Although king salmon fishing officially closes on Little Susitna River on July 13 at 11 p.m., our recent hot weather, low water levels, and an earlier than normal migration of king salmon upstream of the Little Susitna River salmon counting weir have for all practical purposes slowed king salmon catching near the Little Susitna River Public Use Facility campground and boat launch to a slow crawl at best.
The first 236 pink salmon, 13 chum salmon, and 1 coho salmon had passed upstream of the weir by July 10, however, few of these newly arriving species had been caught either. With some cooler weather (and hopefully rain in the future) fishing for species other than king salmon should start picking up by the weekend. Remember Little Susitna River is restricted to artificial lures only through Aug. 5.
Select Susitna River drainage waters open to bait fishing July 14
Many waters of the Susitna River drainage open to bait fishing at 12:01 am on July 14. This includes the lower reaches of most Susitna River tributary steams from Willow Creek north to the Talkeetna River (check specific regulations for the waters you intend to fish). A. J. Hoffman of 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle told me he had floated Willow Creek last weekend and saw lots of pink salmon, a few chum salmon, and some silver salmon in the lower stretches near the Susitna River confluence. All these salmon species along with sockeye salmon are open to fishing and for harvest, however king salmon fishing remains closed. Those large red salmon that can easily be spotted in the extremely low flows of the clear Susitna River tributary streams should be given a wide berth as they stage in preparation for spawning. According to several sources, with theses streams closed to king salmon fishing for the past two years 2019 looks like there is a good return of king salmon for spawning and anglers should do all they can to let the kings spawn unmolested in hopes that the Susitna River drainage king salmon fishery may return to some of the high production levels we enjoyed during the late 1970s, 1980s, 19990s and early 2000s. The best salmon fishing for the 4 other salmon species will be available in the lower stretches of the tributary streams, areas that should likely have the least amount of king salmon present. Note: With extremely high Susitna River flow levels turbid glacial water had pushed always up into the stream mouths, but hopefully before long cooler weather will result in more normal Susitna River flows once again.
Exceptional stream trout fishing
Both A.J. and Spencer Cook with I Fish Alaska Guide Service told me the low clear flow levels of some Susitna River tributary streams had contributed to excellent rainbow trout fishing over the past week. Expect that trend to continue as water levels may remain low in the Susitna River tributary stream for an extended period of time thereby concentrating the trout and grayling populations in smaller areas. Most of the wild fish populations area managed on a conservative harvest or catch and release basis — once again check the regulations for the specific tributary stream you intend to fish.
I stopped by the Tailrace on Tuesday and was amazed that the Knik River was so high it had backed up the tailrace until there was only a few inches of clearance below the pedestrian bridge to the tailrace water. In addition the water of the tailrace was nearly as turbid as the Knik River and many of the places where anglers normally stand on dry ground while fishing along the tailrace were underwater. Hopefully some cooler weather will allow water levels to drop to a better level of catching salmon at this location, but if you go you might want to prepare for the current high water levels by bringing a pair of boots or waders. Bait like salmon roe might work best in the turbid water. Sitting bait on the bottom is how my nephew managed to catch a jack king salmon and have another bite while fishing the tailrace during this past week. Note: the tailrace fishery is the one freshwater location in the Mat-Su Valley where it will remain legal to fish for and harvest king salmon after July 13. Sockeye salmon, chum salmon, and silver salmon will all be migrating to or past the tailrace before long.
Warm weather northern pike
Sam Ivey with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told me that northern pike were extremely tolerant of waters with low oxygen contentsomething that can result from periods of extended hot weather. In addition, warmer water temperatures also tend to speed up pike’s metabolism so that they eat more. For these reasons Sam thought our recent weather conditions were contributing to excellent Mat-Su Valley pike fishing. A. J. Hoffman had also mentioned hearing good angler reports for northern pike at Big Lake and the Nancy Lake system over the past week. A. J. mentioned Red Shirt Lake in the Nancy Lake system has having exceptional pike fishing recently. Look for the largest concentrations of northern pike to be feeding in or near the shallows. Jason Perrego told me that some of the larger pike caught during mid- summer are often caught in deeper water areas, he mentioned people trolling for char or trout sometimes come up with an extra large pike.
I heard somewhat of a mixed message on fishing the stocked lakes for trout this past week. FIshing warmer shallower water areas was reported to have slowed down, while A. J. told me people trolling in deeper water (likely cooler and more oxygenated) were making some good catches. Knob Lake up the Glenn Highway and Finger Lake in the Palmer — Wasilla Core Area are two spots that recently producing good catches of trout.
Personal use salmon fishing
The Kenai River personal use salmon fishery opened on July 10 and could produce some large sockeye salmon catches by this weekend, Kenai River sockeye salmon escapement counts over 40,000 sockeye salmon in a day usually indicate good dip netting and sport fishing. The Kasilof River personal use fishery remains open with good numbers of sockeye migrating up the river so far. The Copper River personal use fishery at Chitina was recently plagued by high dangerous water levels. This should change with a change toward cooler weather. Fish Creek will only open if enough sockeye make it past the Fish Creek weir. As of July 10 the first sockeye salmon had migrated past the weir. This fishery, when it opens, normally occurs in the later part of July.
Good luck this weekend and fish on!
Andy Couch is the owner of FIshtale River Guides http://www.fish4salmon.com and has been fishing Mat-Su Valley locations since the early 1970s.