Yukon River chum and coho runs remain too low to open subsistence harvest

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Chum salmon (NOAA photo)

Both the fall chum salmon and the coho salmon runs on the Yukon River remain too low to open subsistence harvest. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists do not expect either to reach their goals for fish reaching their spawning grounds.

An estimated three quarters of the fall chum salmon run is past the lower river. As of Aug. 21, the state-run sonar at Pilot Station counted 194,000 fall chum. That’s compared to a historical medium of 486,000 fall chum by that date.

The fall chum that have returned are slightly older than the historical average and with slightly fewer females than the historical average. The fish are also smaller, measuring 26 millimeters less than their historical average length.

The Yukon River coho salmon run is also far below its average run size but coming in higher numbers than last year’s record low. The Pilot Station sonar has counted 43,000 coho, compared to a historical average of 73,000 by this time.

Like the fall chum, the coho are also returning smaller. The coho are averaging 31 millimeters less than their historical average length. The sampled coho length averaged 544 millimeters, compared to a historical average of 575 millimeters.

At Russian Mission, state biologists have attached radio tags to over 118 coho as of Aug. 19. ADF&G asks anyone catching a coho carrying a tag to call the department at 907-459-7274.

Fishing for fall chum and coho salmon remains closed on the Yukon River. Selective gear types remain allowed, and fall chum must be returned to the water alive. Four-inch mesh gillnets are also allowed.

Yukon River state fishery manager Christy Gleason says mesh size restrictions are unlikely to lift until early October.

Correction: This story originally said that both fall chum and coho caught in selective gear must be returned to the water alive. That is incorrect. Coho can be retained along with non-salmon. Only fall chum must be returned to the water alive. Also this story originally said that four-inch mesh set nets are allowed on the Yukon River. That has been corrected to say that four-inch mesh gillnets are allowed.

KYUK - Bethel

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