Eklutna Tailrace

Water conditions have been clearer than normal at the Eklutna Tailrace king salmon fishery.

When I asked Mike Hudson of 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle what was new this week, he mentioned pike fishing in the Nancy Lake system near Willow. This is a topic I have not covered much this year. Several of these lakes have pike, including Nancy Lake, Red Shirt Lake ( one of the most popular) and likely all lakes connected by creeks to Red Shirt Lake or the Susitna River. Northern pike are mostly caught in the shallower weedy sections of these lakes, and will bite a variety of lures or baits (many anglers prefer herring or hooligan under a bobber). Weedless hook rigs or floating lures are popular for fishing amongst or near vegetation. When fishing flies or surface lures it is usually best to wait until you feel the fish before setting the hook, otherwise it is easy to get over excited and jerk the hook away before the pike has closed it’s mouth when reacting to visual strikes. I’ve found that the most excitement in pike fishing is often the initial strike and hookup. Some of the strikes can be downright vicious, but after hooking up the battle usually does not last very long before the pike can be landed. Be careful when landing or unhooking pike as their mouths are full of small sharp teeth that are pointed downward toward their stomachs. Once an object is their mouths it becomes difficult to remove without damage from these teeth. The special regulation that applies to all Mat-Su Valley pike fisheries: once caught pike may not be returned to the water alive. Since this is the case, a solid strike to the back of a pike’s head with a fish banker will dispatch the fish and make it much easier to remove the hook(s) without damaging fingers. I still like to be careful and prefer to remove hooks from even a dead pike using a pair of long nosed pliers.

Stream trout fishing

Mike Hudson also mentioned that although Susitna tributary streams north of Willow remain high, they have cleared up and better catches have resulted — he specifically mentioned the past week as being the best so far this year on streams north of Willow along the Parks Highway. The folks at Susitna Landing echoed Mike’s statement that waters have cleared up recently, providing increased visibility for fish to find the artificial single hook flies or lures that are required in these waters at this time. Note: king salmon fishing remains closed by emergency order in these streams, but all other fish species may be targeted.

Knik Arm Drainage streams open June 15Steams in the Palmer-Wasilla area that have been closed to protect spawning rainbow trout will open on June 15 for species other than king salmon. Note: only specific stream stretches of some streams are open to salmon fishing, so review the regulations before fishing. A change adopted by the Alaska Board of Fisheries this past winter was to open the section of Fish Creek (Knik Goose Bay Road) where salmon may be harvested to fishing on Saturdays and Sundays only from June 15 to July 14 for all species king salmon.

Eklutna Tailrace/Knik River king salmon catchingBoth Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Samantha Oslund and Mike Hudson mentioned that anglers were starting to catch king salmon on a daily basis at the tailrace recently and king salmon continue to be caught in the Knik River below the tailrace as well. Top king salmon producers in the tailrace are salmon roe or shrimp fished either under a bobber or behind a Spin -N-Glo and weighted spinners. In the river below the tailrace boat anglers also catch fish with diving plugs. This fishery remains the only Mat-Su Valley freshwater location where ocean-run king salmon may be harvested at this time and provides the best opportunity to catch a king salmon from the bank at this time. The Youth Fishing Day at Eklutna Tailrace will occur on June 20 in 2020. This should provide a prime opportunity for anglers less than 16 years of age to fish with less competition for king salmon between the pedestrian bridge and the tailrace confluence with the Knik River.

Deshka River catch and release king salmonI’ve been to this fishery three times this season, and each time people in the boat caught king salmon, and we also saw other boaters catching king salmon. Water flows remain higher than normal with cool l water temperatures that help in getting king salmon to strike the required single-hook artificial lures and should also help encourage upstream migration. For some reason daily king salmon weir passage was unusually low on June 8 and 9 at Deshka River with only 82 kings on Tuesday and 6 kings on Wednesday at a time when king salmon migration should be increasing rather than declining. There is still time for king salmon numbers to improve, however, a dramatic change likely needs to occur during the next 10 days to ensure attainment of the Deshka River king salmon spawning escapement goal.

Little Susitna River catch and release king salmonI’ve talked to or heard of a few anglers who have caught and released king salmon at Little Susitna River this year, however water levels have been very high for the past 10 days and most people are simply not fishing at this location. In addition, the Department of Fish and Game’s annual king salmon count at Little Susitna River is only 12 fish through June 9. In recent years most king salmon passage at Little Susitna River salmon counting weir has occurred around June 20. So far it looks like an extremely low year for both angler participation and catch at Little Susitna River. This has been a great location to enjoy fishing without much competition and there is also a good chance to see wildlife along the river.

Good luck 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

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