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Yukon River fall chum and coho salmon have returned in higher numbers than last year’s record low

Researchers at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sonar station in Pilot Station, where fish returns are measured.

On the Yukon River, both the fall chum and the coho salmon are nearing the ends of their runs. Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) do not expect either to reach their goals for fish reaching their spawning grounds. But both species have arrived in higher numbers than last year’s record low.

According to state data, an estimated 95% of the fall chum salmon run is past the lower Yukon River. As of Aug. 30, the ADF&G sonar at Pilot Station had counted 212,000 fall chum. That’s 38% of the historical median of 555,000 fall chum by this time, and it’s higher than recent years.

“A little bit of good news is this year the fall chum run is coming in better than what it did the last two years. So this does give us some hope for the future that at least the run is improving a little bit,” ADF&G Yukon River fishery manager Christy Gleason said during a Yukon River salmon teleconference on Aug. 30.

Yukon River fall chum and coho salmon hit a record low last year in 2021. Coho are also tracking above their low point. So far, the coho run numbers closely match the 2020 run.

ADF&G biologists estimate that over three-quarters of the coho run has passed the lower river. As of Aug. 29, the ADF&G sonar at Pilot Station has counted 64,000 coho. That’s 55% of the historical average of 116,000 coho by this time.

The composition of the runs have also changed. Body length for both the returning coho and fall chum is smaller than their historical average, based on salmon sampled by ADF&G biologists. The fall chum that have returned are slightly older than the historical average, and with slightly fewer females than the historical average.

Fishing for both species remains closed on the Yukon for the second year in a row. Gleason thanked everyone on the river for their sacrifice.

“I hope we can get back to fishing in the future. We really look forward to seeing fish camps open and nets in the water, and people putting up fish for the winter when the run is large enough to allow for harvest,” Gleason said.

Anna Rose MacArthur is the KYUK News Director. She has worked at KYUK since 2015 and previously worked at KNOM in Nome, Alaska.
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