Western Alaska is in the midst of one of the best salmon runs in decades, and that means both subsistence and commercial fishermen in waters around Norton Sound and Kotzebue are catching record numbers of chum.

“We’d forecasted a commercial harvest of 70-100,000 [of chum], and we’re going to blow right through that,” said Jim Menard, the Arctic Area Manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The latest numbers point to Norton Sound passing 120,000 chums, the best harvest since 1986.

It’s the sixth season in a row of strong chum runs, but the fishery hasn’t always delivered. 2003 was an especially poor year, when the combined commercial harvest of all salmon species was the second lowest on record.

Menard said relief came when the salmon bounced back the next year.

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