Andy Couch

As many Alaskans prepare for camping trips over the holiday weekend Mat-Su Valley’s stocked lakes may provide the area’s best fishing catching action. Many of the better lakes are stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, but others like Big Lake provide opportunities to catch larger wild fish. Samantha Oslund with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game also suggested Byers Lake up the Parks Highway north of Talkeetna as a camping and fishing destination over the weekend.

Most places Alaskans are planning to camp over the weekend, camping space reservations may be in order. Earlier this week both Farley Dean with Willow Creek Resort and Steve with Susitna Landing told me they were anticipating selling out camping spaces over the weekend, and that has been how most of the summer has been going for some of the more popular camping locations utilized by Alaska residents. I’ve heard second hand information on multiple occasions that the campground located at the Talkeetna River boat launch has also been full most weekends. All sources indicate that there is much less use and participation during the weekdays. If one searches a bit there are many lakes that receive very low fishing pressure and should provide good catching opportunities during the coming weekend and week. For those looking for a new lake to try consider talking with the folks at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Palmer 746-6300. If you have specific interests they may be able to direct to certain locations that could provide the fishing experience you are most interested in.

Parks Highway troutThe water level dropped about 18 inches and cleared up this past weekend at Susitna Landing, providing some of the best trout fishing conditions at that location in several weeks. Other locations along the Parks Highway continue to see improved water conditions for trout fishing, and some lucky angler may hook into an early chum or pink salmon this weekend. It is early, but I’ve seen it happen on the 4th of July weekend in the past.

King salmon — Deshka achieves goal range — but remains catch and releaseThe lower end of the Deshka River king salmon escapement range was achieved through Deshka River weir on Sunday, and I figured the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would have removed emergency regulations at that location and allowed sport anglers a chance to harvest a few king salmon at the end of the season. However, when I talked with Oslund on Tuesday she said the Department would keep the fishery catch and release and watch what happens. She indicated the Department has emergency orders prepared in case enough king salmon swim past the weir to allow harvest, but the emergency regulations catch and release regulations remain at the time this article was written. If you are planning a trip to Deshka River you may want to call the Department for an update on the most recent regulation status. 746-6300. I am still hopeful some king salmon harvest may be allowed at this location during the 2020 season.

Talkeetna River/Clear CreekI talked with Todd Kingery of Fishbone Charters in Talkeetna on Tuesday and he indicated there were very few king salmon, but that was not stopping local Alaskans from filling the campground at the Talkeetna Boat Launch and fishing at Clear Creek each weekend. Todd was expecting a large number of anglers at Talkeetna over the holiday weekend, but mentioned it has been much quieter during the week. 907-841-3963 if you’d like to book a fishing trip with one of the most experienced fishing guides in Talkeetna.

Eklutna Tailrace/Knik RiverThis location continues to provide the only opportunity in the Mat-Su Valley to harvest a king salmon, and according to Oslund people have been doing best with bait like salmon eggs. She also suggested fishing early in the morning. I would add, expect to put in several hours of fishing for every fish caught. The last few times I have gone to the tailrace, I’ve at least seen a few salmon surfacing that kept me interested, even though every king salmon large enough to write on my license refused to bite my lure.

Little Susitna River

The Little Su remains open to catch and release king salmon fishing, and king salmon have finally been moving through the Little Susitna River weir in better numbers recently. The weir counts through Monday June 29 were 748 king salmon and 161 sockeye salmon.

When I talked with Samantha Oslund on Tuesday she said no other species of salmon had been seen at Little Susitna River weir or at the Department’s fish wheel near the Susitna River/Yentna River confluence. This Department’s fish wheel project used to count and tag king salmon has now been concluded for the season.

Sockeye salmonNorthern District commercial fishermen continue to catch a few sockeye salmon, so there are likely a few nosing around Mat-Su stream locations in addition to Little Susitna River. Knik River/Eklutna Tailrace, Fish Creek near Knik Goose Bay Road, and Cottonwood Creek are all locations where there is a chance of finding catchable numbers of sockeye salmon on the holiday weekend or during the next week. A trip to one or more of these locations is definitely a prospecting trip this early in July and could just as easily reveal few or no salmon present. Are you feeling lucky?

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Personal use dip netting salmonThe personal use fishery downstream of Chitina on the Copper River is a four-hour drive from the Mat-Su Valley core area, but has been producing sockeye salmon, and was recently closed to king salmon harvest for the remainder of the season.

I believe the Kasilof River dip net fishery will be open by the holiday weekend, but would advise those interested in participating to check regulations and be sure. There are already a good number of sockeye salmon migrating up the Kasilof River.

Kenai River personal use dip netting I’m thinking opens on July 10, again check regulations. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game should start listing late run Kenai River sockeye salmon escapement on their website during July.

New this year, the first day of personal use dip netting will occur on the Susitna River downstream of the Yentna River confluence and downstream of Susitna Station. The open area should be marked by the Department of Fish and Game. All of these fisheries are by permit that can be obtained on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website, in addition an Alaska Sportfishing license is also required. For those wanting to learn more about these personal use fisheries I would suggest calling the Alaska Department of Fish and Game 746-6300. Note: The new Susitna River Fishery will be open on Saturdays and Wednesdays only from July 10 to 31. Most people will likely access this new fishery by boat from Deshka Landing.

The July 4th weekend is forecast to provide warm sunny weather, and a pleasant opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, however, expect a lot more fishing than salmon catching. As the month of July progresses expect to see more and more salmon arriving in Mat-Su Valley locations.

Good luck and fish on!

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