Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Chilkoot eulachon run estimated at 3.4 million


An estimated 3.4 million eulachon returned to Chilkoot River May 5-9, according to research by Takshanuk Watershed Council and the Chilkoot Indian Association.

Four years of research show the size of the run as average or a bit smaller than in previous years. Previous counts found 12.6 million of the smelt-like fish in 2011, 2.2 million in 2010 and 7.1 million in 2012. For lack of grant funding, a count wasn’t made in 2013, according to Meredith Pochardt of the watershed council.

Nine workers in two crews used a trap and recapture method, with stations at Chilkoot River bridge and Chilkoot weir, to develop the estimate, which is accurate to plus or minus 500,000 fish, Pochardt said.

Eulachon spawn in the river. “Most Tlingits believe they spawn near the (Chilkoot) culture camp,” Pochardt said.

Subsistence fishermen seemed to get the fish they needed during the peak of the run, she said. Eulachon are prepared a variety of ways, including drying and smoking. They’re an important part of the Tlingit diet, with apparent health benefits. Natives age tons of the fish in pits, rendering their oil, which is used as a condiment on traditional foods.

Fish and Game biologist Randy Bachman has kept informal tabs on the runs of eulachon on the Chilkoot and Chilkat rivers. (The braided nature of the Chilkat River precludes a scientific mark-recapture count there.)

Bachman said volumes of eulachon appeared to have arrived in Chilkat Inlet near Pyramid Island about a day after they showed up at Chilkoot. “They’re kind of on the west side (of the inlet). Just looking, I’d say (the run) is a little better than average on the Chilkat side, just based on my own observations and conversation from people.”

In some years, eulachon don’t show on the Chilkoot River, but they seem to always return to the Chilkat, Bachman said. Eulachon sometimes return to Skagway’s Taiya River, he said, and those returns have sometime coincided with absence of eulachon on the Chilkoot, he said.


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