HAINES (AP) -- Fall chum salmon are running strong on the Chilkat River near Haines for the second year in a row.
Fisheries managers estimate the run has rebounded to the level that regularly supported a substantial fleet of gillnetters through October a decade ago.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Randy Bachman told the Chilkat Valley News that three factors indicate the run is recovering: higher catches in the commercial fishery, higher wheel counts, and a large return to Hermann Creek.
Fish wheels have already caught four times the historical average of approximately 1,060 fish, and Lynn Canal gillnetters caught 14,700 chum during the opening that ended Friday.
''Either the run is real early or we'll have a good run this fall,'' said Bachman. ''It's been 11 years since we've seen a real good chum run. Its nice to pump some fish into the drainages.''
Longtime local gillnetter Ron Sparks also called the return promising.
''Its the best I've seen since it flopped,'' Sparks said. ''There seems to be a huge body of fish coming through.''
Bachman said although the chum run is booming, the commercial fleet will be kept south of Sullivan Island again next week and will be limited to a two-day opening to protect late-run Chilkat River sockeye.
As of Sunday, 33,313 sockeye had been counted through Chilkat weir, about 20,000 short of the states low-end escapement goal.
''The Chilkat run is one of the longest ones in the state, certainly in Southeast, and we might see a good late run,'' Bachman said. ''But we have to be careful and keep off whatever's left to come through.''
Approximately 8,200 sockeye went through the weir last week.
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