During a year with lower coho salmon abundance, ADF&G has been using the Conservation Corridor to provide Northern-bound coho and sockeye salmon an opportunity to migrate into Northern Cook Inlet waters. This provides hope for a reasonable coho salmon sport fishery in Northern Cook Inlet streams. Sockeye abundance levels have already supported Mat-Su personal use and sport fisheries and will continue to provide sport harvest opportunities in the coming week.
Fish Creek Youth Fishery —August 6 and 7
This weekend kicks off with the Fish Creek Youth Only Fishery for anglers less than 16 years old on Saturday August 6 and Sunday August 7. This fishery is designed to allow youth an opportunity to fish for salmon without having to compete with adults. Adults may be providing transportation to the fishery and helping youth with their fishing gear and bait or netting fish, but the fishery itself is for anglers under 16 years of age only — on these two days. Legal fishing hours are 5 am — 10 p.m. for this fishery, and the legal daily limit is 6 salmon (only 2 of which may be coho salmon). Youth under 16 years of age do not need a fishing license, and this fishery is for both resident and nonresident anglers. There should be solid numbers of sockeye salmon and likely decent numbers of silver (coho) salmon available at Fish Creek.
Little Susitna River Bait Fishery — August 6 Start
Bait fishing opens for the first time at Little Susitna River downstream of the Parks Highway bridge on August 6. Anglers fishing the lower Little Susitna River accessible from Little Susitna River Public Use Facility have been experiencing decent success harvesting coho salmon, prior to the bait opening. High water has helped disperse silver, chum, pink, and sockeye salmon throughout several miles of river, but the same high water has made finding and harvesting salmon more challenging, and especially for those who have only fished Little Susitna River during times of low or average stream flows. Enough coho salmon had migrated upstream of Little Susitna River Weir for Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Fisheries Biologist, Sam Ivey, to say on Monday, “If coho keep migrating at this rate we are projecting to achieve the Little Susitna River coho salmon escapement goal.”
1, 316 coho salmon have been counted passing Little Susitna River weir through July 31 — the coho spawning escapement goal is 9, 200 —17,700 fish. High stream flows overtopped the weir from July 17 — 27, with no coho salmon passage counted. A few coho salmon were reported harvested by the sport fishery above the weir during this same timeframe, so some amount of coho passage occurred uncounted.
The opening day of bait fishing on Little Susitna River is often the busiest day on the river for the entire year. If you go to this fishery from Little Susitna River Public Use Facility on Saturday or Sunday expect to share the river with large numbers of boaters and bank anglers. The daily bag limit is 2 coho salmon per person.
823 Coho salmon have passed the Deshka River Weir through July 31. Deshka River weir was overtopped by high stream flow from July 17 — 26 during which no coho salmon passage was counted. The Deshka River coho salmon escapement goal is 10, 200—24,100 fish. Bait is allowed and the daily limit for salmon (excluding king salmon) is 3 fish, all of which may be coho salmon. This fishery is primarily accessed by boat from Deshka Landing Outdoor Association Boat Launch, with a lower number of anglers accessing the fishery by airplane. With coho abundances arriving later than normal in the Susitna River drainage, the location of Deshka River lower in the drainage ensures larger numbers of coho salmon should be available at this location this weekend compared to fishing spots further upstream in the drainage.
Susitna Landing and Parks Highway Streams
Holly Peterson with Susitna Landing called me last Friday and mentioned that bank anglers had harvested the first 6 coho salmon from the landing. High water levels have dropped considerably, but few boaters have been launching from this location. This weekend may provide a reasonable opportunity to harvest some coho salmon from Susitna Landing and other Parks Highway tributary streams. Parks Highway tributaries lower in the drainage likely have higher abundances of coho through the first week of August, as salmon migrate up the drainage.
The tailrace provides road-accessible bank angling close to Mat-Su Valley’s Palmer — Wasilla core area. This fishery is open 7 days per week with a limit of 3 salmon (other than king salmon) per person — all of the fish may be coho salmon. Bait is allowed and the fishery is open 24 hours per day. Chum and sockeye salmon are also harvested at this location. The most popular bait is cured salmon roe and spinners are the most popular artificial lure type.
Located off Plumley Road near Bodenberg Butte, this fishery hosts strong runs of both coho and sockeye salmon. Our recent run of cool wet weather should play favorably for anglers fishing this location. I heard one report of an angler harvesting a limit of coho salmon more than a week ago from this location, and peak numbers of ocean-fresh coho salmon are available around August 10. Note: Special regulations — the fishery is open from 5 am — 10 p.m. / 5 days per week from Wednesday to Sunday — closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Caution: the last few miles of road can be rough.
Weekend Only Fisheries
The lower reaches of Cottonwood Creek and Wasilla Creek (Rabbit Slough) should produce some coho salmon limits this weekend. Both fisheries are only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 5 am — 10 pm. Cottonwood Creek also hosts a decent return of sockeye salmon that will bolster harvest opportunity.
Additional Sockeye Salmon Fisheries
Fish Creek (Knik-Goose Bay Road) has been opened by Emergency Order — 7 days per week from August 1 — 13, with a liberalized limit of 6 salmon daily (none may be coho salmon except during the youth fishery on August 6 & 7). Fish Creek weir counts have been discontinued for the season, however, larger abundances of sockeye salmon should be available earlier in the August 1—13 timeframe.
Larson Creek off the Talkeetna River has had a strong abundance of sockeye salmon, with potentially peak harvest opportunity in the coming week.
Remote Lake Creek tributary of the Yentna River— sockeye, chum, pink and some early coho salmon should all be available this week.
Good Luck and Fish On!
Andy Couch is a Mat-Su Valley fishing guide who primarily targets ocean-run salmon during summer months. You can read daily fishing reports on his Fishtale River Guides website: https://www.fish4salmon.com