Stock Characteristics of Humpback Whitefish and Least Cisco in the Chatanika River, Alaska

  • Trent M. Sutton
  • Lorena E. Edenfield
Keywords: humpback whitefish, Coregonus pidschian, least cisco, Coregonus sardinella, size structure, age structure, growth, mortality rate


Overharvest of humpback whitefish (Coregonus pidschian) and least cisco (C. sardinella) in the Chatanika River, Alaska, during the late 1980s led to collapsed stocks and closure of the fishery. We evaluated the stock characteristics of these two species to determine the extent of recovery. A total of 3207 humpback whitefish and 2766 least cisco were captured during their fall spawning migration in 2008. Humpback whitefish ranged from 188 to 583 mm in fork length (FL) and encompassed ages 5 to 29 years, while least cisco ranged from 215 to 425 mm in FL and their ages ranged from 3 to 14 years. Patterns in growth and length-at-age were similar for both species, and annual mortality rates were 31% for humpback whitefish (age 11 and older) and 44% for least cisco (age 9 and older). Population attributes were within the ranges observed for other North American stocks of humpback whitefish and least cisco. Although the humpback whitefish in the Chatanika River have stock attributes that are consistent with low exploitation and this species appears to have recovered, the least cisco in the river still exhibit many attributes that suggest the cisco stock has not fully recovered. The results of this study indicate that the current allowable harvest limit of 2000 whitefish is cautious and appears to be sustainable.