Jason Perrego, owner of Alaska Lakes Guide Service (254-291-1516), has been out fishing and checking out several of the local lakes. He sent me a picture of a nice rainbow trout he caught out of Bradley Lake, and he also told me of catching rainbow trout off the boat dock at Alaska State Parks Finger Lake facility. Like me, Jason has been chomping at the bit to get out and fish open water. He even drove up the Parks Highway to fish the mouth of Willow Creek, although he did not find any fish willing to bite the day he was there. Jason has also been busy getting his guide boat ready to go, and has his first trip scheduled for the coming week — just in time for some of the earliest available open water boat fishing.
Part of the reason Jason has been swinging by (and fishing Finger Lake) is to check on the open water — this is usually one of the earliest lakes with a boat launch that opens up each spring. When I talked to Jason on Wednesday he had already been to Finger Lake that day, and told me there was enough ice-free water that somebody could drive around a little bit with a small jet boat. Still, when he described the size of the small area of open water, I had no intention of going to the lake to run my boat. I like to do an early season check out run when I can run around a bit, starting slow to warm up my motor and eventually working toward a little higher speed cruising. I often throw a rod in my boat when I of to a lake for the first early season check out run, and sometimes I catch a few fish as well.
Boat and fish options
For those looking to drive a boat this weekend, the options are quite limited in the Mat-Su Valley freshwaters, but there are a few. I am confident a few people will give it a go in the limited amount of open water at Finger Lake. Who knows by the weekend how much open water will be available at Finger Lake. The Wasilla City boat launch at Lucille Lake is another spot where people have told me there is even more open water. The folks at 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle also mentioned people had already been catching rainbow trout at this location as well.
For those looking to a river boat launch, I know people have been boating for quite a while now on the lower Knik River off the Glenn Highway access near Reflections Lake. This is somewhat of a tricky spot and the water can be low — I would suggest people with airboat or jet boats might be able to use this site.
Because water can be low at times I like to launch and load my boat back on the trailer at this site when the tide is high — it just provides a bit more water. Gary Feaster also told me that his neighbor had already boated all the way up the Knik River to the glacier this spring, and another fellow had taken a small jet boat up there as well. When heading further upstream on the Knik River the launch site most people use is near the mouth of Bodenburg Creek, and a person needs to be careful and make sure the launch area used has a firm bottom or they could end up stuck in some muddy glacial silt. On Monday I drove out to Little Susitna River Public Use Facility in the Point MacKenzie area and casted with a spinner at a couple spots along the bank.
I usually like to run out a time or two to this location to check on the road and river conditions before I am willing to drag my boat all the way out there. The water is seasonally low as would be expected this time of year, but I figured if I was careful I could easily enough launch a boat and go for a ride or go fishing at this location. Conditions should only improve by the weekend.
Deshka Landing, Susitna Landing, Talkeetna Boat Launch closed — check next week
I talked with Amy Davis at Deshka Landing on Wednesday and there was still an ice jam right in front of Deshka Landing and the boat launch was full of ice. Amy expected Deshka Landing would still be closed this weekend. She said even when the Susitna River ice broke loose — there might be a wait period to allow the parking lot to dry out before the landing might open to the general public.
Marilyn Rouswell at Susitna Landing (495-7700) old me they had already had a few people out camping at Susitna Landing, and a few fishermen checking out the river. She expects a limited number of people out camping and trying the fishery for rainbow trout and grayling this weekend. The river is open and flowing, but the water is low and there is shelf ice along the edges. As far as Marilynn knew no-one had been out fishing at this location yet this year. The boat launch is closed at this point, but bear hunters will be wanting to try for an early spring opportunity before long. Joe and Marilynn are usually around the phone and willing to answer some questions if you are considering going to Susitna Landing.
When I talked with Rhett Nealis of Phantom Tri River Charters in Talkeetna (733-2400), he reported that breakup was a bit behind the past couple years, but likely on a normal schedule. Rhett did not have a boat in the water yet, and mentioned there was no water at the boat launch. He is hopeful to get a boat slid into the river in about a week or so. At this point he would not recommend boat at Talkeetna to anyone. One of Rhett’s guides has been talking about fishing the lower Talkeetna River near town, but Rhett did not know that he had done any fishing yet. Rhett mentioned there are usually a few fish that seem to spend the winter in this area, but he also mentioned there was quite a bit of shelf ice still along the sides making walking along the river difficult.
So in summary I’m expecting bank fishing options will be mostly what is available this weekend. Several lakes in the core area have enough open water to get out and fish — but other lakes are still mostly ice covered, so people may need to move around a bit to find some open water. Eklutna Tailrace off the Knik River is wide open and all the snow and ice is gone from this location — on this past Tuesday Sam Ivey with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told me the parking lot gate was scheduled to be unlocked. The parking lot is dry and the fish cleaning table is already in place for whomever catches the first fish of the season from this location.
Good Luck if you go this weekend, and fish on!
Andy Couch has fished in the Mat-Su Valley since 1971 and owns a local salmon fishing guide service. You may visit his FIshtale River Guides website at http://www.fish4salmon.com where he posts free daily fishing reports during the summer.