Yukon River In-Season Salmon Management Teleconference Summary#11

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 the11th 2021 Yukon River Salmon In-Season Management Teleconference held Tuesday, August 10, 2021. Call lasted 102 minutes. 67 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: Olivia Ebertz, KYUK

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

Communities participating:
Nunam Iqua
St. Mary’s
Pilot Station
Russian Mission

Yukon River Organization reports:

Elizabeth MacDonald – Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee Executive Director: We submitted recommendations this year on how to manage. In a confidential stage. They have asked fishers to NOT harvest this year except for cultural.
We have been getting requests for strategy sessions on what we can do to help our salmon. We will do some engagement on Pacific Salmon Strategy Engagement. Will have to sign off to work on this.
Covid in Whitehorse. Latest outbreak is getting better. US travelers can now enter the country. We still have to limit our group sizes. School is starting in 2 weeks and a lot of kids are not vaccinated.
Chinook are not doing well. Eagle lowest count to date. Less eggs in gravel than we need. Huge sacrifice by fishers is appreciated because it will improve the situation for salmon. Thank you so much for doing the right thing. Hope that in 4-6 years we see the benefits.

Management Reports:

Bonnie Borba – ADF&G Yukon River Area Research Biologist: Run size projection remains below 300,000. Average is usually 1 million. Age sex and length datat is collected. Age 4 is higher than average, which was not unexpected. The average length is 155mm which is smaller than normal. Female are 48%. At pilot, 58,000 chum have been counted. Coho at pilot is 1400. Average is usually 9700 by this date. All western chum salmon are weak. Many environmental changes are likely contributors to the decline in numbers.

Christy Gleason – ADF&G Yukon River Area Acting Fall Manager – Lower Yukon Test Fishery has been near zero. Weather does not look favorable this week. North winds Thursday switching to WSW later in the week. At the midpoint of the Fall Chum run with no signs of improvement. Last year was the lowest on record. For some perspective, 146,000 last week last year. Now we are at 60,000 chums. Less than ½ of what we saw last year.
We did see some coho.
For management we are still below the 300,000 threshold so fishing will remain closed.
Up through Grayling you can use hook and line for pink, chum and coho salmon but must release Chinook and chum immediately.
Upriver transitioning to Fall Season Management.
Please target NON Salmon species in your area.
If you have questions about gear, call our office at 949-1320. Or listen to recording 1-866-479-7387

Gerald Maschmann – US Fish & Wildlife Service Yukon River Area Assistant Manager-Nothing to add. Looking like another miserable fall chum year.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Oliver Baker – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Biologist: For Canada, I was going to focus on chinook. The first fall chum have not yet reached us. Nearly all the chinook across the border have arrived. Report on 7 projects. Well below historical average. Just over 10% of the long term average.
Klondike River sonar – Estimates closer to average.
Pelly River sonar – at 2/3s of long term average of 4,241 Chinook
Big Salmon River sonar – 1,584 fish. Average is 4,000. Much lower than average.
Middle Yukon in Carmacks- Still waiting for Chinook to arrive. Expect them this week.
78 -80 Chinook. Average is 266 so below average.
Whitehorse Fish Ladder – 80 fish, average is 150 fish.

Looking forward to the arrival of Fall chum salmon. Ready for them. Expect them to arrive in the next couple weeks. Environmental conditions – peak temps and on or way down to fall. Temp trend is now down. Expect cooler weather. Flood advisories have been lifted.

Jesse Trerice – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada: I wish I had better news from this end of the river. Canada is maintaining the actions that we’ve taken that all fishing is closed. On another note, over the next few years, the commercial fishery will be moving away from gill nets and using other things like fish wheels. That of course, when there is an opportunity for commercial fishing. This will be for a long term to increase the pacific salmon stock.

Community level reports:
Teslin: Carl – Nothing is going on, no one is fishing, water is dropping. Fish flown in from Taku River in Northern BC.

Whitehorse: Dennis – YRP Member, YSSC member. Nothing to report. A shame to hear those chum numbers coming in. Hearts go out.

Dawson: Carly Night, Trondike Gwitchen, the environmental manager. We are asking people not to fish. The water level is high and rising. Our sonar counted 831 salmon.

Sebastian Jones – I used to fish for salmon. I wanted to draw attention to another puzzle that has risen again. And that is the discrepancy between the pilot count and the eagle count. No one has fished, nothing outstanding between the two. I think it speaks loud and clear that we need more assessment. We cannot afford to be losing 10’s of thousands of fish along the way.

Districts 5a, b, c & d
Eagle: Ruby – We have cooler conditions in Eagle this week. It’s been in the 50s and 60s and it has been raining after a hot dry summer. The river is dropping. Below average for August. I spoke with one family that put in a 3” net this week. They caught a few small jack kings, ciscos and ?. The jacks were all 4-5 lbs and in good condition. Another family has a burbot line in but they have only caught one burbot. People are harvesting their gardens. People in Eagle thank the managers for protecting the salmon run even though they wish they had fish.

Beaver: Rochelle – not much to report other than the water is low. No one is fishing, boats are not on the water. It is really sad that our people are not continuing our way of life.

Rampart: Charlie – I know the river is low. I am in Fairbanks. I know some people are fishing with 4” nets. Nothing but local fish. Wanted to say something about a comment from that person in Dawson. 10s of thousands missing. Since the heat stress year, king salmon are changing their habitat. There have been many reports of king salmon going into different tributaries. The old Minook creek. It is 30 miles long. It has king salmon going in there thick. Headwaters I’ve seen moose hunting are crawling with baby kings. Small fish are being seen by the miners. I’ve heard of other tributaries with kings. They like to go into streams with glacier water. They want to follow colder water. They might be changing habits. I will get some genetic samples in the Minook valley anyway. If anyone else knows of this phenomenon, they should do that too so we can figure out if they are Canadian.

Deena – Thanks Charlie. That is interesting and we would like to see the samples. We were planning to fly and get arial samples, but the rain isn’t helping that. If people are noticing spawning in new areas, please let us know. We have other assessment projects going and they haven’t seen a lot of fish either.

Rapids: (Read by Catherine) Stan Zuray Rapids/Tanana: The water is slightly up but no drift. Still have 3 households in Rapids fishing for daily whitefish dog and people food. A few nets around Tanana doing the same. As bad as the king run is, the thing that is really incredible to many fishermen is the near total lack of chum salmon, both summer and now fall, in the river. All summer for instance my 4″ net has been in sometimes every day of the week or at least 2 days of the week. I have only caught 3 chum incidentally all season and others report the same. That is unheard of even for a 4″ net. Now that the summer run is over not a single spawning bed or summer chum was seen in the largest local spawning creek for the second complete season in a row where there should be a hundred at a time in many years right near the mouth where local people sport fish grayling. People still holding out hope to get some winter dog food after the end of the chum run in late fall.

District 4a-Upper Yukon
Koyukuk: Benedict – Nothing to report, river is calm and water is rising a little bit each day. We’ve been having rain the last two weeks.

Nulato: Arnold – Nothing to report. I don’t think anyone is fishing. Lot of rain, and water is dropping.

Anvik: Ken – No fishing going on here. I talked to Shageluk last week. They said no one was fishing there. No way to test how many kings were going by on the Innoko River. Water is coming up steadily every day.
-Question about Fall chum and coho. Missed first part of report on coho run. What is management going to be like?

Christy- ADF&G Fall Season Acting Manager – This year for the cholo run, it is still early. We are hoping to see some by next week. Last year they were late and low as well. We are predicting a below average to average run. Management will be similar to last year where we likely won’t see any gill net fishing for salmon. What we do have open for coho, pink and _ is hook and line. We will continue to watch the run and provide opportunities when we can.

Ken- Can you give me an idea of what streams are coho runs?

Christy – I do not have that on hand. Anadromous waters catalog. Or Radio Telemetry.

Bonnie – There are Coho in Anvik River, Kaltag Creek. Next year we are doing a coho telemetry project in the lower river. Right now we don’t have that much radio telemetry data.

Ken – Bonzillow river?
Bonnie – I don’t know off the top of my head. But like Christy said, we can look.

Christy – Our department is really excited about the Coho project next year. So we will have more reports on that in the next couple of years as well.

District 3- Lower Yukon
Russian Mission: Basil – The water is coming up or stopped dropping. There were sticks floating down the river and people pulled out their nets. We got our Bristol Bay salmon donation and it was dispersed through town. Everyone was happy to taste fish. I went 25 miles upstream to rod and reel for pikes. Not much luck. A lot of streams upriver from us, 4 of them, we can usually rod and reel and get a female humpy but we didn’t even see any fish. No smell of fish, no bears. Just a dead country. We have been rodding all year for dog food in those streams. We usually get enough pike and humpies to feed the dogs for a week or so with 3 or4 rods in a boat. But we haven’t been getting much fish this summer. My brother put a 4” net in front of town and got some big whitefish. Everyone is switching to the berries. We had a cold , wet summer and the berries are not as big or abundant. And there are a lot of bears around those berries after the low number of sih. They are taking over the berry spots. Moose hunting is open I think for Unit 18 I think a lot of people are going to try and get a moose. My brother did put his 4 in” net in. He pulled it out this morning and got enough dog feed for 3 or 4 days, all freshwater fish, no salmon, nothing.

District 2-Coastal/Lower Yukon
Marshall: Norma (Catherine read report)- Hello from Marshall, the start of the week has been cold, around the 50s, we also had a few warm days over the weekend. The water levels went down by 3 feet or so, but waters were still high and steady. Still no debris in the river. Berry picking is in full effect. Salmon Berries are still holding on. I found some good ones the other day. Blues are getting bigger but seem less than previous years, I think because of the shortage of bees during our cold summer.
I have not heard of anyone going dip netting yet. I know a family setting up a net enroute to their berry grounds and picking up the net on the way home. They were so happy for 2 white fish!
We have had a pod of whales, about 5, above Marshall near Ingiraq for about a month now. How much salmon can they eat in a day? They do have babies with them. If the ice starts flowing they may be in big trouble!
Seems like there are less cranes this year. Also less Moths. We have a new species around, flying ants! I have never heard or seen any in my life since last week!
David – I was wondering how we could get a copy of your proposal for area M fisheries?
Serena – I will be drafting up something for the executive committee for our meeting in October. Nothing will be available until it is approved after that meeting.

Pilot Station: Martin- Acknowledge and thank SeaShare and the Bristol Bay region for donating salmon to Pilot Station. Received 230 salmon/kings donated here. We were able to pass out one per household. The rest were divided by the whole. We were able to sustain our lifestyle/culture.

St. Marys: Bill – Not much to report. We’ve been getting a lot of rain. River is rising. I haven’t heard anything about the yukon and what the water situation is there. People have been setting 4” gear and fishing for white fish. My son came from Alakanuk, and he reported around 10 miles away that there were a lot of whales in that area. They were chasing fish. Likely salmon. Other than that everyone is out salmon picking. No active fishing going on. Just another summer day.

Coastal District 1-Lower Yukon
Emmonak: George – I had some questions for fish and game about how long they are going to keep the sonars running this year. It looks like the fish are really late, and I am wondering if they are going to take that into consideration when they think about their closing date.

Bonnie – Pilot station sonar has a one week extension till Sept 7, Eagle sonar stops on Oct 6 due to road closing. Chandalar /Sheenjik – normally operates late, spet bput I doubt they can go longer because of winter the 9/27th. I expect they will pull out on normal time which catches most of the fall chum.

Oliver – we have the same trouble with sonar in porcupine, the fish aren’t all the way through but the ice starts coming through so we have to close. The river stays open in ____? Because of the groundwater, that project stays open until the last week of October.

Bonnie – We will be able to see all the fish going into the Delta River and get a full count.

Alakanuk: Unidentified caller – I have a question about what Charlie was saying: we were taught a long time ago about the spawning grounds – that where they spawn that they usually go back there, but there is something different about that now. They are saying changes in the ecosystem, but I am wondering if there is a connection with the Atlantic salmon. Seems like something is happening but there needs to be a study like what is going on with the Kings and the cohos. It is strange that fish are going to new places unless there was testing from the Atlantic to the Bering Sea. Bristol Bay is doing really well and we thank them for sharing their fish. We’ve been having low tide. We’ve been catching humpies and pike and sheefish in the Bering Sea sloughs.

Deena- We haven’t seen any Atlantic Salmon in the YR. They look pretty different. We watch for them but we haven’t ever seen one in the Yukon. Salmon do go back to the same place they were born but they have been known to seek out new rivers, that is part of their evolutionary process to seek out new terrain. The Anadromous Waters Catalog documents where fish go and if there are new places, we would like to hear about that.

Allen – We went below _ mountain for salmon berry picking. We got what we needed for the year. I borrowed my cousin’s gear and I got 9 white fish and there are like 100 humpies back there. It’s “humpie-vill”. I’ve talked to my cousins in alukakuk and they’ve not been doing well. A big king salmon about a week ago tore right through his dip net and went up the river. It had a big white nose. It is late for them. Fishing is really slow. No signs of coho. It is very slow. We are just hoping that it will pick up next week.

Charlie- to Deena – She says there are salmon known to be in the Minook Creek. I have never seen (this many) kings there, like they are now. Especially in the last 4 years. There is a miner who has been out there for maybe 40 years and has never seen them like they are now. I look forward to seeing samples to see if they are Canadian Origin fish.

Nunam Iqua: Joseph (in Wasilla) – As of this date I have not yet heard anything from the federal delegation. I would like them to get involved in our interests on the Yukon and that includes the interception of bycatch that are heading to this area. That includes area M and false pass. That is where salmon thrive and grow to maturity. The troll fisheries need to be stopped. I believe that they are doing a lot of harm to the resource on the Yukon River.

Samuel – Sen. Sullivan’s Staff- I have been on these calls for well over a month now. To be honest, it is one of the most depressing calls that I participate in because of how dire the situation is. We are well aware of your situation and are trying to work on different avenues. We are trying to be careful and diligent. Obviously we don’t want to take any action that would harm federal fisheries. Also dealing with Canadian fisheries. We are aware but maybe slow in acting because we want to be diligent. Sorry if it is frustrating. Thank you for speaking out about your perspectives and solutions.

Joe- Thank you for your response.

Unidentified caller – Can someone repeat the most recent Eagle sonar passage number?
Deena – as of 08/09/21 – 26,972 chinook salmon at Eagle

Rochelle – any update for fish being disbursed up here from TCC?

Serena – An update that I received last week was that they should be getting a second load yesterday and should be getting them out soon. There will be a third load of fish out of Kodiak. That should be sent to the processors on August 16th.

Rochelle – I asked about some information a couple of weeks ago. I was asking about a chart about the organizations and entities within this management.

Christy – We did look into the request. We want to do a good job, but it will be developed post season and shared at meetings.

Serena- I also shared the NPFMC hierarchy and how they do things on their Council on our website and Facebook page.

Rochelle – Will there be more cohesion between in river and out of river management? Are there any efforts being made?

Serena – Currently TCC and YRDFA are working on creating a partnership. We will make an announcement on creating a team of Alaksan Advocates to learn about ocean activities and NPFMC and possibly attend their meetings in October.

Rochelle- Are you going to send that out via email?
Serena – Yes, once we hear back and things are finalized, we will make that announcement.

Martin – Sitting here today listening – I wanted to ask about the Canadians not being asked to fish. I know at this lower end we had wild land troopers flying around enforcing. People here are easily intimidated here because they don’t want to lose gear. I wanted to ask what kind of enforcement happens up there because I know they’ve been “asked” not to fish.

YSSC or DFO – Jesse – Please repeat the question.

Martin- I heard Shelly and someone saying, People are asked not to fish. When I made my statement about Federal Wildlife enforcing our closures. What kind of enforcement do you have in Canada?

Jesse- DFO – In Canada we have conservation and protection officers. Fisheries officers. With fisheries, DFO manages commercial and recreational fisheries. We work closely with First nation fisheries. They are also involved in the management processes and they feed into the recommendations. When it comes to enforcement. The Yukon First Nations manage their own fisheries. They are small communities. If they require assistance, DFO will provide it. As far as protocols on the river, there are protocols, there have been this season. It is not known when it will happen with boats and planes. We will learn of the outcomes of that later. There are mechanisms. If there are any First nations on the call now, please speak up. Especially at the upper end of the river, they have had moratoriums, for quite a number of years after seeing the run depleting for years. There is a lot of pressure here to not harvest because of what has been observed on the land with the low salmon runs.

Serena – For Rochelle: Brooks woods said delivery happened this morning, please contact your tribal office.

—–Call ended at 2:42pm—–

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