Little Susitna River

Expect good camping, but high and muddy water fishing conditions at Little Susitna River this solstice weekend.

I had a guest in my guide boat this week who was talking about fishing for 24 hours during one day in Alaska. That is a bit extreme for most anglers, however, with the traditional longest day of the year approaching on Sunday, June 21, there certainly is enough daylight/twilight to fish and catch fish at any time during that 24-hour day. I will admit to fishing well past midnight and into the wee hours of the morning many times on summer solstices past. As many anglers know early morning and late evening hours, with lower light levels, are often when fish may be most active and therefore easier to catch.

Parks Highway trout and solstice campingFarley Dean at Willow Creek Resort emphasized fish early or fish late for best opportunities to catch rainbow trout at streams along the Parks Highway. With the higher stream flows resulting from a large snow melt this year, the Parks Highway streams have been fishing better nearly each week as the summer has gone on according to Farley. In addition to people out for some fishing, Farley mentioned on Tuesday of this week that people seeking to celebrate the solstice weekend were already starting to fill reservations for camping spaces at Willow Creek Resort. Even if camping spaces are full people can still park and fish Willow and other Parks Highway stream locations on a per day basis. Another option is to park and float one of the Parks Highway streams. Many people float and fish, while other choose to simply enjoy the float. Two of the most popular floats are Willow Creek and Little Willow Creek, each of these floats usually ends at the Alaska State Parks Willow Creek Campground. There is a fee to use the launch State Parks take out launch, and by appointment Farley can sometimes arrange for a shuttle drive or pick up service. 495-6343.

When I talked with Steve at Susitna Landing he mentioned that their camping reservations were filling up quickly as well. The river there is about as high as he has seen it and rather dirty as well, he mentioned that most people were camping and not fishing at this location because of water conditions. He expects more camping spaces and better fishing conditions later in the summer.

Stocked lakes and campingSeveral of the lakes stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have camping areas run or administered by Alaska State Parks. For those looking for a camping and fishing option over the solstice weekend you may want to call the Mat-Su Headquarters office at 745-3975 to check on camping space and reservations. Another popular spot with limited spaces is Kepler-Bradley Park.

Solstice king salmon fishing and Eklutna youth king salmon fisheryEklutna Tailrace/Knik River is the only location in the Mat-Su Valley where anglers may legally fish for king salmon on a 24-hour per day basis. While there are two fairly large parking areas near the tailrace, these lots are designated for day use and not camping. It is a common practice for anglers to be fishing the tailrace and its confluence with the Knik River 24 hours per day at this time during peak king salmon season. A reminder that Saturday, June 20 is Youth King Salmon Fishery day at the tailrace, when the portion of the tailrace from the pedestrian bridge downstream to the confluence with the Knik River is reserved for youth anglers up to 15 year in age from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The remainder of the tailrace and the entire Knik River section open to king salmon fishing remains open to all other anglers during these hours, so there is room and opportunity for all the participate. High and turbid Knik River water below the tailrace has started to reducing king salmon harvest success for boaters fishing downstream of the tailrace since last weekend.

Deshka River remains the top spot for catching king salmon in the Mat-Su Valley, although this fishery remains restricted to catch and release fishing with single-hook artificial lures only. Before long low and warm stream flows in Deshka River could reduce king salmon success at this location unless significant water cooling rain occurs. A good soaking rain can quickly revive fishing success at this location. I guided Deshka River trips on successive days early this week with only small king salmon caught on one of my trips, and then the next day my guests caught and released several good-sized Deshka king salmon. The most popular lure for Deshka River king salmon is a large Vibrax Spinner, although my guests have also been catching some king salmon on Mag Lip Flatfish and Flashtrap Spinners. Through Monday June 15, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has counted 2,486 king salmon past Deshka River Weir. Note: Because of high water at the start of the 2020 season this weir could not be installed until June 2 rather than the more traditional install time around May 20. With a few anglers catching a few king salmon near the weir site before installation, it is likely some smaller number of king salmon may have swum upstream uncounted before weir installation.

Little Susitna River camping and king salmonFor the looking for a picturesque camping location with spaces likely available over the weekend I would suggest Little Susitna River Public Use Facility run by Alaska State Parks. This is a fee camping area and also the most popular boat launch and salmon fishing area on the Little Susitna River, although the water remains high and muddy at Little Su. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game weir count was at 26 king from May 12 through Monday June 15, but good numbers of king salmon could be available below the weir, and it is also possible that more king salmon may have passed the weir uncounted during recent high water that have been flooding the weir. I expect high water levels to reside slightly by this weekend, however, this may be more of a prime camping opportunity than king salmon catching opportunity.

Talkeetna king salmonI have not heard any word from the Talkeetna area, however, some early king salmon will likely be available at Talkeetna River and Clear Creek by this weekend. Peak king salmon catching usually occurs a bit later during the last week of June and first week of July. Like other areas of the Susitna River drainage open to king salmon fishing, this area is restricted to catch and release king salmon fishing with single hook artificial lures. Legal fishing hours are 6am—11pm in Susitna River and Talkeetna River drainage waters open to king salmon fishing.

Have a great solstice weekend 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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