The big holiday weekend will see many Alaskans camping, fishing, or both in various locations throughout the Mat-Su Valley and south central Alaska. Rainbow trout and arctic char stocked in lakes with public access remain as the most popular fishing catching option in the Mat -Su Valley over the holiday weekend. Taking a look at the fish stocking search on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G website) I saw that 30 different Mat-Su Valley locations have been stocked during the month of May with catchable sized rainbow trout or arctic char. Catchable sized fish are approximately 10 niches in average length. When talking with fishing department staff at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Wasilla (864-8000), AJ Hoffman at 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle (373-5434), and Area ADF&G sport fishery biologist Sam Ivey (746-6300) there was solid consensus that fishing Mat-Su Valley’s stocked lakes would provide the best fish catching opportunity for most anglers in the Mat-Su Valley over the next week. Fishing bait under small bobbers is a great way to introduce kids to fishing in these stocked lakes. Ben Allen told me of hiking away from the parking area where others were congregated in the Kepler-Bradley Lakes system, and finding a location where he and his buddy were all alone catching stocked rainbows on nearly every cast with cured salmon roe under small bobbers this past week. Other anglers use a float tube, canoe, or small boat to access more and better fishing spots around the lakes. For those with boats, trolling small lures or bait can be productive, or sometimes helps locate congregations of fish in a short amount of time.
CampingMemorial Day Weekend is one of the most popular weekends of the entire summer for camping, so much so that all the available campsite at two Mat-Su locations were already reserved by Wednesday of this week. If you were thinking about camping at either Willow Creek Resort or Susitna Landing this weekend and don’t have reservations now is a good time to make a change of plans. Both of these locations still have day use park and fish or park and boat options, but there are no available campsites. Farley Dean at Willow Creek Resort told me they were only allowing camping in every other campsite over the weekend, but that the remaining campsites should become available starting next week. Farley said Willow Creek has good clarity and people have been catching some fish, however, water is high and cold and fishing has been slow. People like to float and fish Willow Creek from this location then take out at the Alaska State Parks Willow Creek campground at the mouth of Willow Creek, but Farley said nobody has been floating yet this spring. Day parking adn fishing is available for $6 and campsites are available after the holiday weekend. You may contact Willow Creek Resort for more information at 495-6343.
At mile 82.5 along the Parks Highway, Susitna Landing is also fully booked for campsites over the weekend, however, parking and shore fishing and boat launching remain available. People fishing from the shore or wade fishing have been catching some rainbow trout at this location, although the water is cloudy with runoff. After Memorial weekend campsites are readily available at this time for most of the summer. For more information call Susitna Landing at 495-7700.
Alaska State Parks campgroundsSome campgrounds will be open this weekend, and the campsites have not been available for reservations, so Alaskans looking for campsites may want to check out Finger Lake, Nancy Lake, Willow Creek, Denali View South, Lower Troublesome, and Kesugi Ken Campgrounds. Alaska State Parks also operates the Little Susitna River Public Use Facility Campground and Boat Launch in the Point Mackenzie area. Diana with Alaska State Parks (745-3975) mentioned they would start taking reservations in June. Matanuska Lakes campground and nearby Fox Ridge RV Park have already been busy with campers and fishers as well.
HooliganDan Suprak with Alaska Chinook Charters (907-748-0095) has been guiding some combination hooligan and pike fishing trips on the Susitna River downstream from Deshka Landing this week. His guests have been catching both hooligan and northern pike. The ADG&G fishing report for this week also mentioned hooligan fishing on the Susitna River. Jennifer from Susitna Landing mentioned that she had heard reports of people catching hooligan further upstream near Talkeetna. Farley Dean mentioned that people may also be catching hooligan this weekend near the mouth of Willow Creek. For those Alaska residents (resident only fishery) interested in dip netting some hooligan, this may be the best weekend of the season in portions of the Susitna River drainage. This fishery often does not last long, so those wanting to catch hooligan need to go soon!
Northern pikeAJ Hoffman told me several people had been texting him with photos of northern pike caught from Mat-Su Valley Lakes this week, and Sam Ivey with ADF&G told me much of the pike spawning may now be over, and the fish are typically hungry and more aggressive after spawning. Big Lake, Nancy Lake and the Nancy Lake system, and tributary streams and lakes to the Susitna River drainage can all provide good pike fishing. NOTE: Alexander and Sucker Lakes have once again been closed to all fishing by emergency order this summer.
King salmonMemorial Day Weekend for many Mat-Su Valley anglers is synonymous with the start of king salmon fishing season. The ADF&G fishing report mentioned that the first king salmon was taken at Deshka River recently, however, as of Wednesday the Deshka River salmon counting weir had not yet been installed because of high water on the Deshka River. When I talked with Dan Suprak after he fished on Wednesday he mentioned Deshka River was still high, but that he and his wife may try king salmon fishing there on Friday. With limited numbers of king salmon available this early in the season, high water scatters the fish amongst a considerable amount of water making them more difficult to catch. Most Mat-Su king salmon caught during the month of May, however, are caught near the Deshka River confluence with the Susitna River. If you go, remember this is a single -hook artificial lure fishery and no retention is allowed at this time. Jim Tilton with Deshka Landing Charter and Lodge (495-5873) told me the river has dropped a lot, but it is still high and moving quickly. Deshka will continue to drop and water conditions will improve before the weekend, so Jim will be running his first king salmon charter of the season on the weekend.
There is also the possibility of catching a king salmon along the lower Little Susitna River over the holiday weekend, however, water conditions are even less favorable at Little Su than at the Deshka. In addition, the number of king salmon returning to Little Susitna River is considerable less than what migrates through the mouth and goes up Deshka. Little Su is also scheduled as a single-hook artificial lure fishery managed on a catch and release only basis for king salmon.
If a person were to catch a king salmon at the tailrace over the holiday weekend, it is the only location in the Mat-Su Valley were an ocean-run king salmon may be legally kept at this time. In addition, this fishery is open 24 hours per day. Bait an multiple hooks are both legal gear all year round when fishing at the tailrace. Note: this is a free for public use fishing area — anglers are asked to please pick up after themselves, and remember to social distance in consideration of others. Expect slow fishing, but enjoyable weather at the tailrace this weekend.
Have a safe enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, and Fish On!
Andy Couch is a local salmon fishing guide who provides Mat-Su Valley fishing reports throughout the season on his Fishtale River Guides website. See Fishing Reports at https.//www.fish4salmon.com