Andy Couch

“This is has been one of my tougher silver salmon seasons,” an exhausted Ben Allen of Miller’s Riverboat Service, proclaimed after a one-day fishing trip where he took a group of anglers from Deshka Landing to Little Willow Creek, Willow Creek, Deshka River, back to Deshka Landing, then trailered his boat to Talkeetna River and finished the trip fishing there. By the end of the day each of his guests had harvested a limit of salmon. When I was Ben’s age I never moved around that much on a one-day fishing trip. Now that I’m older I would not even consider it.

Ben had an apt description of what I’ve been seeing this fishing season as well.

“Low silver salmon numbers, and extreme low water that crowd sport anglers together in the few places with water,” he said. Combined, those conditions have kept Ben moving from place to place looking for better conditions. The reality is, however, that this is not a normal fishing season. With an extended weather forecast calling for several more days of unusually hot clear weather, it is unlikely Mat-Su salmon fishing conditions will change before this weekend.

Deshka River Conditions

While slowing, motoring through the backed up water near the Deshka River and Susitna River confluence the fish finder on Ben’s boat was showing a big blank. Ben talked with one of the two boaters he saw fishing at the Deshka River mouth. He had caught one silver salmon and saw two other salmon surface that morning. This occurred on Wednesday August 14 — and with only 2,999 silver (coho) salmon past Deshka River salmon counting weir through August 13 — one would expect good numbers of silver salmon should be schooled up somewhere in the lower Deshka River. Perhaps those missing coho salmon are schooled up somewhere out in the colder waters of the Susitna River. Alaska Department of FIsh and Game (ADF&G) fisheries biologist Samantha Oslund told me on Wednesday the water temperature at Deshka River had measured 72 degrees fahrenheit for more than a week. Sport fish exploration of silver salmon at Deshka River is extremely low under such conditions — as were silver salmon weir passage numbers. In the week from August 7-13 only 345 silver salmon swam past Deshka River weir. ADF&G’s silver salmon escapement goal past Deshka River weir calls for 10,200 to 24,100 fish. Bait fishing is allowed at this time at Deshka River and the salmon limit is 3 salmon per day allow which may be silver or coho salmon.

King salmon fishing and harvest is closed.

No Bait on Little Susitna River

By emergency order, ADF&G restricted the Little Susitna River fishery to artificial lures only from August 14 through September 30. The Little Susitna River coho salmon escapement goal is 10,100 to 17,700 fish, but only 3,675 coho had passed the Little Su weir through Tuesday, August 13.

ADF&G Area Sport FIsheries Biologist Sam Ivey explained that with somewhat cooler water temperatures at Little Susitna River and a higher sport fishery exploration rate, closing bait fishing may be needed to decrease angler harvest rates and thereby increase coho salmon weir passage numbers. Sam also expected that the regulation restriction would also somewhat decrease overall angler effort at Little Susitna River.

Where to go for Boat Anglers

With extremely poor fishing conditions and catch rates at Deshka River, and with no bait allowed and low water causing difficult boating conditions at Little Susitna River, what options remain for boater seeking a decent chance of catching silver salmon?

Sam Ivey gave me a good report of angler success catching silver salmon on the sloughs of the lower Yentna River, however, boating distance form Deshka Landing, and the small area of this fisheries could not support too much angler effort. There are other small fishery locations along the Susitna River as well, including the upper mouths of Willow Creek, Little Willow Creek, Sheep Creek, and the Kashwitna River at Susitna Landing.

The Talkeetna Boat Launch provide access to the Talkeetna River system and Clear Creek. Ben Allen described fishing conditions early this week at the mouth of Clear Creek as being near-combat level. In other words, most of the silver salmon were being taken in a very small fishing area by a high number of anglers. The options for boat anglers are limited.

Jim Creek Warm Water

Sam Ivey mentioned that with warm water throughout the Mat-Su Valley this season the Department was expecting to see some die-off of adult salmon in the Jim Creek system if water temperatures increased. The Department installed a video counting system at the Jim Creek weir this year in an effort to pass salmon as soon as possible on their upstream migration past the weir. Most of the harvest in the Jim Creek system usually occurs near the stream confluence with the Knik River. Salmon roe is the bait of choice and can produce good catches in the partially occluded waters confluence waters. Check regulations for information about day and time restrictions to this fishery before going.

Eklutna Tailrace

Samantha Oslund told me that ADF&G was getting reports of continued success from Eklutna Tailrace with much of the harvest occurring early in the morning and near the tailrace’s confluence with the Knik River. REMINDER: The Eklutna Tailrace Youth Only Fishery Occurs this Saturday August 17 from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. in the area between the pedestrian bridge and the tailrace confluence with the Knik River. This fishery is to provide an opportunity for youth anglers to fish without having to compete with adults. Adults may help the participating youth (ages 15 and under), but may not fish in the youth only area from 6 am until 6 pm. The area upstream of the pedestrian bridge and the area downstream of the Knik River confluence will remain open to fishing for anglers of all ages on August 17.

Fish Creek

Sockeye numbers are likely dropping off at FIsh Creek along Knik Goose Bay Road, however, this fishery remains open 7 days per week from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sport angler may harvest up 6 salmon, only 2 of which may be silver (coho) salmon. Best catch rates often occur early int he morning and near high tide timing. Only a small area is open to sport salmon fishing.

Please respect private property in the area.

Trout Fishing

While salmon fishing conditions may be difficult at some locations, Samantha Oslund suggests anglers should find good uncrowded trout fishing on Mat-Su area lakes. She specifically suggested anglers may have better catch rates at larger deeper lakes that tend to have cooler water temperatures. She also suggested trout fishing in some of the salmon streams using egg imitations like beads or small flies.

Good Luck and Fish On!

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