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Hunting & Fishing

Kuskokwim River Chum Run Extremely Low So Far

Roger Tabor

  The Kuskokwim River king salmon run does not look particularly strong this year, but chum numbers look even worse. State biologists say that it’s not yet clear whether the chum run is low or late. 


So far, this year’s chum run is weaker than 92% of chum runs since 2008 at the same point in the season, according to state data from the Bethel Test Fishery. Red salmon numbers are low as well, but not as drastically. On the other hand, this year’s king salmon run appears to be slightly above average for seasons since 2008, but low compared to a historical average.

In the last two drift net openings, fishermen in the federally managed portion of the Kuskokwim River have harvested an estimated 10,000 king salmon, 1,740 red salmon, and 410 chum salmon, according to estimates compiled by the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and ONC. 

Historically, around 60% of the salmon in the river at this point in the season would be chum or sockeye, but right now Bethel Test Fishery numbers show that just over 20% of the salmon are. 

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist Sean Larson said that it’s too early in the season to say whether chum and sockeye numbers will stay this low. 

“Typically the last few years, we've been seeing late chum runs,” Larson said. “We really need more data, more time to really get a handle on what the chum are going to do this season.”

Similarly, he said that the sockeye run usually ramps up very quickly. He said that by next week, it will be more clear whether the chum and sockeye runs will pick up from their current numbers.