Open water fishing started slowly last weekend, with only small patches of open water for anglers to try their luck, and only a couple launch sites for boaters. Conditions are changing rapidly, however, and there will be many more fishing and boating options this weekend.
Upper Little Susitna River
On Wednesday evening last week my nephew went along as two other individuals launched boats in the upper Little Susitna River at the Miller’s Reach bridge and travelled upriver a couple miles past the Parks Highway bridge. At this time fishing is only open below the bridge, where there may be a few rainbow trout and whitefish available to catch. If one goes to this location consider it more of a boating trip with the opportunity to wet a lure — and maybe catch and release a rainbow trout or two.
Knik River Access
On Thursday evening last week I saw a large Thunderjet jet boat launched from the Knik River Access site downstream of the Glenn Highway bridge on the Palmer Hay Flats. The following evening (Friday) the entire parking area at this location was filled with vehicles — many with boat trailers. As one of my friends observed it may have been the only location many boaters knew about where they could launch and run a boat. This is also a free launch site, however, one has to back their boat over the riverbank — and in the past some boaters who did not inspect the launch area before using it have backed into a soft spot and gotten their vehicle stuck. For that reason I usually consider this launch site as most suitable for 4-wheel drive launch vehicles. King salmon harvest is allowed upstream from the ADF&G marker in the side channel leading to Eklutna Tailrace, in the tailrace and within 1/2 mile radius of the tailrace. There will be very few king salmon available at this site until the last week of May, however, for any angler lucky enough to catch an early king salmon — this is the one Mat-Su Valley location where ocean-run king salmon may currently be harvested.
This past Sunday I took a drive up the Parks Highway to Deshka Landing to pick up one of my guide boats that I had in storage. On the trip back through Wasilla I noticed enough ice was thawed from Lucille Lake that a person might be able to launch a boat at the City of Wasilla’s boat launch on the south side of the lake. On Monday I drove to the launch and found that people had already been using it, however, the gravel launch was a bit soft and had been tore up a bit. This is a pay site with parking located a little farther down the road 9toards the Parks Highway) in a marked empty lot. As each day goes by more water becomes open creating a larger area to run a boat and fish.
Alaska Department of FIsh and Game biologist Samantha Oslund told me on Monday she drove out to Finger Lake, and the boat launch is now free of ice, so boats could be launched. Near mid-day she reports about 5 or 6 people were fishing in the popular area near the boat launch dock. The amount of open water was limited by a sheet of ice near the first island, however, the ice is disappearing quickly and there will be much more water to boat and fish by this weekend.
Little Susitna Public Use Facility
On Friday last week I learned that the lower Little Susitna River was mostly ice-free, however Little Susitna River Road was still soft and being worked on in preparation for public use. Oslund told me on Tuesday that the Little Susitna Public Use Facility is now open. From my experience fishing at this location I would expect there may be a few rainbow trout or whitefish that anglers may catch this weekend. The trout are catch and release by regulation at this time. There is also a small chance that an early arriving king salmon could be available by this weekend — once again regulations would require release if an angler was lucky enough to land a king salmon at this location.
While this launch site was officially closed when this article was written, the ice has washed out on the Susitna River in front of the launch, and an airboat was launched from this location on Tuesday evening. The launch vehicle did a bit of damage to the still-wet road leading to the boat launch — so it may be another week before Deshka Landing officially opens for public use. I had talked with Landing Manager Amy Davis on Monday and she wanted the remaining snow to melt off the launch access road and then for both the access road and parking areas to have time to dry out before opening to the public. Possible public opening May 15.
When I talked with one of the staff at this site on Tuesday, she said they were having people come up to camp this weekend, however, there is still a considerable amount of snow, so campsites are limited and she anticipated no campsites would be available near the river. An angler had already been out fishing, but reported shelf ice along the side of the river with no fish holding in the currently shallow waters. A group with two rafts floated down Kashwitna River to the landing on Monday, however, the launch is not officially open at this time, as shallow water, snow, and ice all combine to make for difficult boating conditions. The floaters did not see or catch any fish. Rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and arctic grayling will likely become available at this location near the Susitna River confluence for several days before migrating upstream. There is a new site operator at this location for the 2021 season and people interested in the latest conditions at Susitna Landing may visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SuLandingbyGHC/
Several Lakes near Palmer have been rapidly clearing of ice — with Meirs Lake on the Springer System and Echo Lake along the Glenn Highway nearly ice free on Tuesday, and considerable open water at Kepler Lake, Bradley Lake, and Canoe Lake. Note: much of the shorelines surrounding many Mat-Su stocked lakes is in private ownership, please respect private property. Small portable boats might be beneficial for accessing more water at these locations now that open water areas are becoming much larger. Samantha Oslund said the Department has been targeting May 10 as a possible time to start stocking Mat-Su Valley Lakes, however she has been keeping hatchery staff apprised of lake conditions — just in case stocking opportunities may spring into action a bit earlier.
If you are one of the many people interested in fishing or camping during the second weekend in May, hopefully this article has provided helpful information.
Good Luck and Fish Onl
Andy Couch is the owner of Fishtale River Guides and writes a weekly fishing column for the Frontiersman during Mat-Su Valley’s open-water fishing season. You may read his daily Mat-Su Valley fishing report updates at the Fishtale River Guides website: https://www.fish4salmon.com