Citing a low number of king salmon in the Chena River, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is restricting king salmon fishing to catch and release only in the Tanana River drainage starting on Saturday.
The restriction applies to the Chatanika, Chena, Goodpaster, Nenana and Salcha rivers. In addition, the use of bait is prohibited in those rivers, the department said in a press release issued late Wednesday.
As of Sunday, only 183 kind salmon had passed a counting tower on the Chena River, which is the second-lowest count for that date since 1993. The minimum escapement goal for the Chena River is 2,800 king salmon. The number of king salmon past the counting tower had climbed to almost 450 fish by Tuesday but is still well below historical averages.
Managers don’t know how many fish have entered the Goodpaster or Salcha rivers because counting towers on both rivers have not been operational due to poor visibility from high, turbid water conditions.
The Chena and Salcha rivers are two of the main spawning tributaries for Yukon River king salmon in Alaska and managers say this year’s king run in the Yukon is one of the lowest on record. Only an estimated 104,000 kings have passed a sonar counter in the lower Yukon River, which is well below the historical average of 145,000 for that date and also below the average of 130,000 fish for historically late runs.
The low run has forced managers to close subsistence fishing in the Yukon River in an attempt to get more fish to their Canadian spawning grounds. The state is bound by the Pacific Salmon Treaty to get at least 50,000 fish to Canada. As of Tuesday, only 945 kings had been detected by a sonar counter 16 miles from the border near the village of Eagle.