Yukon fall commercial chum and coho fisherman earn $1.6 million

by Ben Matheson on December 11, 2013

The final numbers are in on the Yukon River fall commercial chum and coho runs. Commercial fishermen earned nearly $1.2 million dollars for the fall chum and $461,000 for coho salmon.

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A total of 443 individual permit holders participated in the fall commercial fisheries. Jeff Estensen is the Yukon area fall season manager for commercial fisheries. He says this year’s effort reflected fishermens’ access to buyers.

“The market has definitely increased for these fish and it seems to be improving. So with these strong runs we’ve had the last several years, we’ve been able to make our escapement goal throughout the whole draining. We’ve certainly been able to provide full subsistence opportunities, and then on top of that we’ve been able to provide commercial opportunity,” said Estensen.

The fall commercial chum salmon harvest totaled 238,000 fish. That was the fifth largest since 1990. Yukon Chinook however, are struggling, with 2013 on the books as another below average year.

“In light of what’s going on with Chinook salmon on the Yukon, what we’re seeing is that subsistence fishermen are looking to take more fall chum to make up for the king salmon,” said Estensen. “So as as managers we’re going to have to be aware that potentially the subsistence harvest of fall chum could be increasing and we’re certainly need to figure that into our management when we’re looking at the big picture with fall chum.”

As for next year’s chum forecast, Estensen says the early word is that it may be on par with 2013.

“Looking at the indicators we have now, we should be having another good year for fall chum, potentially similar to this year. As we go more and more into our post season analysis, we’ll be able to refine that and we’ll certainly be meeting with fisherman all through the springtime of 2014 to discuss that,” said Estensen.

There is no directed commercial coho fishery, but the incidental coho harvest of 66 thousand was the fourth largest since 1990. Subsistence and personal use harvests are expected to be similar to 2012, which were estimated to be approximately 97,000 fall chum salmon and 13,000 cohos.

The preliminary drainage wide escapement estimate of fall chum salmon is approximately 866,000 fish, which exceeds the upper end of the sustainable escapement goal range of 300,000 to 600,000 fish. The total run size, based Pilot Station sonar numbers and harvests was estimated at 964,000 fall chum salmon.

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