A report issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game this month indicates that warmer temperatures this past fall may have affected lamprey eels on the Yukon River. Lampreys are typically harvested between October 1 and December 31.
Last fall a few lampreys showed up in nets in the middle of September, but the run was light and no lampreys were being caught in the test fishery by October 11. There were not enough eels for the fall commercial harvest.
The lamprey fishery is affected by run timing and ice formation. Last fall’s record warm temperatures meant that there was not enough ice on the river to allow for a normal harvest until after the designated commercial season. Some fishermen think that the warm weather affected the run, and that the eels may have changed their migration route.
The 336 lampreys caught made up the lowest test fishery harvest since the first year of the project four years ago. One lamprey was harvested by a subsistence fisherman in Russian Mission on December 3, and several lampreys were reported “churned up” by a boat prop near Emmonak on November 24.