Yukon sees a bumper run of chum

The fall chum fishing season is coming in strong on the Yukon and Porcupine rivers. Over 100,000 fish are expected to make it across the border this year.

The fall chum fishing season is coming in strong on the Yukon and Porcupine rivers.

Over 100,000 fish are expected to make it across the border this year.

The Yukon River Panel set a goal earlier this year that at least 70,000 fall chum make it to their spawning grounds.

That means that First Nation and commercial fisheries could take as many as 30,000 fish.

The commercial fishery opened over the weekend, with one fisher reporting to date. That individual caught just over 200 fish.

There was “fairly low interest” in this first commercial opening, said Steve Smith with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“The fall chum salmon commercial fishery is somewhat of a misnomer, as virtually all of the catch is used for what could be termed personal needs; few fish are sold,” according to a 2012 Yukon River Panel report.

That could change with the recent development of local value-added products made from the fish, such as smoked fall chum and salmon caviar.

Last year’s commercial chum fishery took 5,312 fish.

The unrestricted First Nation fishery typically takes between 2,000 and 3,000 fall chum, Smith said.

New for this year, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation will operate a sonar fish counter on the Porcupine River downstream from Old Crow for the duration of the fall chum season.

Last year, they ran a pilot of the program to ensure its viability.

For now, the fishing weir on the Fishing Branch River will continue to operate.

That weir only counts a portion of the fish that make it upstream from Old Crow.

The benefit of the weir, which is basically a fence across the river with a controlled opening, is that it provides an exact fish count and allows for weighing and sampling of the fish without capture, Smith said.

However, because the new sonar is downstream from Old Crow, it will provide a fuller picture of what is happening on the river, and be more useful for in-season management decisions.

It is expected that the weir will eventually be shut down to move resources to other projects.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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