When I talked with Alaska Department of Fish and Game Fisheries Biologist, Samantha Oslund earlier this week she mentioned that anglers are continuing to catch large abundance of pink salmon in Susitna River tributary streams. Water temperatures had been extremely warm for salmon in the Deshka River before our rain on Tuesday night and Wednesday, and was likely slowing the migration of silver (coho) salmon upstream toward Deshka River weir. Even with slow silver salmon fishing, anglers were continuing to catch pink salmon, although Ben Allen told me about fishing upriver on the Deshka and seeing schools of pink salmon swimming by without any interest in the lures and bait his guests were fishing. Two pink salmon hotspots that Oslund mentioned this past week are road accessible Montana Creek and Willow Creek. A. J. Hoffman with 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle told me he floated Willow Creek this past weekend (for the 3rd weekend in a row) and experienced excellent fishing for both rainbow trout and pink salmon. According to A.J. the pink salmon were biting so well that they almost became bothersome during his float — a problem many anglers would undoubtedly like to experience!
Eastside Susitna River tributary steams tend to stay considerably cooler than the Deshka River, however, with an extended period of hot dry weather even some of the normally cool Eastside tributary streams were starting to heat to uncomfortable temperatures for salmon and trout. Most of the anglers I’ve talked with this past week have been searching for silver salmon, and while some anglers have experienced a few limit trips on silvers, fishing for this popular salmon has been spotty at best.
Coho fishing, small improvements so far
In last week’s column I mentioned coho salmon numbers should be building dramatically as we approached the coming July 27-28 weekend. Indeed, weir coho passage counts have climbed, however, sport fishing has remained spotty. Greg Acord of Acord Guide Service told me he saw increased salmon activity on the Little Susitna River on a rainy Wednesday morning this week, however, his guests that morning only managed to bring one coho salmon to the boat. Greg’s groups have been doing a bit better than that most mornings, but not too many limits — yet. Greg said that the lower Little Su hardly seemed to change in water level after and during the rain, but he knew it had to make some difference. He said water temperature down in the tidal zone was quite warm on Wednesday morning. A lot of Little Su and Deshka angler are hoping for enough additional rain to both raise water levels and significantly cool water temperatures in the hopes such changes would spur more activity and bites from the salmon that are present.
Chum salmon, lower numbers
After several excellent year of large chum salmon numbers (and in particular on Little Susitna River) numbers seem to be much more normal this year, and some anglers are missing their battles with this determined fighter. Commercial chum harvests were upbeat in the Central District this week, so hope still remains that better numbers of chum salmon may still be on their way.
Fish Creek watch
Samantha Oslund wanted me to be sure to mention the possibility of a Fish Creek dip net opening. She said that many people had been calling the ADF&G office asking if the personal use dip net fishery was opening. Sockeye salmon counts through Fish Creek weir have been running later than normal this year, but started to pick up recently. When ADF&G can project an escapement of 35,000 sockeye past the weir then the fishery may be opened. Oslund said Fish Creek numbers can rise quickly so fisherman should watch for an emergency opening soon in response to Fish Creek sockeye escapements. When and if the fishery opens — a personal use permit is required and only Alaska residents may participate. The personal use fishing area out Knik-Goose Bay Road is small and daily fishing hours are limited — so be sure to brush up on regulations before participating. When open this fishery is only scheduled to last through the end of July —- so there are not too many days left for it to happen.
I asked a few people what was happening at the tailrace, and only received vague answers, so I made a couple field trips this week. I drove over while it was pouring rain on Tuesday night. People were continuing to fish during the downpour, so I’m thinking some action must be happening at the tailrace. I also saw a chrome-bright salmon laying in the water on a stringer — don’t know what species, but likely a sockeye or coho. I did not see any salmon surfacing in the brief time I was at the tailrace. On Wednesday I took my boat out in the Knik River below the tailrace and fished with one other person for about 4 hours. We caught 2 sockeye salmon — and one of them was foul hooked and had to be released. The other fish was legally hooked on a Flashtrap Spinner. I was hoping to find some willing silver salmon, but those were the only fish we were able to get, and we did not see any large fish surface in the river below the tailrace. We boated up to where we could see the action at the tailrace, but only saw one salmon surface and it looked to be a dark king salmon. We also saw a woman cleaning a salmon that looked to be either a sockeye salmon or a silver salmon. I’m thinking mainly sockeye available at this time, but silver salmon abundance should show up soon.
I saw an ADF&G emergency order restricting the amount of set nets Northern District commercial fishermen could use starting on Monday of this week. This management plan action was being taken to ensure better Sustina River sockeye salmon escapement levels. however, it should also provide more opportunity for salmon of all species to swim into Mat-Su Valley streams over the next couple weeks.
While the weather forecast may be calling for rain this weekend, a bit of cooler and wet weather should likely provide better trout and salmon catching opportunities to those hardy souls who get out and enjoy another brief Alaska summer. Good luck and fish on!