Greetings from the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association!
Here is a summary of the 2nd 2021 Yukon River Salmon In-Season Management Teleconference held Tuesday, June 8th, 2021. Call lasted 130 minutes. 72 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: None
Communities participating: 20
COMMUNITY LEVEL REPORTS
Coastal District 1-Lower Yukon
Joe Afcan – High tides, we were not able to get too many fish, but before June we were able to pull out 26 Kings. More Jacks than anything else. They were not Canadian bound. There had been a lot of dirt and trash coming down the river. We spent a lot of time cleaning out the nets.
Lorraine- They haven’t caught any fish yet here. There were a number of people that tried before the closure. Water is pretty high. They really hope to get fish up here. Last year people didn’t catch many kings or chums.
Allen Hansen – We had a report yesterday that the Kings are swimming up past our villages on the lower end of the Yukon River. Fish and Game caught 79 Kings in the morning. They brought some to the elders here in Alakanuk. We have heavy foam on the water, which is a good indication that the fish are passing by. The water is high and murky. It has been cold the last few weeks. I have not seen any fish in smoke houses. I have not been out fishing yet. Hopefully within the week. Not very many people in Alakanuk have 4” gear. There are some dip nets, but no one has been able to do much fishing. They are waiting for the midpoint, June 24. Not many chum that I know of are caught.
Pam Cook – I’ve gotten several calls on this situation. They were wondering if they can use dip nets with this closure?
John Lamont – I was able to fish before the closure and I caught 1 King on May 31 and 2 Kings June 1 and shared with elders and others in the community. Water is high and the eddies are good. No sandbars. Other than that we are not allowed to fish until probably July for subsistence.
Billy Charles – I would like to report that I was out fishing before the regulations kicked in on the 30th and 31st. 4 Kings on the 30th and 10 on the 31st in Middle Mouth. I don’t think anyone has concentrated there yet.
District 2-Coastal/Lower Yukon
Nita Stevens – I spoke to 8 households, 4 fished. They caught 25 Kings. 7.5”, 4.5 and 5.5” nets. People that didn’t fish, had problems. The water is high but not high enough that the dock is covered with water. Hardly any drift. People said they hope to fish for Kings, but if not, they will fish for chums to make up for it.
Bill Alstrom- I haven’t been out fishing, I’ve heard that people have caught a few Kings before the closures. Some on set nets, others drifting. Water is high and it is really cold so far. Temps are in the 40’s. Some drift in the river.
Norma Evan – The water has been high and steady. No drift. Temps in the 50’s. I spoke to 10 families and 2 fishes. They caught Sheefish. No one has been set netting. I tried to talk to more households, but people were out of town. I’ve noticed foam in the waves. Surrounding Marshall is tundra cotton. Some have never seen so much before. I was wondering if it has to do with the heat we had a few years ago. I see a lot of boats high and dry and still haven’t been launched. Some people still have motor problems from last year.
District 3-Coastal/Lower Yukon
Basil Larsen- Water is high and holding. No drift. A few people have set nets until yesterday at 8pm. They were getting a few Kings. They cut them up and passed them around the whole town. No fish camps were set up. People are still in conservative mode. No one is drifting yet, and probably 4 set nets in the river. Very little Sheefish too.
District 4a-Upper Yukon
Alberta Walker- No one is fishing yet.
Ken Chase- Not too much to report. Water is up and no one is fishing. It is cold. 30 something temperatures in the morning.
Micky Stickman – I am in Fairbanks. I went from Manley to Nulato to Fairbanks. The river was medium, some would say it was a little high. The whole 600 miles there was very little drift, wind or rain. It was colder than normal this time of year. No one was fishing in Nulato. I know people are getting smoke wood and are getting ready for the fish. I am hoping that we can do a few rounds of drifting before we get shut down. I will be heading back home at the end of the week to go fishing myself.
Lisa Bifelt – Few people had nets in some sloughs and were catching mostly pike. One person had a net in the river and caught a few sheefish. People traveled to Hughes so they pulled their nets. Water is low, but is rising.
Pollock Simon – The water is low on the Koyukuk river. We have a net in the river. It has been a cold spring so the river hasn’t gone up yet. There is still snow at the mouth.
Districts 4b & c-Upper Yukon
Howard – Water is high, glacial color to silty brown,
Fred Huntington- Just listening in. No one is fishing.
Districts 5a, b, c & d
Charlie Wright- Water started coming up a couple of days ago. Drift is coming too. Caught humpies, sheefish, water is coming up real fast. It’s been raining. We pulled the nets due to the drift.
Stan Zuray- Charlie’s report is what’s happening for us. A lot of people asking if we are going to be able to fish. I just tell them that it doesn’t look good. That is about all. Charlie spoke for us too.
Kaitlyn Zuray – just checking in.
Kara’lisa Trembley- No one is fishing yet and water is high with lots of drift.
Districts 6a, b & c
Victor Lord – The river is coming up. I don’t have my boat in the water, I am doing some maintenance on it. Timmy was driving me around – he got a sheefish the other day. We have to watch the river, it is going to come up fast.
Virgil Umpenhour – There really isn’t much going on up here. Thunderstorms in the afternoon. Temps into the 70s.
Jesse Trerice – The Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee has submitted their recommendations for rebuilding and sustainable management. We anticipate the 2021 plan will be finalized later this month. The strategy will be based on the Yukon River Panel’s management recommendations. The lower end of the spawning goal hasn’t been achieved in the last couple of years, so we anticipate that the management plan will be conservative.
Oliver Barker – We remain in preparation for the arrival of the first Salmon into Canada. We are just waiting for salmon to make their way here. Water levels look normal, but we anticipate the levels to rise as the melt happens on the mountains.
Management Reports Agenda:
Deena Jallen – ADF&G Yukon River Summer Season Manager –
I am in Emmonak. The office is open this year. We are implementing closures as fish are heading up the river. We have closures announced through District 4. They just started counting Summer Chum at Pilot over the last couple of days. It’s been very cold and rainy. Even some snow in the mornings. The set net is in a really good eddie right now.
As the closures go into place, fishing is still open for non-salmon 4” or less, and 60’ or less.
Fred West- ADF&G Yukon River Area Research Biologist
So far for test fish, the Chinook was caught May 31 at Pilot Station. The set net has gotten some pretty big catches on the 5th and 6th, which indicates a large group of fish entering the water. We will have to wait and see how the Pilot Station sonar shows in the next few days. A few summer chum have been caught in the drifts in big eddie. No indication of large groups of chum in the river yet.
(Jeff Estensen with ADFG will give a fall report as the fall season will begin on July 15 /16 in the Y-1 lower river district)
Holly Carroll – US Fish & Wildlife Service Yukon River Area Manager
I don’t have anything to add to that. I just want to let you know that the Andreafsky crew is heading out today so they should be ready to count Chum.
Jesse Trerice – Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee (YSSC) have largely
concluded their pre-season management planning meetings with upper Yukon River First Nation
Governments, advisory bodies and harvesters.
The 2021 Canadian management strategy will be finalized in late June, in advance of the arrival
of the first Chinook salmon at the international border.
The 2021 Canadian management strategy will be based on the Yukon River Panel’s (YRP) 2021
management recommendations, the objectives established in the Pacific Salmon Treaty’s Yukon
River Salmon Agreement, recommendations from the YSSC and the results of consultations with
Yukon First Nation Governments and community members.
In consideration that it is unlikely that the run will come in at the upper end of the pre-season
forecast of 42,000 to 77,000 Canadian-Origin Chinook, DFO will not use the full range for pre-
season salmon management planning. In consideration of the poor forecast, the YRP’s recommendations for 2021, recent differences between estimates at the Pilot and Eagle sonar sites, and that the lower end of the Interim Management Escapement Goal (42,500 to 55,000) has not been achieved for the past two years, Canada’s management strategy is anticipated to be cautious and conservative. Licenced public angling (recreational), commercial and domestic (non-aboriginal food fishery) Chinook fisheries are expected to remain closed for the 2021 season. The key priority for management in Canada will remain focused on ensuring that sufficient numbers of Canadian-origin salmon reach their spawning grounds in order to sustain future returns. Over the coming weeks, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will rely on information collected by assessment programs at Lower Yukon Test Fishery and Pilot Station to inform management decisions in Canada.
Questions and discussion:
Victor Lord- Is Pilot Station set up? And if so, do we have numbers?
Deena – yes, so far they’ve gotten 4300 Chinook as of the 7th, and 2000? Chum? Looks to be about average for this time of year.
Joe Afcan – Is there any way to determine the species and DNA for where salmon are headed? In my set nets I have not seen the regular Chinook salmon. The fat ones we know are going to Canada?
Fred – We have an in season genetics program in Pilot station. Once we detect the first pulse and we generally send those in to be analysed.
Joe Afcan – Thank you. I would also like to ask the folks in Canada, what their policies are for protecting the fish in Canada. I’ve been hearing about the mining activities, and I am worried about the preservation of the salmon.
Jesse – We hear these concerns. For protecting the Chinook, most of our fishing is closed. Commercial, and non indigeneous and sport fishing will all be closed for Chinook. If there is a harvest share that would be provided to the First Nations. They manage their own fisheries. There are still the escapement goals that need to be made. Without speaking too much on behalf of them, they are really on conservation mode. For mining – that is a really big question. There is a classification here for streams. That classification determines if mining is allowed.
Victor Lord- Do we have any agencies in Alaska that help us from the Mines here? There are a lot of independent miners. Do they have a process for which rivers and streams that they are on?
Josh Clark- ADF&G Summer Season Yukon Area Assistant Research Biologist – We have the habitat division, they assess stream quality and they issue small and large scale mining permits. It is a very thorough process. They vet all the areas that mining is occurring and they have to regularly pass tests associated with their work. It is monitored both on a State and Federal level.
Fred Huntington – On the mining, when you are monitoring them, do you have anything that is monitoring… I hear about the Minto Mine and the pollution coming out there. Are you monitoring the Eagle side?
Josh – This is not my expertise, but they are being assessed. Questions can be directed to the Habitat division in the Fairbanks office. Audry Bravy.
Fred – Basically you haven’t told me anything about the Canadian mines. That is your job to know what is coming into the water from Canada.
John Lamont – Is the Chinook salmon a stock of concern in Alaska and that is why we aren’t able to harvest salmon?
Deena – Yes, we are concerned about Chinook not making the escapement goals. If you have specific federal questions, that would be for Holly.
Holly – I understand that question more of a “why are we closed right now”. But did you get your question answered?
John Lamont- I can rephrase. There are Chinook spawning in Alaska. And I fully understand the escapement issues into Canada. Would there be a possibility that a Chinook salmon harvest be allowed before 95% of the Chinook make it passed the district?
Holly – Thank you, The state manages the river and the USFWS co-manages with them. And we are in alignment with the management plan. Drainage wide we have a biological concern. At this time there is not an opportunity to give fishing for some fisherman to fish. We need to wait until there is a harvestable surplus.
Martin Kelly – I just wanted to read my statement: I’ve been keeping my data in my pocket for several years, maybe 17 years. My annual summary: My focus has always been subsistence fishing. There has been no commercial fishing for the last 2 years. Deep sea trawlers continue to throw our Chinook overboard. I am sure there are Japanese boats doing it too. We need to pressure management to let us get our fish. Drying salmon is based on timing. This practice was passed on by our ancestors. There is a small window to be able to dry salmon. You can not substitute dried salmon with Spam or hot dogs. If we miss our window by even a couple of days, our salmon can be so moldy that our dogs will not even eat it. We are heavily managed. The cost of living in the villages is so high. People can’t fathom how we are able to live here. Commercial fishing was the economy. How do I substitute for my salmon that I cannot fish for anymore. They are not giving me money to buy chicken or supplement my diet in other ways.
Mickey Stickman- What is the schedule for Y4A. Are we going to be able to have a few openings for Chinook?
Deena – Currently open with 7.5” June 13, salmon fishing will close.
Mickey Stickman- but there are possibilities of openings later in the season?
Deena – Yes, we are going to wait until the middle of the run to see how things are going.
Christopher Beans – Re: 4” gear – is this just for the Yukon? Or what about using the bigger mesh for tributaries.
Deena – The districts do include tributaries. Great question.
Joe Afcan – Holly, I was wondering about the regulation period starting June 20th. We, as subsistence fishermen, have an agenda. I would have been happy with regular regulation that starts June 20 like every year. Let us put up our salmon. I’ve been understanding that the first of the run isn’t counted.
Deena – the forecast is really low. And when our forecast runs that low we are obligated to close on the first pulse. And because of our history and projection, we decided after a lot of conversation that we would close on the first trickle as well.
Holly – We don’t have a date of June 20. There is a state regulation that requires us to close fishing on the first pulse. It isn’t going to affect just the lower river. The entire river will be closed as the pulse moves up the river. The first pulse is moving into Canada, so the best thing we can do is close the pulse to fishing to hope to get what we need into Canada. As soon as we can provide some fishing opportunities, we will do that.
Joe – I was under the impression that the first ones are not counted as part of the pulse. There are a lot of people that are extremely disappointed that they aren’t going to get their fish to drive.
Holly – you are right. The first fish are the trickle. But because we are trying so hard to get all of the fish into Canada, we’ve decided to close even that first trickle.
Joe – I understand. Thank you. On the other end – high seas. The federal government has interest in protecting it indegeounous people. I would like to know why USFWS are not protecting the stocks that are coming into the Yukon so that the people can subsist on the fishery and protect the salmon that are being harvested in the sea.
Holly – You bring up some good points. We do play a role? While that is a separate process, when we are talking about in-river management, we are talking about the fish that have come back. Sometimes there are things that are outside of our control. We are just managing the fish that do come back.
Victor – 1-3 days would be good to go after a couple of King Salmon. Also on this Federal thing taking care of subsistence fishing. It goes back to the department of the interior.
Holly – USFWS is a department of the Department of Interior. We have an obligation to provide fish, but we also have an obligation to to save the fish for the future. We are trying to balance the tough decisions right now.
John – Victor hit it on the head about False Pass. The second question is, Deena you stated that last year the escapement of the Chinook salmon was poor. I read that there were no surveys done because of COVID. Can you provide me with data from 2019 and 2020? My concern is if there was no spawning done in Alaska last year, we are in for it for the next 4 years.
Deena – a lot of projects did not go last year due to COVID. But we did fly and do aerial reports. Those are all published. The numbers that were counted were lower than the historical averages. Those are all found in the JTC report.
John- I heard there was a King Salmon caught in Marshall around the 17th of May. Is that a fact?
Norma – We actually had ice in the water. No one was boating at that time I don’t think. I think that is a rumor.
Virgil – Victor brought up the False Pass or area M fishery. Last week we had a guest at a lunch and we had the director of fisheries. I spoke about these fisheries and… Everyone on the Alaska side needs to raise hell with all of the presidents of the big corporations… tell them we want a genetic sample done to figure out where those salmon are going. I don’t want to share this with the Canadians, but they know it. Deena, I am asking you personally to call your boss and tell them we need this to happen. The biologists on this phone call don’t have the horsepower to get it done. It is us, you and me that needs to reach out to our politicians and to the governor and express that we need to have this done with the King Salmon.
Brooke – Holly – the North Pacific Management Council is meeting tomorrow. There is still time to sign up for testimony. I understand that this is the opportunity to ask for more help on the reduction of bycatch. I hope to hear you testify. I will be as well.
The website is www. Npmfc.org there is a small icon to sign up to testify.
Unknown – Is there a 800 number for calling in to testify??
Brooke – 1-888-947-3989 password: 739234#
Unknown- Why does the biological approach start when the fish enter the river instead of doing it when they are in the sea?
Deena – Our agency is allowed to go 3 miles into the sea, so further out is beyond our jurisdiction.
Allen – ADF&G – It would be a good idea if you opened a test fishery at Black River.
Deena – Thanks. Yes, we do have test fisheries up at the middle mouth site.
John – Deena just indicated that beyond 3 miles into the ocean there is no subsistence fishing, is that correct?
Deena – yes, that is correct.
Martin – I had one comment I forgot to mention. Prior to our closure we had people that were out fishing all day and they caught 8 fish.
Deena – Martin, could you send someone a picture of the Coho that someone caught.
Bill- We have been having teleconferences for years. Some people are just making assumptions, we just have to wait and see to get the counts from Pilot Station sonar. Just sit tight and wait for just a week; hopefully less than that and hopefully we will be able to fish. I think it is just a sit and wait game. On 4in gear we are supposed to be not targeting the salmon species and eventually we do catch salmon on the 4in gear and we do catch them.
ADF&G HOTLINE: 1-866-479-7387 & Fairbanks 907-459-7387
Fairbanks Office 907-459-7274, Emmonak Office 907-949-1320