Commercial salmon fishers in the Norton Sound are going out again in search of chums. The Department of Fish & Game in Nome is relying on commercial catches to track chum numbers.
Jim Menard, the area manager for ADF&G, says subsistence chum salmon catches in southern Norton Sound and commercial catches last week have been lower than expected.
“What really helps us out is reports from the subsistence fishers. We’ve heard good things up in Teller and Brevig Mission on the red catches so far. And the red catches for the Nome subdistrict this early was pretty promising, so reds are looking good. We’re watching the chum: that’s the interesting thing right now.”
The numbers of chum in the region are of interest because the department’s forecast for this season predicted a well-above-average chum salmon run, but so far, they haven’t shown up in high numbers.
Now, Fish & Game has announced a 24-hour commercial salmon opening for Nome, Elim and Norton Bay starting tonight (Thursday) at 6pm. Fishers in Golovin will have the same opportunity starting tomorrow night (Friday). During Golovin’s latest commercial fishing period this week, over 3,000 chums were caught by 11 permit holders, a near-average result for this time of year.
The department plans to use harvest-based management, which relies on catch numbers from Norton Sound fishers during these 24-hour periods and compares them to previous years. Menard says this will be the norm until all of Fish & Game’s counting projects in the region are operational.
“Well, we need to get them in in July, and then, we can kind of backtrack based on historical run timing curves, we can kind of figure out where we are. Also, if the rivers clear up, we can get a chance to fly some of them and see, estimate how many we missed.”
According to the department, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC) set up the Eldorado River weir yesterday morning (Wednesday). The Bonanza River weir is expected to be operational this weekend.
Image at top: Chum salmon. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.