Copper River

Tony Russ of Wasilla fishes a dip net in hopes of some tasty Copper River salmon.

When I talked with Dan Suprak of Alaska Chinook Charters at 7:30 am on June 1, he and his wife had already caught and released six king salmon that morning. In the brief moments we were on the phone two more king salmon were hooked in other boats near the Deshka River and Susitna River confluence, and Dan was anxious to get back to fishing. Only four boats were fishing June 1 near the confluence at the official start time of 6 a.m., with a total of eight boats fishing the entire time Dan and his wife were making their catches. Dan said all except for one boat caught king salmon that morning. Peak king salmon fishing for the entire season is happening now and will likely continue for the next week at the Deshka and Susitna confluence area. Weir passage counts for Deshka River king salmon will likely be available online by the time this article is published, as Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) staff was working at weir installation on June 1.

King salmon regulationsADF&G has issued emergency regulations for all Mat-Su king salmon fisheries except Eklutna Tailrace/Knik River this season. Legal fishing hours for most locations are 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., with an additional gear requirement of one single hook artificial lure. Currently all king salmon caught must be immediately released, without removing the fish from the water. To facilitate releasing a king salmon many anglers use a landing net to control the fish while removing the hook. For hook removal all anglers should have at least one pair of long nosed pliers. Be careful, if you lose your grip on the pliers in a deep water area like the Deshka/Susitna confluence they may sink out of sight, never to be seen again. While reviving a tired salmon, many anglers take a quick photo of the fish in the water before release. Fishing licenses and king salmon stamp requirements remain in effect to participate in the catch and release king salmon fisheries. Some king salmon streams including the Susitna River tributary streams upstream of Deshka River to the Talkeetna/Susitna River confluence (Unit 2) are entirely closed to king salmon fishing this year. Unit 2 remains open to fishing for other fish species, however, with the stipulation that if a king salmon is inadvertently caught it must be immediately released. If you are uncertain about Mat-Su king salmon regulations be sure to read ADF&G emergency orders as they supersede what is printed in the regulation booklets. You may also call the Palmer ADF&G office 746-6300 for fishing regulation clarifications.

Little Susitna River king salmonKing salmon passage through the department’s Little Susitna River weir is available at the ADF&G website — although king salmon count numbers and fishing continue to be affected by high and muddy water conditions. King salmon counts and sport catches have been low at Little Su, however, improvements in water conditions are bound to provide better fishing. You may view Little Su stream flows at this location: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=15290000 Note: the medium discharge triangles and when the blue discharge line nears this level expect better king salmon catches to occur at Little Su.

Eklutna Tailrace/Knik River king salmonLow flows in the Knik River side-channel below the confluence of Eklutna Tailrace have been retarding king salmon migration into the tailrace and king salmon fishing has been slow at this location. Some king salmon are being caught by boat anglers fishing upstream of the side-channel confluence with the mainstream Knik River. Note: king salmon fishing is not legal below the red ADF&G marker on the east bank of the Knik River side-channel.

Stocking truck rollingAccording to ADF&G biologist, Samantha Oslund, Mat-Su Valley lakes continue to provide excellent fishing and catching opportunities. A search on the ADF&G website reveals a plethora of possibilities for catching stocked fish: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=SportStockingHatcheriesSearch.areaSearchResults Note: Catchable Arctic grayling are now available at the following lakes: Canoe, Finger, Florence, Ida, Kepler-Bradley, Knik, Long, Lorraine, Meirs, Ravine, and Reed. Also worth noting, the exceptional size of some rainbow trout stocked in Golden Lake — 22.9 inches and 4 lbs in weight. If an angler fished one stocked Mat-Su Valley lake every day it would take more than 2 months to fish only those lakes stocked since May 4, 2020.

Stream trout fishingMike Hudson of 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle mentioned that rainbow trout are now being caught throughout Parks Highway stream drainages, rather than only near the tributary confluences with the Susitna River. Mike also heard multiple reports of better catches recently. Farley Dean with Willow Creek Resort 495-6343 told me stream flows remain high, but Willow Creek, in particular, has good clarity, and people have been catching both rainbow trout and arctic grayling. Fishing pressure has been light and a few people are now floating and fishing some of the Parks Highway streams. Even with a lack of nonresident visitors, Farley told met plenty of people have been camping at Willow Creek this year. Steve at Susitna Landing 495-7700 explained even though the water was high, kids had been out catching rainbow trout and grayling at that location, and had hooked into some fish large enough to break their lines. Susitna Landing also has spacious campsites and an easy access boat launch. If you decide to fish streams, check the regulation booklet for specific locations you intend to fish. Note: Further south in the Palmer — Wasilla area many streams open to fishing on June 15.

Copper River subsistence and personal use salmon fisheriesSubsistence fish wheel and dip net fisheries are now open along the Copper River, however, sockeye salmon sonar counts at Miles Lake through May have been less than 1/3 of what they were at the same time last year: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/sf/FishCounts/index.cfm?ADFG=main.displayResults&COUNTLOCATIONID=39&SpeciesID=420

Personal Use Dip Netting is scheduled to open June 8, however, emergency restrictions will likely occur, because of the shortage of sockeye salmon past the Miles Lake counter . The commercial fishery near the Copper River mouth has only been fishing one opener per week during the last two weeks of May, and commercial sockeye salmon catches during the openings have been low: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyareacopperriver.harvestsummary

Both Subsistence and Personal Use fisheries are limited to Alaska residents only and a household permit is required. Permits for both fisheries may now be obtained online: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=residentfishing.main

Good Luck and Fish On!

Andy Couch is a local salmon fishing guide who provides Mat-Su Valley fishing reports throughout the season on his Fishtale River Guides website. See Fishing Reports at https.//www.fish4salmon.com

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