Dan and Cilla Suprak took their float tubes out on a Mat-Su Valley lake near Palmer this past week and caught more than a dozen holdover trout from last year. Dan mentioned that Cilla caught several larger fish up to about 15 inches, while those he caught were a bit smaller. It sounded like they had this particular lake to themselves. With ice now gone, or nearly gone, from most lakes in the Palmer — Wasilla core area there is considerably more water to venture out on. More boaters and even float tubers are getting out on the water rather than fishing from the bank or docks.
My friend Ben Allen mentioned taking his boat out for a shakedown cruise and catching a Finger Lake rainbow trout. He was casting one of his own jig, far from shore, in a deep portion of the lake on Tuesday. Ben said there were relatively few people out on the lake at that time, but a few other boaters were out fishing and a jet skier was out having fun as well.
Samantha Oslund with the Alaska Department of FIsh and Game (ADF&G) in Palmer told me on Monday she expected the hatchery crew would be stocking fish at Mat-Su Valley locations this week. While Samantha was not sure about which Mat-Su Valley locations would be stocked this week, she mentioned that the hatchery crew usually does well updating stocking locations on the ADF&G website on Thursdays. Use this page of the ADF&G website to make an up-to-date search for fish stocking events that have occurred in the Mat-Su or other areas of the state https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=SportStockingHatcheriesSearch.main
When I drove by Kepler — Bradley Lakes along the Glenn Highway on Tuesday afternoon I saw a particularly large group of vehicles and anglers out along the lake, so I immediately wondered if this may have been one of the first locations to receive some catchable (8 — 12 inch) rainbow trout from the hatchery crew. I did the search for Mat-Su stocking events this spring — but no positive results were showing from that search on Tuesday. Other Mat-Su Lakes that often have some of the earlier stockings of catchable trout include Loberg (Junction) Lake, Finger Lake, Lucille Lake.
Jared at 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla also mentioned anglers were now catching some wild rainbow trout out of Wasilla Lake in downtown Wasilla. Jared had also driven up the Parks Highway recently and mentioned that water levels were higher and a bit turbid at streams crossing the highway, but fishable. He once again mentioned the mouth of Willow Creek off of Willow Creek Parkway as a location where anglers were continuing to report catching wild rainbow trout. Note: streams from and including Willow Creek and further north are open to trout fishing on a catch and release basis at this time.
As of Tuesday Jared reported that Big Lake was still ice covered. When the ice clears off people will be targeting arctic char, rainbow trout, and northern pike at this popular fishing location. This is primarily a boat fishery.
One of the staff members at Susitna Landing (mile 82 Parks Highway) told me anglers had been catching a few rainbow trout at that location, but she had not heard of anyone catching grayling — as of Tuesday. Grayling should be available near Susitna Landing and at other Parks Highway tributary streams soon and perhaps by this weekend.
King Salmon — Arriving SoonI’ve already had my guide boat out fishing for king salmon a couple times in May. We did not hook any king salmon through Tuesday, and I know of no one else who has hooked or caught an ocean-run king salmon from a Mat-Su stream this season. ADF&G has already installed their Little Susitna River salmon counting weir — but as of Tuesday had only seen rainbow trout at the weir. There are never very many king salmon available in Mat-Su Valley streams at this time of year, but for the truly addicted king salmon anglers, fishing before May 20 usually provides an opportunity to fish popular lower river king salmon locations with little competition from other anglers. Mid-May fishing often also provides opportunities to see lots of migrating birds, and sometimes other wildlife along the rivers during fishing trips. Remember in the Mat-Su Valley ocean-run king salmon may only be harvested at the Knik River/Eklutna Tailrace —— while fishing on the Little Susitna River and Susitna River drainage tributary streams is on a catch and release only basis.
Since it is still early in the open water fishing season I will remind anglers — remember to purchase fishing licenses and king salmon stamps before going on your first 2021 fishing trip. Due to ongoing safety concerns with Covid-19, ADF&G has been encouraging anglers to obtain fishing licenses / stamps / permits online with a credit card from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website whenever possible.
This weekend and the following week, as fishing conditions and the number of fish available at Mat-Su Valley fishery locations continue to improve, 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