Anglers allowed to catch chinook salmon in northwestern Canada

Chinook salmon at the fish ladder in Whitehorse. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has opened up the Tatshenshini River in Yukon to limited chinook salmon fishing. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)
There’s some good news for anglers in Yukon hoping to snag a chinook salmon this year.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has opened up the Tatshenshini River in the southwestern region of the territory to limited chinook salmon fishing.

Recreational anglers are now allowed to catch one fish and have one in their possession. Last year, they were only allowed to catch and release the fish.

“This is good news because at the beginning of the season, it was anticipated the run would not be very strong and that’s why DFO [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] put the closure in on angling,” said Elizabeth MacDonald, executive director of the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee. The sub-committee makes recommendations to governments about salmon management in the territory.

The federal department says the return of chinook salmon to the Alsek river system, of which the Tatshenshini River is a part, exceeded its forecast. It now expects the total return of chinook to be around 1,600 fish.

Up until now, the season had been closed to all but subsistence fishing. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations had asked its people not to fish for salmon this year.

The department gives fishing priority to the area’s First Nations, and if the salmon count exceeds a certain level, it will make an allocation for recreational angling, said MacDonald.

“The Champagne and Aishihik has 200 for their basic need allocation, and then anything above that could potentially go towards harvest, and they’re expecting about 200 above that,” she said.

Chinook not doing well in the North

“Chinook all over have not been doing well in the northern reaches, so the Yukon and northern B.C.,” said MacDonald. “Why? Scientists haven’t found one smoking gun to blame.”

It could have to do with the salmon’s marine environment, which is much warmer than it was in the past, she said. Another possibility is increased competition from hatchery fish that are released along the west coast and even as far away as Asia.

“But no one knows for certain why they’re not doing as well as they used to,” she said.

Bill Waugh, a fishery manager with Fisheries and Oceans, was encouraged to see a rise in chinook salmon entering the Tatshenshini River.

“Hopefully conditions both within the freshwater and the marine conditions have improved enough that we’ll start to see this more frequently now,” he said.

Chinook all over have not been doing well in the northern reaches. ​​​​​

Elizabeth MacDonald, executive director of the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee

Whaugh does not, however, anticipate a bountiful harvest.

“We don’t expect a particularly high harvest. If we see more than 10 to 20 fish, I’d be surprised,” he said, noting that the season is nearing its end.

“It’s getting near the end of the return. We’re at about the 95 per cent point right now,” he said.

“I don’t think that the harvest or the fishing is going to be as spectacular, if you will.”

Sockeye salmon caught in the Tatshenshini River must still be released. The chinook salmon fishery on the Yukon River system remains closed to all but subsistence harvesting.

Written by Sidney Cohen based on reporting by Claudiane Samson

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: In Northern Canada, researchers pull big fish from lakes in hopes of reducing toxic mercury risk, CBC News

Finland: Thousands of fish in Finnish lake dead from unknown cause, Yle News

Greenland: Greenland Atlantic salmon catch numbers well above new quota, CBC News

Norway: Is Norway’s farmed salmon as healthy as we think?, Radio Sweden

Russia: Authorities in northwest Russia move to protect wild reindeer, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Poachers suspected behind dwindling wolf numbers in Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. gov clears path for genetically engineered salmon, Alaska Public Media

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