Halfway through the season, a commercial summer chum salmon fishery on the Yukon River now appears unlikely. The summer chum return is both late and weak, and well below predicted. The Pilot Station sonar indicates that 65,177 chums have swum up the Yukon as of June 25. The median data for this date is 550,890 fish, which is a difference of almost a half million fish. Data indicates the return at this point in the season is lower than the very weak returns in 2000 and 2001. That means not enough summer chums appear to have swum up the Yukon to meet the current drainage-wide escapement goal of 500,000 fish. The Lower Yukon River’s chum fishery is an important source of money for the villages in the region.
Though the summer chum salmon run is weak this year, the number of kings is about the same as last summer. The Pilot Station sonar indicates that 81,464 kings have swum up the river by June 25. That’s similar to the 2018 numbers. Managers are using the same measures to make sure enough kings swim upriver to both spawn and meet the harvest needs of fishermen in Canada. Both are required by the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the two countries.
Managers have scaled back the number of subsistence harvests in the Lower Yukon to one 18-hour opening a week. In District 1, that starts Friday, June 28 at 2 p.m. and closes at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 29. The District 2 and 3 openings begin Saturday, June 29 at 2 p.m. and end at 8 a.m on Sunday, June 30.
During the subsistence closures, fishermen can still target non-salmon species in the Yukon with gillnets that have 4-inch or less mesh.
Out in the coastal waters, including Hooper Bay and Scammon Bay, subsistence fishing is open all day every day with 7.5-inch or smaller mesh gillnets.