Lower Yukon kings arrive late
Running about five days behind schedule, the first wave of summer king salmon is beginning to show up in Alaska’s lower Yukon River.
Test nets operated by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) just outside of the western Alaska fishing village of Emmonak landed its first king on 10 June.
With the arrival of the fish, native subsistence fishermen are now able to begin their harvest. According to Jack Schultheis, general manager of Kwik’pak Fisheries, which distributes Yukon salmon, the late arrival won’t cause any problems for fishermen, other than backing things up.
“Sometimes when the fish come late they come in a very compressed run instead of over two or three weeks; the fish will more or less show up all at once,” said Schultheis. “Especially with kings, because they have to go so far to their spawning grounds, and they definitely have deadlines to be there.”
In addition, fishermen are reporting surprising good early catches of chum salmon. Most fishermen are also surprised with the number of chums showing up this early and say it indicates a really heavy run of summer chums over the next several weeks. In the Yukon, chums normally come in behind the kings. According to Schultheis, for approximately every 10 kings that come in, about two or three chums will follow.
“This year, we’re seeing a high volume of chums coming in at the same time with the kings,” said Schultheis. “One fishermen caught 137 chums and 40 kings, so that’s just an example of the kind of numbers coming in early.”