Chinook salmon at the Whitehorse Fish Ladder in 2013. Salmon numbers were higher than expected in 2017, but still much lower than historically recorded. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Chinook salmon run stronger than pre-season predictions

More than 68,268 Chinook made it to their Yukon spawning grounds, exceeding the 50,000-fish goal

The number of Chinook salmon that made it to their spawning grounds in the Yukon this year exceeded expectations, with 68,268 fish successfully making the journey via the Yukon River from the Bering Sea.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada fishery manager Mary-Ellen Jarvis presented the number at a Yukon River Panel meeting in Whitehorse Dec. 12. The 12-person panel, made up of six Canadians and six Americans, makes management decisions on Canadian-origin salmon and meets twice a year to share data and strategies.

An estimated 70,000 to 97,000 Chinook salmon had been projected to cross the border into Canada from Alaska this year, with the spawning escapement goal set for 42,500 to 55,000 fish.

In total, 263,000 Chinook salmon were recorded entering the Yukon River by the Pilot sonar station in Alaska, with 73,268 recorded at the Eagle station near the Canada-U.S. border. Of those, 71,768 fish made it across the border with the figure taking into account that the U.S. reported that it harvested 1,500 fish. That number allowed for Yukon First Nations to fish a full subsistence harvest, Jarvis said, but the majority chose to continue to “fish conservatively,” using smaller mesh gillnets and releasing healthy females.

Although the numbers that materialized were higher than predicted, they’re still a far cry from the historical runs of 150,000 fish, Jarvis said. The Canadian harvest of 3,500 fish is also less than half of traditional harvests of 8,000 to 10,000 fish.

“Chinook has not been what it was in former years,” Jarvis said.

The numbers from the Porcupine River were “not as cheery,” she added.

On the Porcupine, which doesn’t have a harvest-sharing agreement, the number of Chinook that passed through was the lowest in the four years that tracking has been taking place, with 1,132 fish counted by the Old Crow sonar station. Of those, 1,058 made it to their spawning grounds, with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation harvesting 131 fish.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist Vesta Mather said there wasn’t enough historic data to say if the sudden drop in Chinook on the Porcupine is an indication of a trend. Exceptional river conditions may have played a role, Mather said, with low water levels and periods in late June and early July where the water temperature hit 22 C. The lethal temperature for Chinook salmon is 24 C.

Elsewhere, Chinook salmon numbers sat around average, Mather said, with sonar on the Big Salmon River counting 5,672 fish and 1,226 fish counted at the Whitehorse Rapids. On the Pelly, the sonar counted a passage of 8,543 fish, but as 2017 was only the second year of monitoring, Mather said there isn’t enough data to determine a trend yet.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

chinookFisheries and Oceans CanadaYukon River

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

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read