09yukonfish 9/9/9 donaldson
Fishermen in Western Alaska, suffering by bad runs and limited availability to King and Chum salmon this year, have finally gotten a chance to make some money for their winter needs. But it isn’t much.
John Hilsinger, the director of commercial fisheries for the Department of Fish and Game, says during a six-hour Coho opening in the Yukon delta on Sunday, forty eight boats caught only four hundred Coho and a hundred Fall Chum. He says the short opening was to determine what the harvest of both species would be.
#09yukonfish1 :26 We are likely somewhat below the low end of the escapement goal range on fall chums, and so we’ve timed these openings after the vast majority of fall chums have gone through the District Y-1 where the opening was. And so we wanted to be sure still though that we did not have a real large fall chum catch.
He says the harvest results were about what biologists expected for that short an opening. An opening yesterday (Tuesday) was much better, though, when thirty boats took part in a nine-hour opening. Hilsinger says they brought in twelve hundred seventy three coho and six hundred eighty chum. He says the coho numbers were at the high end of predictions, but the chum were much higher than anticipated.
#09yukonfish2 :15 We are still concerned about the fall chum escapements and so we were trying to get this in at a time when most of the fall chum run was past and we would have relatively low fall chum catches.
He says there are no openings today and tomorrow (Thursday), but other openings will likely take place – possibly as soon as Friday. They will be determined on a day to day basis.
The current shortages are the result of an unexplained weak return of chum. He says the total return this year has been about three hundred thousand fish, but the system needs at least that just for spawning. Subsistence harvests have taken the return below the minimum. He expects the Coho run will be average –or above average — lasting the rest of the month. Whether fishermen will take advantage of the later openings will depend on the availability of the fish processor, the cost of boat operations – and catch rates of later openings.