Much has changed since I wrote last week’s fishing column. After a considerable amount of rain more than 3,000 coho have swum upstream past the Little Susitna River weir since Aug. 15. That upstream migration spurred a considerable amount of sport harvest, but it appears most of the upstream migration may now be over. I have been guiding charter fishing trips at Little Susitna River during this past week, and on Monday and Tuesday of this week my guests were catching coho salmon, however, we saw very few fish surfacing. In addition, I can not recall one of my guests catching a single coho with sea lice during the past week. Further, most of the coho from this location are developing darker blushes and some are dark with large well-developed eggs. In the past I’ve usually seen some chrome-colored sea lice coho in this location into the first week of September. I am hopeful that may still occur this year, but I suspect the run of ocean-fresh fish may now be nearly over.
When I spoke with Mike Hudson of 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle this week, he told me he had heard of good coho salmon catches throughout the valley this past weekend — including from streams all along the Parks Highway and from the Talkeetna River drainage. The staff at Susitna Landing reported similar good coho harvests over the weekend, but mentioned that effort and harvests had been low since the weekend. For those fishing the Susitna River drainage bait fishing closes on the first day of September (Wednesday) and that usually signals a significant drop off in fishing effort. Some years, however, good coho salmon catches may continue for an additional week into September. If you go in September Susitna River drainage regulations require the use of single -hook artificial lures.
Jim Tilton with Deshka Landing Lodge and Charters told me all the other charters seemed to have called it a season over on the Deshka River, but that he had still been guiding to Deshka and finding pockets of silver salmon abundances. He reported guests catching some chrome sea-lice coho recently, but also mentioned that about half of the salmon were developing a rosy blush. Jim also mentioned that his fishing business would be shutting down after the next week of fishing, as he would be transitioning into guiding hunting trips.
Weekend Prospects:When I made phone calls this week, I could not make contact with many people who had been out fishing at some locations, so I’m making a list partly on past years personal experience.
Jim Creek — Decent late season coho salmon catches are often made near the Jim Creek confluence with the Knik River. If you are not familiar with the regulations for this location please review before going. This location often has chrome coho a bit later than many Mat-Su locations. There is also some boat-accessible fishing upstream above the sand dunes, but some closed waters in this area as well.
Fish Creek — I saw a good abundance of vehicles at the Fish Creek parking area off of Knik-Goose Bay Road last weekend, which leads me to thinking good abundances of coho may be available at this location. Good catches are most frequently made early in the morning or wishing a couple hours of a high tide. This is a small fishing area and even though there may not be many fish available on one tide, there good be a considerable abundance on the next tide.
Parks Highway streams and Talkeetna River — some of these streams have later run timing compared to streams closer to saltwater, so they often provide better coho salmon harvest opportunities in late August and early September. Some of these longer distance running salmon are often in better shape this time of year as well. Fishing stream mouth confluences with the Susitna River can produce some of the better abundances of fresh-run fish.
Little Susitna River — even on the lower river near and below Little Susitna River Public Use Facility campground and boat launch most of the coho are developing a rosy blush. Fish are still being caught, however, and there is always the hope of landing a fresh-run sea -lice fish.
Eklutna Tailrace — past years have had good abundance of coho salmon at the tailrace this time of year. This is an easily-accessible drive-up facility with free parking. It could be worth checking out — although I have not heard any recent reports from people fishing this location.
Lake Creek and other Yentna River drainage locations — Lake Creek in particular can have solid abundances of coho salmon near it’s confluence with the Yentna River. This is a long boat ride or airplane accessible fishery, but also could be combined with a hunting trip.
While I mostly like to report on Mat-Su fishing opportunities — Mike Hudson told me that good abundance of fresh coho salmon had recently shown up at both Seward and Valdez. These are saltwater fisheries, but worth checking out for those willing to make a longer road trip to catch ocean-fresh coho. The Valdez fishing is often best through the Labor Day weekend.
Good Luck and Fish On!
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.