Fisheries managers announce Yukon River closures
June 1 comes next week, and with it restrictions on salmon fishing in both the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. In the Yukon River, federal public waters will be closed to the harvest of chinook, chum, and coho salmon except by federally qualified subsistence users from June 1 through Sept. 30, according to a May 25 press release.
The announcement says that the 2023 Yukon River chinook and summer chum salmon runs are forecasted to be poor, with little to no harvestable surplus available, even for subsistence uses.
“We're trying to give people a little bit of hope in that the summer chum and fall chum projections were a little better than last year,” Yukon River Federal Manager Holly Carroll said. “There's a lot of uncertainty in those projections, so we're gonna have to see what comes back to the river.”
Carroll said that if there are signs that the runs are better than expected, openings could be considered by managers.
“There's a lot of uncertainty because in the parent years, four and five years ago for these runs, we had a lot of heat stress on the river. And so survival of those spawners may not have been great. And that puts a lot of uncertainty into these forecasts,” Carroll said.
While Carroll is hopeful for chum returns, she said that the situation for king salmon remains dire.
“We've really failed to meet those goals for four years running now. And some of that may be related not just to this low productivity of chinook, but on top of that some enroute mortality that might be occurring,” Carroll said.
Fisheries managers are putting out the call for direct public assistance with addressing the king salmon crisis on the Yukon.
“So one thing we want to let fishermen know is that if they do catch a salmon or find a dead salmon with those radio tags in them, definitely call the number on the tag. Call Fish and Game,” Carroll said. “We've got fliers out throughout the drainage. Definitely report that because it's really an important study to tell us where these fish are dying.”
Carroll knows that these closures are going to be tough on people.
“The people who are relying on the salmon, you know, we're talking about 100,000, 180,000 lost meals every year when we have these closures in place,” said Carroll.
Non-salmon fishing opportunities will still be open along the Yukon River, though gillnets will be limited to 4-inch or smaller mesh and 60 feet or less in length.
“And we are allowing that 24/7 so that people can target sheefish, white fish, pike, those kinds of fish,” said Carroll.
Closures will begin next week in the Coastal District and lower Yukon River, and will be announced in upriver districts based on salmon migration timing and/or assessment data.
For additional information concerning Yukon River Federal Special Actions, contact Yukon River Federal Manager Holly Carroll at 907-351-3029.
For information concerning state management actions, contact Yukon River Summer Season Manager Deena Jallen in Fairbanks at 907-459-7274 or in Emmonak at 907-949-1320.
Information about the Federal Subsistence Management Program may be found on the web at www.doi.gov/subsistence or by visiting www.facebook.com/subsistencealaska. Fishery special actions are posted here: Fisheries Special Actions | U.S. Department of the Interior (doi.gov) (https://www.doi.gov/subsistence/fisheries-special-actions).