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Yukon Chinook May Make Escapement, Managers Say

"Chinook salmon, Yukon Delta NWR." Photo: Craig Springer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Early reports from along the Yukon River show there is a chance Chinook salmon may reach escapement goals this year, but the complete closure of king salmon fishing remains in place.

Amid dramatic efforts to coordinate restrictions on the Yukon, Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers said in a Tuesday teleconference with fishermen that they are seeing signs that those measures may be working to rehabilitate the Chinook runs. (The weekly call is sponsored by the nonprofit Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association.)

“The Chinook salmon run initially started out weak, but has recently picked up. And that’s providing some cautious optimism for us here on the lower river,” fisheries biologist Stephanie Schmidt said during the teleconference.

Close to 100,000 kings are believed to have passed into the Yukon, with the third pulse of fish fast approaching. Though still far below historic averages, ADF&G’s preliminary numbers indicate this year’s returns will be higher than the “worst case scenario” forecasted earlier this season.

Tuesday’s teleconference shared reports of Chinooks spotted throughout the river, from the mouth of the Yukon to Old Crow in the Canadian Yukon Territories. Managers said that’s a good sign.

While the number of fish is up, their overall size seems to be slightly down: managers said they’re seeing reports of a higher percentage of five-year fish in their sampling, which tend to be on the smaller side.

The next Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association teleconference will be on Tuesday, July 1 at 1 p.m.