Yukon River In-season Salmon Management Teleconference #14

PO Box 2898 Palmer, AK 99645
Tel: 907-272-3141 Toll free: 877-999-8566
Fax: 907-272-3142 E-mail:

Greetings from the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association!
Here is a summary of the 14th 2021 Yukon River Salmon In-Season Management Teleconference held Tuesday, August 31, 2021. Call lasted 64minutes. 44 callers participated.

Background: Yukon River salmon management teleconferences are held annually every Tuesday in June, July, and August for managers and fishers throughout the Yukon River drainage to discuss fishing conditions and management strategies in real time as the salmon run is occurring. Funded by the Office of Subsistence Management and the Yukon River Panel.

Media present: None

Political Representatives participating: Samuel from Senator Sullivan’s office.

Communities participating:
Pilot Station
Russian Mission

Yukon River Organization reports:

Elizabeth MacDonald – Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee Executive Director: The Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee (YSSC) is an advisory body created under the land claims process in the Yukon. This process resulted in Final Agreements established First Nations as governments akin to the territorial government and cemented YSSC’s mandate as “the main instrument of Salmon management in the Yukon”.

For the Educational Exchange, we went to see the Fox Creek video monitoring weir. Ta’an Kwach’an Council has been reintroducing Chinook to this location, monitoring fry and completed some habitat improvements as well. With the low Chinook numbers over the last 2 to 3 years, they haven’t been able to release any fry due to low brood stock (adults) but are continuing to monitor adult Chinook entering the system. The video weir takes a short video of anything that goes through, which allows the staff to count any salmon. So far they have seen about 10 Chinook. This is the 1 st full year of monitoring. If you want to see what this looks like, check out our Facebook page or twitter.

I am sorry I couldn’t make it for the last call of the year. But while the adult Chinook are here, I have to get out as much as I can. I would like to thank YRDFA for changing the format of the call this year to allow us to share Yukon territory updates and hear of all the sacrifices that Alaska has made this year trying to ensure that enough salmon reach their spawning locations so that we can get enough eggs in the gravel for future returns of salmon. Thank you all and I look forward to the calls next year.

Management Reports:

Bonnie Borba – ADF&G Yukon River Area Research Biologist: Yukon Area Fall season research biologist, in Fairbanks. Fall chum salmon at lytf and mnt Aug 30- well below averages. Aug 23rd – age 4 represents 87% compared to 66% for state. Age 5 are 11% compared to 31%. Length slightly increased but still below historical average. 51% female, average is 58%. 131,000 chum salmon well below 708,000 fish for this date 85,000 fish after genetic stock. Compared to 174,000 at this time last year. Run more than ¾ completed. Send stratum will be analyzed mid sept. Average more than 95% are fall chum at this point. 95,000 to this date. Average run size is 1 mil.

Coho for LYTF and Mnt – aug 30 also below average, cumulative 24,000 8/30. Compared to 125,000 for this date. ¾ completed. Average run size 240,000. Last year coho was lowest. Latest run timing 2020. Previous low was 1995.

Christy Gleason – ADF&G Yukon River Area Fall Manager – Acting fall season manager, in Emmonak. Catches at LYTF has been near zero each day. With the season nearing end, no indication of groups of salmon coming in to make up for poor salmon run. LY assessment projects. Fall chum and coho have been extremely low. Body size both have been smallest we have ever seen. Few changes to non salmon gear and fishing schedule to protect salmon migrating upriver. Entire YR has been placed on reduced schedule. Vary by district. This action taken because both fall chum and coho are so poor and their small body size makes them at risk for being caught in 4” nets. Important to provide protection for salmon to reach their spawning grounds. Want to provide opportunities for non-salmon, especially in fall. Another change to sub fishing schedule, discontinuing dip net for coho, sockeye,….. Sockeye and king runs are finished. Opened manned fish wheel during daylight hours daily. Salmon must be released alive. Other gear open 7/7. Call hotline 1-866-479-7387

Gerald Maschmann – US Fish & Wildlife Service Yukon River Area Assistant Manager-I don’t have anything to add. The Chandalar project has been operational since Aug 22 and should continue to assess the salmon through the end of September. It is still very early for that project.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Oliver Baker – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Biologist: Senior stock assessment biologist, in Dawson, headed to Fishing Branch. Chinook – all canadian origin chinook headed to canada are in canada now. Still waiting for chum but they are not here yet. Some chum have crossed the border on the porcupine. They are counting chum now in Old Crow. 410 was the total count of Chinook on Porcupine. Very low. Sonar near Dawson, finished on Aug 13 with 831 Chinook. Stronger showing than some other Tribes. Pelly river sonar, finished their season 8/25. Preliminary 4308 Chinook, low. Big Salmon had an estimate of 1900 fish. Well below the long term average of 5,000. Central Yukon, Chinook returning, pilot year, total passage estimate will be provided postseason. Takini River 189 chinook, average 1,300 by this date. Whitehorse fish ladder 261 fish as of yesterday, average just over 1,000.
Fall chum – Porcupine Sonar – 184 chum, early in the season here. Anticipate low return. Fishing Branch – on the ground tomorrow.
Water levels within season averages.
Air temps have stayed cool. All is combining for better conditions for migrating and spawning salmon.

Jesse Trerice – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Sunny whitehorse! My update has not changed from last week. All fishing will remain closed for the season. Some salmon are traveling up the river, but we will remain closed.

Community level reports:

Districts 6a, b & c
Nenana: Victor – Lots of hunters moving around. Thanks to Sullivan’s aide. Our subsistence fish has priority for all other uses on the river. But it is only managed 3 miles out the coastline. We need more money to manage it out there. Where they go. First it affected our commercial but now it is affecting our subsistence. I believe Senator Sullivan is on the commerce committee. Hate to bother him but would surely appreciate his help.

Sam – Thanks Victor for the comments. Being on the call for several weeks now, it is something that we certainly recognize. I think the problem is that there aren’t any fish, and we are exploring ways to find out the reasons. But thank you for the comments.

Districts 5a, b, c & d
Beaver: Rochelle – I don’t have any questions or comments. I just wanted to give a thanks to everyone that calls in every week. Sending care to everyone. I know it was a harsh year for the fisheries. I hope your family is blessed with some protein this fall.

Jeffery – at 5C bridge crossing. We haven’t seen much river traffic. We’ve seen frost. Most people are going down the Yukon and up the Koyukuk. These are all big game hunters. They’ve been coming in the last couple of days. I think it is a good conversation to have about food security and how big game affects fish directly.

District 3- Lower Yukon
Russian Mission: Basil – (sent in report) Water is coming up. No fishing – everyone worried about the 4” net freshwater fish fishing being cut off. Puts more on our shoulders because we have been substituting fresh water fish for salmon and we use whitefish for our favorite snack akutaq – (Agoo-tak) – and dog mushers need fresh water fish for feed too so if you can ease off that because NO ONE IS AFTER SALMON and no one wants the salmon back more than the good folk along the Yukon. We are just trying to eat, how about allow us to set a 4” net a mile or so inside the mouth of a creek off the main stem so we will get fresh food. Everyone is berry picking, bird hunting and moose hunting. It’s getting colder now and I hope next year is better.

District 2-Coastal/Lower Yukon
Marshall: Norma – water went down, steady this went but went up a foot. Haven’t seen anyone dip netting. I’ve seen families berry picking and moose hunting.

Jaylene Fitka – Showing appreciation for Victor’s comments for a priority for subsistence on the river. Also for Basil’s comments about the 4” nets. It’s already hard to keep up with dog food, restricting us to 2 48 hour periods is really going to affect the dog mushing communities. Wondering if managers have considered that there is a drastic decline in dog mushers along the river in the last 20 year.s They rely heavily on on predator fishers such as pike. If dog musher decline there will be an increase in predatory fishes. Is there a correlation. Put more pressure on the trawling industry. We are doing our part but the trawling industry is still continuing to fish. I know that it has been said that they are not the cause but it still has an effect. Can ADFG reconsider the 4” or small mesh and at least allow us to fish in the creeks for the freshwater fish for the dog mushing community?

Christy – We know that the reduced 4” schedule would be a hardship on fishermen, especially the mushers providing dog food. We know people are going after white fish for their traditional food. We put the whole drainage on a reduced schedule, and we didn’t take that decision lightly. We have to leave these restrictions in place with the low runs. The salmon are the smallest and the numbers of females are the lowest we’ve seen. For those reasons we need to leave the restrictions in place for 4”. We’ve tried to give you other options like the manned wheel. We know that these restrictions are hard and we hope to lift them at the end of September when the fall salmon runs are complete.

Bonnie- we do keep track of dog mushers and know that there are less today. We do not have information about how many non-salmon they use. This could be one of the problems but we have no data to prove or show the correlation. Good theory and probably part of the environmental change. Please keep reporting observations.
Serena – we did get a pot of funding to host some calls next month. We know it is hunting season, but we felt that it is important to provide the information and training before the NPFMC meetings. We highly encourage you to participate. We have former advisory panel members who will be giving their perspectives and other people giving presentations on structures and advisors to help put together testimony. Please email me if you are interested in participating. It is open to anyone.
Victor – Complement the girl talking about dog teams. Dog teams are very traditional and customary up and down the Yukon. We used to use one to get to the fish camp and back. Made me a better person for taking care of those dogs. We need to take care of them in case anything bad happens again like our gas prices get so high. I never thought we would get to this place with our salmon. We are all sovern tribal governments. It’s hard to watch your culture die in front of you. That’s why I go so far as to ask the other government, the US gov’t, for help.

Pilot Station: Martin – Shout out to Serena and YRDFA for hosting these meetings this season. It has been really tough. Thank you for all the comments up and down the river.

Coastal District 1-Lower Yukon
Alakanuk: Gabriel -Since we are having a bad year, I think we need to really push to fund our fisherman and subsistence users. Everyone is saying it is getting worse and the funding is less. There are so many things that they are pointing fingers at. It is really hurting our subsistence lifestyle. We should be really pushing on funding for our communities.

—- Call ended at 2:04 —-

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