Fall Yukon chum run starts stronger than anticipated

The Yukon River fall chum run is coming back stronger than initially predicted.

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Chum salmon migration. (Photo courtesy of USFWS/Togiak National Wildlife Refuge)
Chum salmon migration. (Photo courtesy of USFWS/Togiak National Wildlife Refuge)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preseason projection called for a fall chum run size of 660 thousand fish, which would have been below average for an even-year fall chum run.

But Fish and Game Yukon Fall Season Manager Jeff Estensen said that once managers got a look at the summer chum run, the outlook for fall chum became quite a bit rosier.

“We do have a very good relationship between the summer chum run and the fall chum run looking back historically. And we can take the summer chum run, which came in very strong this year, stronger than we thought, and we were able to use that relationship to revise our preseason projection to between 800,000 to 900,000 fish. So it actually went up a little bit.”

With the stronger run size projection, fishery managers have, as of this week, opened subsistence fishing around the clock throughout much of the Yukon River drainage.

Estensen acknowledges that subsistence fishermen may need more opportunities to meet their needs this year, due in part to problems caused by all of the recent rainfall across western and interior Alaska.

“In light of the king restrictions – which weren’t nearly as severe this year as they have been in the past, but nevertheless there were restrictions – keeping that in mind. And then also the difficulty that fishermen are having with the high water and the drift. We want them to have every possible opportunity to go out and get the fall chum for subsistence. We don’t want weather to play any factor whatsoever in people getting what they need for subsistence.”
The first pulse of fall chum is approaching District 5 on the upper Yukon now. The first pulse came into the river in mid-July, and is actually a mix of summer and fall stocks. Despite the early timing of the pulse, Estensen says that subsistence fishermen are reporting high-quality fish in their catches.

A second pulse has been detected at the mouth, and is now passing Pilot Station.

The total passage estimate at the Pilot Station sonar is up to just over 400 thousand fish as of Wednesday.

133 thousand fall chum have already been caught and sold in the commercial fishery in Districts 1 and 2.