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Fish and Game predicts above average Yukon River chum run

Emily Schwing/KUAC

Fairbanks, AK - Chum salmon are making their way up the Yukon River.  The total run size exceeds 900-thousand fish.  That’s nearly twice the historical median of 535-thousand fish.  The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates up to a million fish could make up this year’s Yukon River chum run.  Jeff Estensen is the area management biologist in Emmonak.

“Essentially we’re having a good showing of four-year olds this year and that’s just increased production and good escapement in the parent years for those fish,” he says.

According to Estensen, the next few years could also bring strong chum runs on the Yukon.  The first pulse of chum entered the river in mid-July.  The fifth and largest pulse of more than 200-thousand fish came in two weeks ago.   Estensen says he expects to meet the escapement goal this year.

“For subsistence, reports that I have been getting throughout the whole drainage are that fishing is going fine," he says "and a lot of people this year are trying because of the poor king run are looking to make up some of their subsistence harvest with fall chum and we don’t see what that’s gonna be a problem for anybody.”

Chum passage as far up river as Eagle is still below average, with fewer than 600 fish passing the Sonar counter there.  But those numbers should start increasing in the next two weeks.  

The final commercial fishing period for Yukon chum in the lower river closes Friday.  Additional commercial openings will depend on run strength and market interest.