Low salmon run forecast for Yukon River

Bright-red, thin strips of salmon hang like streamers.
Yukon River salmon strips. (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

The 2021 Yukon River Chinook salmon run is expected to be poor.

A forecast based on past years’ run sizes and age classes, as well as sea salmon surveys, points to a run of between 102,000 and 189,000 Chinook, putting it potentially in line with some of the weakest runs in the past 20 years, said Deena Jallen, Yukon River summer season manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“We have concerns that we’re not going to meet escapement goals, primarily in Canada, but we’re also concerned about meeting escapement goals in the Alaska drainages as well,” Jallen said.

Yukon River subsistence fishing will be closed until the return size is clearer.

”One of the strategies in our management plans is to close fishing on the first pulse, which allows Chinook salmon to get upriver,” Jallen said. “We’re also going to be closed on that trickle of fish before the first pulse is detected, so this could translate to a closure that’s two to three weeks long in the the lower Yukon.”

The first Chinook are expected to enter the river in early June. The prospect for this season’s summer Chum run is below average, but Jallen said that there should be enough to allow decent fishing opportunities.

“We’re looking at a run size of about 1.2 million. It should be enough to meet escapement and subsistence, and provide for some commercial fishing,” Jallen said.

The generally smaller fall Chum run is also forecast to be below average. 

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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