Yukon River Salmon Plentiful, Prices Firm

Summer run Yukon River keta salmon – being caught in small boats with dip nets – are commanding $2 a pound in wholesale markets and says Jack Schultheis, general manager for Kwik’Pak Fisheries at Emmonak, Alaska, the run has been strong.

Commercial fishermen who live in Eskimo villages dotting the shores of the Lower Yukon in Western Alaska are using dip nets to avoid banned harvest of Chinook salmon, and most of the fish were weighing in at around 6.8 pounds, a bit heavier than average.

“And when the summer run is healthy, most likely you will have a good fall run,” said Schultheis, who oversees some 255 workers, and harvests heading to domestic as well as European markets.
Kwik’Pak’s diverse domestic markets range from a high end deli in Brooklyn, New York, to the Pacific Northwest Division of Safeway, including stores in Washington, Oregon and California.
One of the nice surprises this season, Schultheis said, is feedback from consumers in central Florida, who checked out Kwik’Pak’s website, www.kwikpaksalmon.com and called to compliment the company on the fish. “People calling to say what a nice product it is made me feel good about the fish itself,” he said.

Customers are also becoming increasingly aware of the nutritional value of the Yukon salmon and the fact that it is really safe to eat food, he said.

Markets are also strong for the Yukon fillets in the United Kingdom, and for headed and gutted Yukon salmon in Germany, where smoked salmon is produced.

Kwik’pak harvesters will continue using dip nets at least through June, then switch to drift nets when the fall run of the keta salmon begins in mid-July.

Through June 24, they had a harvest exceeding 140,000 keta, plus some 2,000 humpies, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimated.