Chinook projection on par with recent years, below long term average

The first chinook salmon is expected to swim through the sonar station in Eagle, Alaska, any day now. It’s about a 28-day journey from the Pilot Station sonar system, 195 kilometres upstream from the mouth of the Yukon River.

The first chinook salmon is expected to swim through the sonar station in Eagle, Alaska, any day now.

It’s about a 28-day journey from the Pilot Station sonar system, 195 kilometres upstream from the mouth of the Yukon River, in the Bering Sea, to Eagle.

The general assumption by experts is that about 50 per cent of the salmon that pass through Pilot will make it to the U.S.-Canada border at Eagle.

Others swim off into tributaries along the Yukon River in Alaska.

This year, between 130,000 and 175,000 chinook are projected to pass through Pilot, with an estimated 65,000 to 88,000 of Canadian origin reaching the border and swimming upstream, back to their spawning grounds.

Those numbers are above average, but only compared to counts in recent years, said Holly Carroll, the Yukon area summer season management biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The runs used to be much larger – as high as 300,000 at Pilot Station – before chinook stocks took a nosedive in the early 2000s.

“In general, since we saw this great productivity shift occur, we try to talk about things in terms of the run now as below the long-term average,” said Carroll.

“Things have changed. We’re not out of the woods yet but we do hope that this run will be above the recent five-year average. But we’re cautiously optimistic about that.”

In a normal year, the run would be complete, through Pilot, by July 15, but this year, Carroll said the salmon appear to be about four days early.

This is because spring arrived early this year, said Ben Derochie, manager of the Whitehorse Fish Ladder. There, he’s keeping an eye on the Eagle sonar and waiting for the first fish to pass through.

It’s about a 2,800-kilometre trip from the border to the fish ladder. They’ll usually arrive in mid- or late July.

“They’re pretty tired when they get here,” Derochie said.

It takes them anywhere from three days to a week to swim up the ladder to the viewing tank. Then they pass through a gate and staff count each one.

They swim up the rest of the ladder from there.

“Not all of them are necessarily headed down to Whitehorse,” Derochie said of the salmon detected at Eagle. “They’ll branch off to various tributaries along the way and spawn at various spawning grounds.”

Last year, about 1,500 chinook passed through the fish ladder. That’s on par with counts in recent years, Derochie said.

The highest count was nearly 3,000 in 1996, while the lowest was 300 in 2008.

“When it comes to what’s going to happen at the border, it’s very early days for us,” said Carroll. “We are just using projections, using run timing and the count at Pilot, but it’ll be a lot more telling when we start seeing fish at the sonar project at the border.”

The total run size won’t be known until the salmon are counted there.

Contact Rhiannon Russell at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson outside the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23. (Stephanie Waddell, Yukon News)
When business models shift

Whitehorse chamber offers digital marketing workshop

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read