Yukon To Close To Subsistence King Salmon Fishing

This year’s Chinook salmon run on the Yukon is poor, and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game is preparing subsistence closures to meet escapement goals. The closures begin today, but with so few fish in the river, it’s unknown how long subsistence fishermen will be unable to fish.

Steve Hayes is Fish & Game’s summer season manager for the Yukon. He says the run is falling short.

By mid-June, only 4,500 kings had passed the Pilot Station Sonar site, about 120 miles from the mouth of the Yukon. Hayes says those numbers should be 10 times larger.

To hit escapement targets, and make sure enough king salmon make it upriver to spawning grounds in Canada, Fish & Game is closing subsistence fishing on the lower Yukon as the first pulse of king salmon move upriver. There will be 36 hour closures, one district at a time, amounting to about a five day closure.

Orville Huntington is the Wildlife and Parks Director for the Tanana Chiefs Conference, a tribal consortium of the 42 villages in Interior Alaska. He’s also a lifelong subsistence fisherman. He says most people were prepared for a bad year.

While subsistence fishermen hope for a strong chum run later in the season, Hayes says Fish & Game is prepared to implement more closures if necessary.

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Matthew Smith is a reporter at KNOM in Nome.

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