openings utilizing 7.5-inch mesh nets to target king salmon are being scheduled or have already occurred.

7.5-inch mesh is the legal maximum for gillnets in the Yukon River drainage, but restrictions on king salmon fishing for the past five years have meant that the large mesh nets haven’t seen much fishing time. The last targeted subsistence opening for kings with 7.5-inch nets during the main part of the run was in 2012.

According to Fish and Game Yukon River Summer Season Manager Holly Carroll, the king run is strong enough to absorb a larger subsistence harvest this year, and managers wanted to give subsistence users the most efficient means possible to catch some kings.

“We readily admit that giving people 6-inch opportunity for most folks is just a summer chum opportunity. When there’s a lot of summer chum in the water, it’s hard for people to catch those kings with 6-inch gear,” Carroll said. “And we realize that a lot of people, while they may have met their summer chum goals, may not have met any of their king subsistence needs. This was just our way of providing a small, limited opportunity with gear that is better able to target those kings.”

Fish and Game is also making good on a preseason promise to offer king salmon fishing periods on a set schedule with plenty of advanced notice – as opposed to recent years when short subsistence openings were announced at the last minute.

Fish and Game is currently predicting a total king salmon run size on the Yukon of between 150,000-175,000 fish – which would be in the middle or upper end of the Department’s preseason projection.