Fisheries Biologist Samantha Oslund with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Palmer office told me on Wednesday that the first hatchery trout were scheduled to motor to Mat-Su Valley lakes on April 25.
According to Oslund, the first stocking of the year are usually catchable-sized rainbow trout to high-use lakes in the Palmer-Wasilla core area. While we did not discuss the specific location for the first stocking, in the past Kepler-Bradley Lakes along the Glenn Highway near Palmer and Junction (Loberg) Lake near the Glenn Highway and Parks Highway junction have been two of the earliest places to be stocked.
Catchable trout can vary in size, but healthy numbers of eight to 12 inch fish is a good expectation. While anglers have already been out catching a few fish from these lakes, a truckload infusion of fish should dramatically increase catch rates at these and other popular locations that receive the catchable trout stockings. Single salmon eggs, worms, flies, and small spinners should all produce good catches when anglers find a location where the fish are located. Typically the stocked fish school together, at least for a few days, after being released into their new homes. Once a trout is hooked or spotted surfacing, there are often many more of the same size nearby.
Some larger holdover fish from previous stockings are also in the lakes, and may frequently seek out shallow gravel covered areas in the spring. Cooler water temperatures overnight and in the early morning may slow both the fish and anglers down, but as temperatures rise during the day both fish and anglers tend to become more active.
Check regulations and bring your fishing license
Most of the open water is in the Palmer-Wasilla core area at this time, and as one travels north many lakes may still be ice-covered at least for the next few days. Regulation reminder — most streams in the Palmer- Wasilla core area are now closed to protect spawning wild rainbow trout, while the lakes remain open to fishing. It is always a good idea to review fishing regulations and be sure you have a new year’s license (Alaska residents 18 years and older, and nonresidents 16 years and older), before venturing forth. Most steams from Willow Creek north along the Parks Highway are open to fishing on a catch and release only basis for rainbow trout at this time.
Boat use and launch payments
Lakes with public boat launches will likely start seeing more boaters out checking out their boats starting this weekend and continuing through the end of May. Two of the most popular (busy) boat launches in the Palmer-Wasilla area can be Finger Lake a the Alaska State Parks location, and Lucille Lake at the Wasilla City boat launch.
Boaters remember to bring your boat launch and parking fees. Talking with Ranger Dan Amyot with Alaska State Parks on Wednesday, I learned that some parks locations, including Finger Lake, are using credit card machines as the only payment option when staff are not present to take parking and launching fees.
Parks Highway streams
Spencer Cook, owner of Red Beard Anglers, told me he had been fishing near the Willow Creek and Susitna River confluence on Tuesday of this week and caught three smallish rainbow trout on flies, so that fishery has started producing fish. Spencer mentioned that smaller fish to start the season is often the pattern before some significantly larger rainbows arrive in the confluence area. They will be around for a short while before migrating on upstream to spawn.
When I talked with Jeff at Susitna Landing on Tuesday, he told me that a few people had been fishing, but there was still ice flowing down both the Susitna and Kashwitna Rivers, and he knew of no one that had caught any fish from the landing yet. The boat launch is still ice covered and unusable at this time. Jeff mentioned they had a few campsite available and would be getting more available before the coming weekend, as people had been calling and they are expecting some campers this weekend.
Mike Hudson of 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle had told me the Talkeetna River was open as far as he could see upriver from town, but he did not know if many fish had migrated into the Talkeetna, yet. The Talkeetna River can be a good location for rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and arctic grayling once the fish have migrated upstream from the river’s confluence with the Susitna River. Early in the season bank anglers sometimes catch fair numbers of fish near the Talkeetna and Susitna River confluence.
For more recent information give Hudson and 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle a call at 373-3454.
King Salmon closure starting May 1
For those that may not have heard king salmon fishing will be closed during 2019 at all flowing water Mat-Su Valley locations (except Eklutna Tailrace) starting on May 1. This emergency regulation even closes the fishery to intentional catch and release fishing. King salmon caught while fishing for other species are required to be released. Only single hook artificial lures may be used in those waters (other than Eklutna Tailrace /Knik River) normally open to fishing for ocean=run king salmon.
Enjoy the spring weather and fish on!
Andy Couch is owner/guide of Fishtale River Guides. You may read his fishing reports blog at https://www.fish4salmon.com