High Chinook Restrictions Increase Chum Harvests, ADF&G Working to Sustain Fishery

Chum Salmon. (Photo: NOAA)
Chum Salmon. (Photo: NOAA)

With Chinook harvests shut down on the Yukon, summer Chum harvests are on the rise, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game wants to make sure Chum stocks are managed sustainably.

Stephanie Schmidt is a Fisheries Biologist with ADF&G and said this trend of tighter Chinook restrictions elevating levels of Chum harvests has been growing over several years. With Chinook runs not expected to significantly increase in the next few years, the growing demand on summer Chum will likely continue.

To prepare for this demand, ADF&G is researching Chum migration through a tagging program called the Summer Chum Salmon Radio Telemetry Project.

Outlining the goals of the project, Schmidt said, “The tagging would be to estimate stocks specific run timing. When do certain stocks enter the river? How fast do they move upstream? Do certain stocks migrate together? We’re also looking to identify important spawning tributaries. So we don’t know where all the summer Chum salmon go. We’re also hoping to use the data to get an estimate for drainage-wide escapement.”

This information will be used to manage summer Chums as fishing pressure on the runs increases.

Locals working with ADF&G are attaching the tags about 18 miles upriver from Russian Mission at Dog Fish Camp. The project began last week on June 12 and will continue through July 18. That is the amount of time estimated for the entire stock to pass by the camp. In all, the project plans to tag 1,200 Chum by mid-July.

ADF&G asks fishermen who harvest tagged Chum to note the date, time, and location of the catch and to mail the tag to the address listed on the outside of the device.

“The tags look like a little capsule, actually, almost like a little pill,” Schmidt explained. “And then they have a wire sticking out of them, and you’ll be able to see that wire sticking out of the mouth of the summer Chum salmon. If a wire is missing my some chance, we do an external tag as well, so we just insert a white spaghetti tag in the dorsal fin of the summer Chum salmon.”

Schmidt said mailing tags back helps keep ADF&G costs down. Individuals who return tags will receive a “summer Chum radio telemetry research project hat” and get entered into a lottery to receive $500 in cash.

Schmidt says the bulk of the summer Chum run is expected to hit Russian Mission tomorrow, Friday June 20. At that point, 80,000 to 90,000 Chum per day should begin passing through that section of the river. Based on historical data, these rates should continue for the next 11 days.

Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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