With a strong early abundance of sockeye salmon passing through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) salmon counting weir at Fish Creek, the Department opened the Fish Creek personal use dip net fishery from July 19-31. The fishery is only open to Alaska residents, and both a sport fishing license and Upper Cook Inlet Personal Use permit are required to participate. With thousands of sockeye salmon available for harvest on a daily basis, and only a small area open to dip netting this is often a crowded fishery, and one I would not personally was to participate in. Still plenty of Alaskans who have learned the patterns of this particular fishery are able to harvest a year’s supply of sockeye salmon just minutes from the Mat-Su Valley Core Area. Thousands of sockeye salmon usually migrate into this fishing area on a daily basis through the end of July and into August, however this fishery is only open through July 31, so peak salmon harvesting is currently happening and will continue for about a week. The fishery is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11p.m.
Note: The 2020 Fish Creek Youth Sport Fishery will occur on the weekend of August 1-2, starting the day after conclusion of the Fish Creek personal use season on July 31.
Lower Susitna River personal use dip net fishery
Although this personal use fishing area is much larger than the Fish Creek area, reports I have heard from this fishery have been of slow harvesting for July 11, 15, and 18. The fishing area, located downstream from Yentna River and Susitna Station and upstream of an ADF&G marker on the northern portion of Bell Island, is about an hour run from Deshka Landing in my guide boat. I plan to observe and participate in this fishery on Wednesday of this week (after the deadline for this column) however I do plan to post a dip net fishing repot on my website. The final two fishing periods of the season will remain after publication of this column. Mike Wood (owner of Susitna Salmon Company 354-5815) who set nets west of the Susitna River confluence with Cook Inlet told me he believed Susitna River salmon were running a bit late, and he just experienced his first good commercial period of the 2020 season on Monday, July 20. Mike mentioned Susitna sockeye were large and in great shape this year, so he’s now filling orders.T hat abundance of sockeye salmon he experienced should be migrating upstream through the personal use dip netting area, followed by peak coho salmon abundance in the lower Susitna River, so the last two days of the season on Saturday, July 25 and Wednesday, July 29 may provide the best salmon harvest opportunities of the season at this fishery.
Legal fishing hours are 6 a.m. to 11p.m. For more information or to get a personal use permit visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=residentfishing.main
Cottonwood Creek should have sockeye salmon available for harvest in the lower section of the stream open to salmon fishing this weekend and there should also be at least a few silver salmon as well.
Eklutna Tailrace and Jim Creek off the Knik River system should also have some sockeye along with a few early silver salmon this weekend.
Lake Creek up the Yentna River should also have some sockeye available.
The first few sockeye salmon have passed the Larson Creek weir on the Talkeetna River drainage, so that fishery will be producing increasing numbers of sockeye salmon by this weekend. As of Monday July 20, a total of 36 sockeye had been counted by ADF&G at this location.
These small two-year salmon are showing up in Susitna River tributary streams along the Parks Highway and a few had even made it all the way up to the Talkeetna River drainage early this week. Expect numbers of pink salmon in good condition to increase dramatically by this weekend. Mike Wood told me that large numbers of pink salmon were available earlier this week as they staged in saltwater in preparation to heading up the Susitna River drainage. Through Monday, 4,720 pink salmon had already passed Deshka River weir, and I had reports that people were catching good numbers of pink salmon near the Deshka River mouth along with some silver salmon as well. Dan Suprak of Alaska Chinook Charters told me he guided a group to the Deshka River on Monday morning who had a ball catching about 30 pink salmon.
Wood said that prime ocean-fresh chum salmon were also staging in saltwater near the Susitna River mouth earlier this week. According to many sources I have been talking with, in stream numbers have been low at the start of the season especially along the Parks Highway tributaries to the Susitna River. Early numbers of chum salmon have been lower than last year at Little Susitna River, but on Monday 400 chum salmon swam past Little Susitna River weir, more than doubling the season total for the year. Hopefully more of these hard-fighting salmon are on their way. Expect peak chum salmon fishing at lower river locations during the last week of July.
These are the most popular sport fish harvested in the Mat-su Valley and coho salmon entry into Mat-Su streams seems to be a bit late this year, however, a few silvers have already been taken from the Susitna River tributaries along the Parks Highway. Jennifer with Susitna Landing told me the first silver salmon were harvested at that location last weekend. Anglers at Little Susitna River were catching a few silver salmon early this week, so success rates should increase by the weekend. Through Monday only four silver salmon had passed Little Susitna River Weir and only three silver salmon had passed Deshka River weir, so most of the fish are located in these two streams downstream of the weirs. Expect good silver salmon fishing at these locations by the weekend. Willow Creek has also been producing both pink and silver salmon. Rabbit Slough near Palmer should also provide some silver salmon catches this weekend.
Jared with 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla told me the Parks Highway tributary streams were starting to produce good rainbow trout catches for anglers using beads to imitate freshly spawned king salmon eggs. Flow levels at several Mat-Su streams remain higher than normal, but are relatively clear unless significant rains occur. Jared also mentioned some of their customers had been traveling a bit north to fish for arctic grayling, with others having good luck for northern pike in Mat-Su lakes. The Nancy Lake system near Willow is particularly good for pike, with Red Shirt lake being one of the most popular although it does require about a 3-mile hike.
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