In the past Memorial weekend was seen as a “traditional” start to Mat-Su Valley’s sport king salmon season. In reality this mean by Memorial Day there was usually enough king salmon present that the average person could have a chance of catching one on Memorial Weekend or at least might see someone else catch one of the big fish. With Memorial weekend as late as it could possibly occur in May, king salmon will certainly be available, however, since the Knik River/Eklutna Tailrace fishery is the only Mat-Su location where harvest is allowed the sport harvest will undoubtedly be small. On the other hand die-hard Mat-Su king salmon anglers will likely see much less crowded fishing conditions at the other Mat-Su king salmon fishery locations — where catch and release king salmon fishing will be allowed.
Eklutna Tailrace / Knik River — The Harvest Fishery
The May 25 Alaska Department of Fish and Game fishing report for Mat-Su Valley fisheries mentioned that Eklutna Tailrace water flow should be returning to a more normal flow pattern by Thursday May 27, the higher outflow through the tailrace may spur the first salmon into migrating to this location. High temperatures for several days in a row this week. should provide additional meltwater flowing down the Knik River as well. The combination of higher water flows down the river combined with higher flows from the tailrace should get the kings rolling. The first king salmon harvested from this location will likely be harvested in the boat fishery below the tailrace. Before the river and tailrace flows increase enough to bring kings all the way to the tailrace those same fish may be moving into the legal harvest zone in the Knik River side-channel below the tailrace where waters are naturally a bit deeper and more affected by high tides. Bait and multiple hooks are allowed in this fishery. Remember to bring an ink pen, and your fishing license/recorder card as harvests are require to be recorded immediately.
Susitna River Drainage — Catch and Release Fisheries (C&R)
Anglers have been catching a few king salmon daily at the Deshka River/Susitna River confluence area since last Friday through Tuesday of this week. Expect that trend to continue as the run builds through Memorial Weekend and on into June. The Deshka River salmon counting weir was installed on May 20, and 11 king salmon had swum past the weir through Monday May 24. Size 5 or 6 inline spinners have been the most popular lure in this fishery over the past week. One single hook is allowed per lure, and two of the prongs on a stock treble may be cut off to create a single hook, however, treble hook replacement with a size 3/0 or 4/0 swish single hook usually provides better hooking and holding power. Since there are no roads to the lower Deshka River, most people access this loca`tion by boat from Deshka Landing near Willow or by float plane.
Lake Creek (C&R)
I talked with some people boating supplies to Northwoods Lodge near the mouth of Lake Creek who told me the lodge would be busy with guests starting on Memorial Weekend. This is a long day trip by riverboat from Deshka Landing or a shorter airplane ride. This early in the season expect most king salmon available to be near the mouth of Lake Creek.
Parks Highway Tributary Streams North of Willow (C&R)
A guest on one of my fishing charters reported talking to an angler who had already caught a king salmon near the Willow Creek/Susitna River confluence. This location can be accessed by turning west off of the Parks Highway on Willow Creek Parkway. Expect to pay a daily parking or camping fee. Water may be high and somewhat off color.
Little Willow Creek (C&R)
Through Tuesday Susitna River water flow was low enough to create poor fishing conditions at the Little Willow confluence area, however, increase stream flows caused by snow melt this week have potential to create better salmon holding areas at both the Little Willow confluence and at the Little Willow slough mouth just upstream along the Susitna River. Anglers have also been conintuing to catch rainbow trout from this location.
Susitna Landing/Kashwitna River (C&R)
When I talked to one of the operators at Susitna Landing on Monday she had not heard of any king salmon being taken from this location yet, and fishing for rainbow trout had been slowed by high turbid water. All spaces in the campground had already been reserved at this location, however, paid parking is available — and I fully expect a few king salmon will be landed at this location over the holiday weekend.
Sheep Creek and Montana Creek (C&R)
Don’t expect king salmon to be available on a continuous basis, however, May king salmon have been landed in previous years from these locations. Most king salmon will likely be caught close to the clear water / silty water mixline. The fishery is open from 6 am — 11p.m. and king salmon are often more active early and / or late in the day.
Little Susitna River (C&R)
While the Little Susitna River is in the Knik Arm drainage and not part of the Susitna River drainage, I have a report of a couple king salmon that were caught. Expect to find the fish on the lower end of the river near the Little Susitna River Public Use Facility. Water may be high and muddy from snowmelt by this weekend although it was in good condition on Tuesday. Paid parking, boat launching, and camping is available at this location.
If you go to any of these fisheries over the holiday weekend, take time to enjoy being outside in the spring in Alaska. Consider sharing your experience with some friends. Consider any king salmon hooked or landed a bonus, and if fishing a catch and release fishery remember to unhook king salmon without removing them form the water. You may have to hold a king salmon upright facing into the current to revive it before release.
Good Luck and Fish On!
Andy Couch 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 his Fishtale River Guides website: https://www.fish4salmon.com