When I talked with Mike Hudson with 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla on Wednesday he had two suggestions for Mat-Su Anglers for the coming weekend. He suggested Mat-Su Valley lake fishing should be picking up with the arrival of cooler air and water temperatures. I had seen on his Facebook page that Jason Perego of Alaska Lakes Guide Service 254-291-1516 had been having some good luck on lakes lately for both good-sized northern pike and rainbow trout.
For those looking for one last good opportunity for salmon — Mike Hudson went way out of area and suggested Mat-Su Valley anglers may want to fish in Valdez over the holiday weekend. There can be good numbers of silver salmon available to both bank and boat anglers through the holiday weekend. My friend and fellow guide, Ben Allen has made the trip several times in the past over the Labor Day Weekend. He has had both exceptional catches and skinny catches to show over several years time — but Ben also considers Labor Day Weekend a good time to try Valdez for chrome ocean-fresh silver salmon.
Personal use and subsistence fishing
Both of these fisheries open only to Alaska residents and only by permit remain available on the Copper River through the end of September. I’ve talked with a few anglers who have fished the Copper River in September and done well. The catch can be a mix of both sockeye salmon and silver salmon, and usually there is not much competition this time of year. Permits can be picked up at the Palmer or Glennallen Fish and Game offices during 9-5 office hours, but not on holidays or weekends. For Mat-Su residents still looking for an opportunity to put some quality salmon up for the season this is one of the last best options.
I boated with Ben and Amber Allen from Deshka Landing all the way up the Yentna River to Lake Creek. When We finally reached Lake Creek (about a 60 mile boat trip one-way) there were already three or four guide boats and anglers working the clear-water lens just below the mouth of Lake Creek. There was enough area however for us to anchor up down below and we were shortly catching a mix of mostly chum salmon, but also several decent silver salmon. There seemed to be a good abundance of salmon, however, the action soon dropped off as the fish became spooky in the shallow clear water. It was a fun trip — but a long ways to go for some salmon.
Traveling up the Parks Highway to Talkeetna could also provide some silver salmon action this weekend, and travel along the Parks Highway through the McKinley Fire area has improved the last time I checked. Note: Aug. 31 is the last day bait fishing for salmon is allowed on Susitna River drainage waters that have a bait fishery.
On Wednesday morning this week I drove over and fished the tailrace as it was starting to get light. There was a small crowd of anglers already fishing both side of the tailrace’s confluence with the Knik River. I saw several salmon surface, and saw one angler briefly hook a salmon on roe fished under a bobber, but the fish at this area seemed mostly uninterested in the bait and lures the anglers were offering. I did notice a few darkish salmon anglers had laying on stringers in the water that must have been caught sometime earlier. The Knik River and tailrace had both dropped to where a person could easily walk out to the cleaning table without getting wet if that person was wearing knee-high rubber boots.
The lower portion of Cottonwood Creek and Rabbit Slough remain open on weekend from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Lower Fish Creek out Knik Goose Bay Road remains open seven days per week by emergency order from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. All of these options could provide some salmon catching opportunity.
This small fishery near the Butte has been seeing decent number of coho salmon swimming through the weir lately. I heard Samantha Oslund with Alaska Department of Fish and Game suggesting fishing near Jim Creek’s confluence with the Knik River as one of the better options for anglers to consider. Note: Jim Creek is open Wednesday through Sunday each week, and closed to fishing on Monday and Tuesday. Legal hours are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
While attending a Mat-Su Salmon Partnership site visit to Cottonwood Creek on Wednesday I talked with a Northern District commercial fisherman who told me he had done quite well this year on silver salmon from his site on Fire Island near Anchorage. He thought silvers might still be milling around out in the Inlet — waiting for rain to raise water levels or cooler water temperatures. He mentioned that even in early August a higher percentage of silver salmon seemed to be getting dark out in saltwater. His fishing area like the Little Susitna River and Deshka River sport fisheries has been closed to commercial fishing. I hope he is right about more silver salmon that could show up in Mat-Su and Turnagain Arm streams, however, it is getting late enough in the season that I doubt Little Su and Deshka will get enough fish to meet even minimum coho salmon escapement goal levels. The minimum coho goal was met at Fish Creek quite a while back, however, relatively few coho have sum past that weir since. Although JIm Creek has a weir that measure coho salmon abundance, and has been used in fishery management in the past, the department currently has no weir-based goal for Jim Creek coho. That stocked is assessed post season by a index foot count on the McRoberts Creek tributary to Jim Creek.
This may be the last column where I write on salmon fishing conditions throughout the Mat-Su Valley, but I hope to write at least an article or two summarizing and providing thoughts about the 2019 Mat-Su Valley sport salmon fisheries with thoughts of what to expect for 2020.
Good luck and fish on!