Last year may have been a good year for king salmon on the Yukon, but there are a lot fewer of them so far this year. Not only was the predicted return smaller, but now biologists on the Yukon river are watching to see if king salmon are coming back as abundantly as originally projected.
Holly Carroll with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says that so far, the number of kings in the lower river seems a bit below the low end of the range biologists expected. The models predicted that 173,000 to 251,000 kings would return to the Yukon this summer. But right now, with an estimated quarter of the run through, it looks like the number is below the low end and is tracking with the 2015 return of only 145,000 kings. That year was the second lowest king run on record for the Yukon River.
Carroll is not giving up hope. She says that the run may just be late, although it is also possible that the run is both late and low. To be cautious, she has kept the commercial fishing under restricted gear to keep as many kings as possible alive. The number of subsistence openings has also been reduced on the Yukon, with the gear limited to 6-inch or smaller mesh.
Unlike the Kuskokwim, the Yukon River is managed under a treaty with Canada. The goal this year is to get 42,000 to 55,000 kings swimming over the border. Canadian-spawned salmon typically make up about 40 percent of the Yukon River’s total king run.