Heavy rain on Friday raised some Mat-Su salmon stream to flood level over this past weekend. Water level on Little Susitna River on Sunday was at the highest level of the entire season, with logs and debris battering the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Little Susitna River weir and salmon holding trap. The weir had been flooded when water starting flowing over the top of the weir on Saturday, and ADF&G staff have been working at removing the weir for the remainder of the season. Through Saturday August 28, 2021 the final coho salmon escapement count was 10,923 fish. An undetermined number of coho salmon will continue to swim past the weir site, but will not count toward the final tally.
High turbid water on Little Susitna River and other streams slowed coho salmon catch rates dramatically, however, smaller tributary streams that provided a big enough clearwater lens into the higher muddier larger streams provided a few holes where anglers continued to make good coho catches. Bait fishing remains legal downstream of the Parks Highway bridge in Little Susitna River through September 30.
A.J. with 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla (373-5434) told me on Tuesday that most of the Susitna River tributary streams between Willow and Talkeetna had such high water volumes that trout fishing had dropped off significantly. I also talked with a staff member at Susitna Landing who said a few people had been fishing at that location over the weekend, however, she did not know of many fish being caught. At Susitna Landing the water level was starting to drop on Tuesday evening, but still remained quite high. Most Susitna River drainage bait fishing opportunities ended on Tuesday August 31 — and single hook artificial lures are required in most Susitna River drainage fisheries and locations at this time.
Fish Creek near Knik Goose Bay Road rose significantly, however the water flow partially controlled by upstream lakes remained quite clear over the weekend. Driving back from Little Susitna River salmon charters over the weekend I noticed quite a few vehicles parked along he road, so I suspect this may have been one of the better fishing locations one the past weekend. Higher water flows in a small stream like Fish Creek can often trigger larger migrations of salmon upstream.
Stream water flows have started dropping and clearing throughout the Mat-Su Valley, however forecasted rain in the later half of the week could affect stream fishing for the coming weekend as well. So Mat-Su anglers should likely consider how recent rain events may have affected the streams they may intend to fish this coming Labor Day Weekend. Larger and faster streams are often affected negatively by large rainfalls, while the smaller streams or streams on lake systems may provide better fishing opportunities after significant rainfall.
As mentioned in last week’s column coho salmon at many Mat-Su locations are getting darker colored as the spawning season approaches, but later-running coho from other locations may still be in prime ocean-fresh shape. AJ mentioned that 3 Rivers has been suggesting anglers looking for chrome coho salmon consider traveling south to the Kenai River. The coho limit at lower Kenai River locations is 3 per day starting September 1.
Another prime location for coho salmon fishing through Labor Day Weekend is saltwater fishing in and around Valdez. Good numbers of hatchery coho salmon at this locations are available to sport anglers through the holiday weekend. There is also a larger limit of 6 coho per person for those looking for one last opportunity to possible harvest a large number of prime ocean-shape fish. Bank anglers often fish near the boat harbor or at Allison Point. Sometimes fishing at these locations can be better than that experienced by boaters out in the bay.
A third coho salmon location Mat-Su anglers may want to consider for the coming weekend is the head of Turnagain Arm. Coho salmon returning to both the 20 Mile and Placer River drainages have later run timing and I’ve been told by many anglers that good quality coho can be available at these locations well into September. While some anglers plunk salmon roe in the muddy lower river locations, others have reported better success rates by fishing anywhere small tributaries of clear water enter these rivers. Check regulations before going — especially on the 20-Mile drainage.
This week marks a transition point from fisheries focussed on ocean-run salmon toward fishing focussed more on resident inriver species like trout, Dolly Varden, arctic grayling, and northern pike. With the changing of the seasons I am planning on finishing our guided salmon fishing charter reservations through September 7, but we are taking no salmon fishing reservations after that date. The past couple weeks it has become increasingly more difficult for me to find sources to learn about local fishery from. For those reasons, I am planning on this fishing column being my last regular weekly column for the 2021 season. I may get an opportunity to submit an additional column or two during the fall.
Thanks for a Great Summer of Mat-Su Fishing, Fish On, and Good Luck!
Andy Couch is a Mat-Su Valley fishing guide, member of the Matanuska Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission, and member of the Matanuska Valley FIsh and Game Advisory Committee.