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Numbers Are In For Yukon King And Chum Salmon Runs

Felix Patrick pulls a chum out of the Yukon with a Kenai style dip net.
Kyle Clayton

In the old days, 1.6 million summer chum salmon would swim up the Yukon River. This year, the run is the lowest on record. So far, there have been only 153,000 summer chums counted in the river.

“So, we’re talking really low numbers,” said Serena Fitka, the director of the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, which hosts a weekly call-in conference for fishers, biologists, and managers on the Yukon River; people from both sides of the border with Canada. “This is really quite scary for everyone. These runs are low enough that no one on the river is subsistence fishing, and so it’s very dismal. Everybody in the communities, on the full river drainage, are feeling the hardship.”

The number of king salmon was also very low this summer. Biologists say that it’s the third lowest run in history, though they project that there may be enough kings to meet the lower end of the management and treaty goal of 42,000 fish swimming into Canada to spawn.

Until recently, there has been no subsistence fishing on the river this summer. Gear for subsistence salmon fishing on the Yukon is now limited to dip nets or rod and reel in order to release live any chums or kings back into the river to spawn.

The plight of villages along the Yukon this summer has prompted processors in Bristol Bay, which had a huge, recordbreaking run of red salmon, to send fish to Yukon River communities. Fitka said that her organization is seeking grant funds to buy even more salmon for those villages.

Johanna Eurich's vivid broadcast productions have been widely heard on National Public Radio since 1978. She spent her childhood speaking Thai, then learned English as a teenager and was educated at a dance academy, boarding schools and with leading intellectuals at her grandparents' dinner table in Philadelphia.
Olivia was a News Reporter for KYUK from 2020-2022.
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