Traveling up the Yukon River is an experience you will never forget. Just its girth alone is impressive, and its fierce current is not to be taken lightly. With the majestic beauty of the Alaskan frontier, a bustling community of wildlife, and the pure fragrance of nature itself, the Yukon River can be a breath-taking experience.
The Yukon River empties the 5th largest drainage in North America and is one of the longest rivers in the United States (tied with the Mississippi River). Some Yukon River salmon migrate over 1,840 miles into the Yukon Territory, making for one of the longest salmon migrations in the world.
As you travel along the river, you'll notice old hunting cabins, camps, and the likes of long-ago settlement activities. Of most noticeability though, are the many native Alaskan villages situated all along the shores of this mighty river, each one vibrant with community activities.
During the summer, boats of all kinds run up and down the river. Some are traveling to and from towns and villages, others are large barges carrying supplies to the remote communities, and many are skilled river fishermen harvesting the river's legendary king, silverbrite, and coho salmon.
You're also bound to encounter large wheel mechanisms floating in the water near the shore lines. These are actually fishing devices called "Fish Wheels". These fish wheels are a primary method that most all the Yukon communities use to catch salmon with.
It's good to point out just how much the annual Yukon River salmon runs affect the river communities. For Alaskan native villages along the river, it is one of the most busiest times of the year. News of the first salmon catches spread like wild fire up through the river villages. The fishermen tend to their nets and boats and head out onto the river to reap their rewards.
Fish camps come alive as they clean and prepare their catch to help sustain the village for the year ahead. The native Alaskan communities are well known for their ability to create delicious cured smoked salmon that lasts through the cold winter months.
The Yukon River is home to four salmon runs every year. The first being Yukon River king salmon, followed by Summer Silverbrite salmon, Coho salmon, and Fall Silverbrite Salmon. Because of the length of the river, these salmon are considered to be the richest salmon in all of the Northwest with the Yukon King salmon being possibly the richest salmon in the world. As salmon do not feed during their swim up their home rivers and creeks, they must store fats and oils in their bodies to fuel their long journeys. With the Yukon River being some 2300 miles in length, these salmon are packed full of heart-smart Omega-3 oils and healthy proteins.
King Salmon- Chinook
Yukon River King salmon are richest salmon in the world. Their incredible flavor and silky texture are second to none. Yukon River king salmon are prized as Alaska's most premium salmon.
Oil content: Up to 30%- higher than any other salmon. Flavor: Rich and succulent. Texture: Large, firm, moist flakes. Meat color: Deep orange red.
Silver Salmon- Coho
Yukon River Coho salmon have a higher than average oil content than your average Alaskan coho salmon. However, coho salmon are known for their lean meat.
Oil content: About 10%. Flavor: Mild and delicious. Texture: Firm, moist flakes. Meat color: Orange-red.
Chum Salmon- Keta
Yukon River Chum salmon have an Omega-3 oil content that is on par with Alaskan king salmon. There are two runs of Chum salmon in the Yukon River- Summer Chum Salmon and Fall Chum Salmon.
Oil content: Up to 13%- higher than other chum salmon Flavor: Full but mild. Texture: Firm, moist. Meat color: Bright orange-red.
The commercial fishery began in 1898 within the Yukon Territories. The first licenses were issued the following year by the Royal Northwest Mounted Police under authority granted from L. H. Davies, the Minister of the Federal Department of Marine and Fisheries in Canada.
The Yukon River salmon fisheries are recognized as sustainable fisheries. This means these fisheries are able to be continued indefinitely without a significant negative impact on the environment or its inhabitants.
Because the Yukon River travels through Canada, the fishery is a shared fishery with Canada. The international Yukon River Salmon Agreement between the U.S. and Canada leads to joint decisions on how to protect, conserve and utilize the Yukon River's salmon resources.
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