Dip Nets Prove the Charm for a Healthy Yukon River Commercial Chum Harvest


harvesters on Alaska’s Lower Yukon River netted 365,000 summer chum salmon
through July 16 – 52 percent of them caught in dip nets.

Former Alaska
Department of Fish and Game employee Gene Sandone, who proposed using dip nets
early in the summer run, so that king salmon could be released unharmed, says
he is flabbergasted with the success of the fishery. Sandone is a fisheries
consultant for Kwik’Pak Fisheries at Emmonak, and proposed a test fishery last
summer using dip nets for openers where the harvest of those Yukon kings was
illegal. He said he hadn’t counted on the ingenuity of some fishermen, who tied
more than one dip net to their boat and drifted with the tide, catching a lot
of fish.

sales manager Jack Schultheis, who oversees operations at Emmonak, also was
elated. The 2.2 million pounds catch of summer chum is the most summer chum the
company has ever done and over half of that was dip net caught, he said.

About half
the catch is processed as vacuum packed fillets and is shipped to Europe.  The other half – headed and gutted – goes to
domestic and European companies for reprocessing as portions or steaks for
retail markets.

The overall
impact of introducing the dip net fishery was that more harvesters were able to
start fishing earlier and because of the steady catch, it was quite a labor
field day for other company workers, he said.

July 15 was
the last opener for the summer chum run and harvesters are now fishing for the
Yukon River fall chum run, fish with a higher oil content that get a higher
price. And with the demand up for those Yukon River chum, Schultheis said the
company is getting a better price for a couple of reasons. One is the higher
price of sockeye salmon, he said, buyers were looking for other high quality
salmon that will come in under the price of sockeyes.  The other reason is that when buyers realized
the Bristol Bay harvest wasn’t going to reach 25 million fish this year, that
set the tone for sales activity for the chums to pick up, he said.  In some cases, the company was even able to
run two shifts—a bonus for Lower Yukon communities where
commercial fishing is the mainstay of the local economy.