Yukon River In-season Salmon Management Teleconference #8

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 8th 2021 Yukon River Salmon In-Season Management Teleconference held Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Call lasted 128 minutes. 77 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: KZPA Fort Yukon

Political Representatives participating: Samuel from Senator Sullivan’s office and Jamie O’Connor from Senator Murkowski’s office.

Communities participating:
Nunam Iqua
Pilot Station
Russian Mission
Manley Hot Springs
Old Crow

My name is Jeff Estensen, ADF&G Yukon River Area Fall Season Manager. Just want to let folks know that I will be moving on to a new position as Regional Supervisor Region 3 in the Fairbanks office. It has been a pleasure to serve as the Fall Season Manager. To learn a lot, visit communities, teleconferences. Bittersweet. I will miss everyone. Looking forward to my new challenges. I will be in Region 3 Sport Fish, which Yukon River is part of the Region. So I will still be in the area. Wish my departure could be under better conditions. I know the last 2 seasons have been hard. I hope that everyone working together can get us through it. Good luck, godspeed.

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 and 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”. Two of our main duties is making recommendations to governments (Federal, First Nation and Territorial) on salmon and salmon habitats with the Yukon territory and making the majority of the Canadian section of the Yukon River Panel. We just submitted our annual fishery recommendations to the Minister of DFO and First Nation Governments. These recommendations will be considered by governments when forming their salmon management plans.

We received a response from the DFO Minister on our annual recommendations this year. I suspect YSSC will want to respond to the Minister’s letter, and as such the confidentiality clause will continue to apply. YSSC is meeting this week for a regular in-season board meeting and will discuss this then.

Until then, YSSC’s press release asking fishers to plan on no harvest this year. Exception for community ceremonial/cultural purposes.

Otherwise continuing with our regular outreach and educational activities, like the Educational Exchange. As we can with the limits from COVID.

Management Reports:

Deena Jallen – ADF&G Yukon River Summer Season Manager – We are nearing the end of the summer season assessment projects.

Fred West- ADF&G Yukon River Area Research Biologist– At least or over 95% of Chinook run in the lower river. The Chinook run is near the lower end of the forecast range and 4th smallest since 1995. Drainage wide run is so small that escapement goals may not be met in many tributaries. The counts across the drainage are all below average. That is for Chinook.
For Eagle, I’m assuming normal timing, mid point July 25th. May have enough to evaluate the run for border objectives. Still have more info to collect to know if we will meet borger objectives.
Summer chum- cumulative 160,000 less than. Lowest on record. Still passing sonar, transitioning into fall season. All fish counting now will be assumed fall chum. Very likely not to meet lower end of escapement goals for summer chum.
LYTF has concluded for the summer season. Transition to fall season so we are using a different mesh size.
Sonar at Pilot – counts are just over 123,000 Chinook, 153,000 final count for summer chum. Both below average. Starting yesterday, we started fall season.
You can find specific numbers on our weekly update. All projects are below average for both Chinook and summer chum.
Eagle sonar- cumulative passage just over 8,000 fish. The average for this day is 17,000 so below average for that.
Stock ID info – nothing new from prior samples. Chinook aged 6 and 7 are above average. Average size is similar to last 10 year average size. 741 mm is this year’s size.

Deena Jallen – ADF&G Yukon River Summer Season Manager – low we have conservation concerns for Chinook and summer chum. Onto later into the month we have aerial surveys we hope the fish will have a chance to spawn.

Holly Carroll – US Fish & Wildlife Service Yukon River Area Manager-I don’t have anything to add. I just want to thank Jeff. I also want to say that Christy has been doing great as the assistant manager, so I just want to say thank you for your hard work.

Bonnie Borba – ADF&G Yukon River Area Research Biologist: I am the Fall season research biologist. Update on assessment. Summer chum record low, less than 160,000 compared to average 2.1 million. Important because we use summer chum to predict fall chum.
Using inseason assessment data to determine if run will improve. Mountain Village Test Fishery began July 18. Yesterday was the start of the fall season. Breakup occurred during a period when a group of fish was going through. Mid point Aug 10. Will be looking at this date to make projections. Summer chum genetic samples are on their way to the lab. Results by next week’s teleconference. Weakness of salmon runs are not just in the Yukon River. Also Kuskokwim and Norton sound. Expect many environmental factors are affecting this.

Christy Gleason – ADF&G Yukon River Area Fall Manager – I am in Emmonak at the mouth of the Yukon and just like everyone else I’d like to say thanks to Jeff Estensen for the last 6 seasons. He’s been a great mentor.

In Emmonak, the weather is in the mid 50 degrees, rain and wind. Cooler weather. Water temps below average. Fall chum enter in distinct pulses. Learned from LTK that west/southwest winds help push pulses of fall chum salmon into the mouth of the Yukon river. Forecasts are calling for W/SW wind through Thursday. The LYTF here in Emmonak switched to counting fall chum July 16. Since then we have only caught 2-3 fall chum per day in our drift nets. Today only zero. 2021 fall chum salmon projection is critically low. Below 300,00 threshold. Chum salmon runs in Western Alaska salmon are also performing poorly. We understand the importance of salmon to all of you on the call today. We understand the extreme hardship that people are experiencing. The salmon closures, to start the fall season, we need to be closed.
Currently fishing schedules – Coastal district and District 1 and 2 switched to fall season and remain closed. District 3 will switch over tomorrow. During these closures you can use 4” nets. District 4- watch for an announcement to transition over to fall season management. Remaining districts will transition once the fall chum reach your area. Plan for continued fishing closures. We will monitor and provide updates on this teleconference. Please call 949-1320 Emmonak office to clarify fishing gear etc.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Vesta Maker – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Biologist: Stock assessment- As Chinook make their way to the border, some projects. Porcupine sonar – DJFO and Gwich’en govt. Klondike river sonar by Dawson running since July 1 – close to historical average. Pelly river sonar since July 1 – 773 chinook since July 18. Big Salmon river sonar running since July 12. Too early to meaningfully compare. Projects that are under construction – new project – weir and video project. Should be ready by next week. Takini river sonar – will be installed this weekend.
Environmental conditions – high water in headwaters peaked with most snow load now melted. Water levels dropping. Some lakes still above average. Normal levels expected by the time run arrives.

Jesse Trerice – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Congrats to Jeff (tells story about changing a tire on quad). Wishing you the best. On the Canadian Fishery management front: the plan has been finalized with focus on enough numbers of salmon meet spawning grounds. The goal is to sustain future returns. The information that we hae now does not indicate that there will be a harvestable share in Canada. Salmon Fishing will remain closed.

Eva Patton, Coordinator for the Federal Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Advisory Council – Good afternoon. Thank you and to everyone all along the river for listening in and what a challenging season. I wanted to respond to questions about how to submit a special action request and to provide information about how to submit.
Special requests take place outside of the regular cycle. Change of season or method of request for special priority for subsistence users. For reasons that may not have been possible to anticipate. Board may expand the harvest limit if the resources are available. Have to consider the viability of wildlife. They look into the request to see if there will be impacts. Most were wondering about opportunities to harvest extra moose or caribou to replace salmon. Process is simple. Handwritten or email. 1) Name and address and if you are representing an organization. 2) Describe the action you wish, reference the regulation you want to change or your unit. Continuation of subsistence uses. 3) Provide the info about resources or needs. I.e. 50 villages have not been able to fish for salmon. This could not have been anticipated.
If it is an emergency request – short term turnaround, there may not be a public hearing. Recommend that since all communities are facing the same circumstances, anyone can submit on behalf of all the communities. Simple as hand written, faxed or email
fax : 907-786-3898
Information about how to apply. Posted on YRDFA Facebook page or website. Also on our website. I can help with the region and get you in touch with who you need to talk to. Vince Mathews is also available to help with the upper Yukon area. My cell 907-444-4851. Happy to help.
There is a designated hunter permit option under the federal hunter system. Similar to state proxy hunt. Anyone who is a federally qualified federal subsistence hunter can designated another federally qualified hunter to hunt for them. The designated hunter can have 2 in possession. There is a permit process and both hunters need to have permits. Federal lands require hunter permit. Communities or families could organize around helping others who are not able to hunt themselves.

Community level reports:
Coastal District 1-Lower Yukon
Chevak: John – Good afternoon everyone. I want to make a comment on my 30 year of fishing in western Alaska. Historically we have low numbers of chum and Chinook. thanks to Covid-19 all major places we closed like major offices. No one was working in the United states. It was one of the highest years, I think they need more workers counting. They should have the same mindset as ours, conserving salmon to spawn. I want to hear more about the low numbers.
Deena – John are you interested in more numbers from the escapement projects.
John – Looking back at my years of subsistence fishing. Businesses closed due to Covid including fisheries in high seas – affect on me was better fishing. But now numbers are dwindling
Victor – thanks John for his views.

Nunam Iqua: Joseph – I don’t have too much but stories I heard while in Nunam Iqua, pertaining to pikes. Acquisition of blackfish places, where people go to get blackfish for winter supplement fish. I hear a lot of stores, people saying when they go out to set blackfish traps, they catch nothing but pike. That tells me that they eliminated a lot of the ‘normal’ fish that they catch to eat. Is there something that can be done about the pike? They are voracious eaters. ADFG?
Deena – What to do about the abundance of pike in your area?
Joseph – yes, in my area there are a lot of pike in our blackfish places. I think the pike are also abundant in the areas where the salmon spawn. What can ADFG to protect the spawning grounds from the pike?
Deena – That gets beyond what we manage. We don’t have a predator management program for non-salmon. I suggest you and your neighbors target that species. They are not invasive species but naturally occurring. Target them and take them out on your own.
Joseph – I heard that the Northern pike species have been targeted to be eliminated in some lakes. My main question for discussion for today is the trawlers out in the high seas. The NPFMC would have the trawlers change gear. I am also interested in the special action request aimed at salmon being intercepted by the trawlers as they fish for pollock. Fishermen out in the Yukon River have been mandated to change gear to catch salmon and we have got it down to where we cannot get very many salmon for subsistence catches. My idea is to eliminate interception of this
My other idea is to have YRDFA operate sonars on tributaries and have locals operate them. And back to the High seas they need to change gears and alternate days.
Deena – There are pike elimination or eradication that take place around Anchorage because they were introduced there. Pollock fishers did operate last year but it was modified.

Alakanuk: John – Few reports of people getting humpies and putting them up to supplement like I have. I have a question for subsistence, or whoever spoke earlier. Who is designated as fishers? Like designated hunters. It’s too late to do anything for the kings or people who need them? Is there a designated fisher for each village?
Eva- Because the salmon fishery is currently closed, there is not a way for someone else to harvest for someone else.

Emmonak: Billy – Just announcing my presence here.

District 2-Coastal/Lower Yukon
Pilot Station: Cynthia – I don’t think it’s a little too late if…. We need… Everyone’s fish racks are empty. It would be nice if they opened subsistence at least to get some fish to dry and put away, even for just a day. I’m sure they have had fish pass the sonar. It’d be nice to get just enough fish to put away. I feel for our kids that are going to be… they are the ones that are always wanting to eat. The store bought food, we got hungry after we ate that. I wish they would let us fish at least one time.
Christy – Just wanted to responds and say, we are listening to you, we hear your concerns. I know it is going to be a hard year if we don’t have any salmon fishing open. It surprised us that we are having such a low run. We thought last year was the bad year. But we are leaving the 4” nets open so people can target non-salmon species. Whitefish are moving around a bit. Pike might be good but salmon counts are so low we cannot even open for one day.
Cynthia – a lot of people around here do not have a 4” net. Can you allow a 5.5 or another size that we have?
Christy – I do hear you, the reason we cannot allow anything larger than a 4” is because it will target salmon. I know a lot of people don’t have 4”. I am happy to talk to you after this call about what gear people can use. I’ve been to Pilot, I worked there. I know people fish around there (named a few places) for pikes and some other places.
Christy – 907-949-1320

Marshall: Norma – The start of the week was cold, around 50 degrees. We had a few warm days over the weekend. It was warmer over the weekend. Hardly any mosquitos but the gnats are out. No one has been fishing since the closure. Some are rod and reeling. Some are picking berries. Someone reported catching a red salmon in their whitefish net in the slough. Families are starting other subsistence activities. Salmon berries are ready to pick. We are having a funeral today and one last week. Mike Peter’s wife passed away. He is our board member for Marshall. Did anyone request salmon fishing for the funeral in Marshall today?
Victor – Can I give my report? At a fish camp, cultural camp.
Richell – Condolences to Peter’s family. Don’t know who would answer that?
Deena- Norma call me 459-7309

District 3-Coastal/Lower Yukon
Russian Mission: Basil – The water is dropping steadily still. We have a couple not rainy days. Went checking for berries and not much yet. Effort in looking for other subsistence foods. There were 4 nets in town all year and two guys pulled out because they got enough whitefish and the humpies came in and they don’t have dogs to feed them. Mike Peter’s and his wife and family were in our prayers. We went down to see them this past weekend. There was a death here too, a little boy and we are still waiting for his body to come. Not much fishing activity. There were some guys who went out to Tuckers Slough and they got a bunch of pike.
Tanya – Earlier there was a question to ADFG from Nunam Iqua. Asking if they could change the net size to the trawlers.
Deena – Not the best person to address that. That is not a fishery that we manage. That is the NPFMC. They have their own council and process. They have really different gear.
Tanya- Who controls their openings? ADFG should be matched with them because whatever they do out there affects us. We can’t even fish now. We are used to being able to fish. Everyone’s racks are empty. We need that food for the winter.

Ernest Eric – From Venetie, is it possible that the village report could go backwards. The tribe has a lot of concern over what is happening today. Salmon development, bycatch. And we don’t have much say so but we are a tribe in the Northern part of Alaska. I’m sorry that there is no fish in the Yukon. This 100% out in the Ocean they should at least give us half. You guys need to work on this. The people out in the big fish industry, I don’t think they worry about subsistence. This is the first time that I have been on a fish report. It’s not very good. Fish industry and subsistence users need to be equal share.

District 4a-Upper Yukon
Anvik: Ken – Questions – The guy talked about pink salmon, where are they and what kind of strength does the run have?
Christy – On the Yukon we have an odd/ even cycle. The even years tend to be larger. Odd years are about 10,000 pink salmon. So far 2,500 pink salmon past the sonar.
Ken – Where is the run?
Basil – there have been 4 nets out in front of RM and the humpies showed up or the beginning of the run showed up. The guys had to pull their nets because they were getting too many.
Ken – interested because the Anvik River gets a large amount of pinks and there was nothing. Historic and traditional. I had a conversation with Joe Redington Jr years ago. He told me when those pinks come in those side channels, it wipes out the chum salmon.
Bonnie – follow up. What Christy said, we are at the 25% mark. They will be most of the way through the ¾ mark at the end of July.
Ken – What is the highest part of the river they go to?
Bonnie – Anvik. Maybe Galena. They are small fish and they don’t have a lot of energy reserves and they can’t get much higher in the system than the Anvik river?

Ken – When does the restriction lift for fall chum?

Christy – For fall chum, we are pretty early in the game? Too early to speculate when we would open up fall chum fishing. We will see how the season goes and we will keep everyone informed.
Ken – There will be a window for people to catch big sheefish before they are all gone and before it gets too cold. Would you open after the fall chums are past? Wants to use 7.5 to let small fish through but we could catch sheefish.
Christy- nice thinking outside the box. Thanks for those comments. Lets continue this conversation and see how the fall chum roll in.

Koyukuk: Benedict Jones – Nothing to report. First time in history that summer chum is low. Another thing is the whitefish and sheefish. They got off the river to the sloughs. The sloughs are 10 miles away and we don’t want to burn that much gas just to get whitefish. And there’s a lot of pikes.

Districts 5a, b, c & d
Rapids: Stan Zuray
Water continues down slowly – no drift at all. Humpback whitefish continue to migrate in okay numbers so fishermen have only to fish a couple days to feed dogs and get some people food.
Usually only a net or two in water at any time in the whole Rapids area. Only three camps open now in Rapids and 1 or 2 in those camps only. Not a single chum salmon or spawning bed seen in any of the local small creeks yet, where often there are hundreds seen. I keep asking everyone to keep an eye out for any.

Eagle: Ruby – Very dry conditions. Temps in the high 80s. Very little rain all summer. River dropping every day, near normal levels. Very little drift. Not many boats in the river and public boat ramp is very quiet. No one is fishing, not even for non salmon species. Very few families have a 4” net. People are picking raspberries. Many are very concerned about fall chum. Also concerned about increased pressure on the 40 mile caribou herd. Wish the best of Jeff.

Districts 6a, b & c
Manley Hot Springs: Ray Woods – I was just wondering about the Tanana River. Is there any fish or are fish coming to our area? Is there any way of knowing. I usually fish just below Manley and I am the first fisherman in this area. Usually there are a few nets. I usually put in a fish wheel, mostly for the community. It is a community fish wheel that I put in for me and my dogs and my family. Would that be possible to do for a few days to provide for the people in my area. I need you guys to figure out something. Communicate with those guys out in the ocean. This is really taking a big effect on us. We did everything that you asked us to do. We did our part, please do your part.
Deena – similar to Yukon, we have concerns about stocks on Tanana River stocks. Counts are below average. And that is why salmon fishing is closed on Tanana River.
Ray – What about the other two rivers – the Kantishna and the Tolovana?
Deena – We do not have inseason counts on them but the other systems are so low we are thinking that they are low too.

Nenana: Victor – Heard there was 6 fish from test fishery. Thank you. I am at a cultural camp. All these kids are watching the Elders cutting them up. Please someone text me Eva’s phone number.
Eva – Hi Victor, I will give you a call.

Joe Afcan – for YRDFA advice- continue to seek and acquire a voting seat on NPFMC. Get two or three because we are the most affected fishery in the state of Alaska.
John Lamont – Alakanuk – Deena just answered the Tanana use question. So the personal use at the Richardson Bridge is closed this year/
Deena – The personal use area is near Fairbanks. There is a subsistence use area near the Yukon River. Personal use salmon fishing is closed.
Martin – Pilot Station – Condolences to family of Mike Peters and John Elia in St. Marys, and good wishes to Jeff Estensen. Hoping that Gov’s aides are online.
Our entire subsistence salmon season has been closed since management began in early June. We declared a subsistence disaster 3 weeks ago. Process to support subsistence families should have already been in action. The cost of living in Pilot Station. We are governed by state, federal law and Yukon River Salmon agreement. Processes to compensate our families should have been started as soon as we couldn’t fish. What is compensation? Food or money. If money it should be no less than $600 per subsistence user per month. I’d like to declare a second disaster. There is no alternative to replace salmon.

Samuel – Sullivan’s office- Good point of why staffers are on the call. It is heartbreaking for all of us to know what is happening to the fishers. To hear various solutions such as you mentioned. Also want to give condolences and thanks to Jeff. Stress and give thanks to everyone who provides suggestions and feedback. Staff is listening and learning.

Old Crow: Stanley Sr. – I’m at the cabin and I’m standing on a roof. It is + 27 celsius. I am getting service, one bar. Got a couple whitefish today. And they seem to be in good shape. Last week we were fighting fire here. We managed to get it out. There is a fire nearby. The water is low and stable. You could walk across the river, it is low in places. It is getting warmer. That is going to cause some stress.
No one really fishes. Waiting for later on to see if they can catch any fish coming out around here. Let’s conserve salmon stocks and see what we can do about having some salmon further down the road.

Oliver – Hi Stanley, here are the numbers from the porcupine sonar 240 Chinook July 18, below historical 1,400. Considerably below average.

Whitehorse: Elizabeth – The water seems to be coming down most places. Luckily that means most people can stop sandbagging and look at clean up. It has potential to come up again. There has been a lot of big trees going down. I’ve never seen it like this before. No fishing, no Chinook yet but expecting them shortly. No fish and not expecting to fish this year. My friend, her first nation is asking people not to fish and this is the first time that has happened. We are hoping to meet spawning escapement goals so we have salmon in 3 years or so.
Dennis Zimmermann- Couple thoughts. Been listening last couple weeks. Thanks to agencies in AK and Canada. Thank you to Jeff. Yukon River Panel, we have a restoration and enhancement fund. Looking at size of mesh, culture camps. This might be the adaptation we need to survive the fact that these runs are so low. Encourage communities, YRDFA, YSSC to think about how to frame a project to support Canadian Origin Chinook. Support they need is to lay off them. There is money to support that.

John – Reason participation is so low, everyone knows we’ve been closed and they are depressed. I lost my train of though when I was listening to the sonar numbers. I sure hope our numbers are accurate. I have heard of requests for sonars on the terminal rivers.

George – Lower Yukon fisherman –

John – Think I heard that we are not allowed to target any salmon. can we target pinks?

Christie – Salmon fishing is closed but you may catch pink salmon in your 4” nets. You may keep them. If yo uare interested in targeting pink salmon with rod and reel, please call me at the the emmonak office.

John – Chevak -What was designated hunting and fishing permit? Eva? I need the phone number.

Eva – You can call me 907-444-4851 my cell phone.

——call ended at 3:07pm——

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