Pacific salmon returning to Alaska rivers and streams to reproduce are the basis for one of Alaska's most important industries. From 2000–2004, the average harvest of salmon sold by commercial fishermen in Alaska was almost 157 million fish (about 742 million pounds). North Pacific Chinook salmon catches during the late 1970s and early 1980s averaged more than 4 million fish per year. The United States harvested the majority of the catch followed by Canada, Japan, and the USSR. The annual Alaska harvest of Chinook salmon averaged 630,000 fish from 1970 to 2006. The majority of the Alaska catch is made in Southeast Alaska, Bristol Bay, and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim areas. Commercially-harvested Chinook salmon averaged approximately 18 pounds. The majority of the catch is made with troll gear and gillnets. There is an excellent market for Chinook salmon because of their large size and excellent table qualities. Recent catches in Alaska have brought fishers nearly $19 million per year.
Personal Use Fishery
This fishery is defined as "the taking, attempting to take or possession of finfish, shellfish or aquatic plants by an individual Alaska for consumption as food or use as bait by that individual or his immediate family”. Only Alaska residents may participate in personal use fisheries. The Board of Fisheries established this fishery to allow Alaskan residents to harvest fish for food in areas that are not eligible for subsistence fisheries. Personal use fisheries are only allowed when they won't jeopardize sustained yield of the resource, and won't negatively impact an existing resource use, and are in the broad public interest. Personal use fishing is primarily managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division, but some regional or area fisheries for various species of fish are managed by the Division of Commercial Fisheries.
The Chinook salmon is perhaps the most highly prized sport fish in Alaska and is extensively fished by anglers in Southeast Alaska and in Cook Inlet (South-central Alaska). Trolling with rigged herring is the favored method of angling in salt water, while lures and salmon eggs are used by freshwater anglers. The annual Alaska sport fishing harvest of Chinook salmon from 1989 to 2006 averaged 170,000 fish. During that period, 60% of the sport fish harvest of Chinook salmon was taken in South-central Alaska, 26% in Southeast Alaska, and 4% in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim area. Alaska's sport and personal use fisheries worth more than 500 million dollars annually.
Many Alaskans depend heavily on subsistence-caught salmon for food and cultural purposes. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recognizes the definition of subsistence fishing to mean the taking of, fishing for, or possession of fish, shellfish, or other fisheries resources by a resident of the state for subsistence uses with gill net, seine, fish wheel, long line, or other means defined by the Board of Fisheries. Annual Chinook salmon harvests by subsistence and personal use fishers in Alaska averaged 167,000 fish from 1994 to 2005. The majority of the subsistence harvest is taken in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.