Andy Couch

Ben Allen and Dan Suprak both had charters scheduled to fish for hooligan on the Susitna River below Deshka Landing this week. Ben did some pre-trip scouting on May 15 and checked several locations going downstream along the Susitna River, but told me he did not net any hooligan until he reached the Yentna River confluence.

He scooped up a cooler full at that location, but commented that the main run did not seem to have hit yet. Ben also mentioned helping a group of hooligan fishers with engine trouble on Monday. He said that group had caught plenty of hooligan — which brings up the following issue: it is a long run downstream to the Yentna River confluence and back to Deshka Landing. Even though Alaska residents are allowed to harvest as many hooligan as they can use in this personal use fishery — it is a good idea to practice self-restraint. Nearly every year people seem to overload a boat with harvested hooligan and end up running out of gas or damaging an engine on the trip back upriver. This is a short-lived fishery — so expect most of the harvesting to occur within the next week or 10 days. Often the fishery can be over or nearly over by the end of May. For more information you may contact Ben Allen with Miller’s Riverboat Service at (907) 715-1095.

Spring trout fishing

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) biologist, Samantha Oslund highlighted the trout fishing at Mat-Su Valley’s stocked lakes (once again) when I asked her about fishing prospects for this week on Monday. She reeled off a short list of core-area lakes that had recently been stocked — but mentioned the stocking truck would continue to be busy this week. As mentioned in last week’s column people can get the most recent updates on Mat-Su stocking events from the ADF&G website. Samantha’s list of lakes that were stocked with catchable rainbow trout close to 10 inches in length last week includes: Canoe Lake, Echo Lake, Kepler /Bradley Lake, Loberg Lake, Lucille Lake, and Meirs Lake. Samantha mentioned that Anderson Lake (which previously had ADF&G action to remove invasive northern pike) was on the list to be stocked soon and would be open to fishing for rainbow trout.

Jared at 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle talked about stream fishing up the Parks Highway. He mentioned Willow Creek and Montana Creek as two of the better prospects where anglers had been catching rainbow trout, but said that some of the other streams north of Willow had high turbid water conditions that had slowed fish catching down at present. Jared said there were rainbow trout in Willow Creek as far upstream as the Parks Highway bridge, and people had also been catching some rainbow trout and arctic grayling near the Willow Creek/Susitna River confluence. Regulations at these stream locations require the use of single hook artificial lures at this time, and all rainbow trout mush be released. Most anglers are catching fish on flies, although small spinners can also be effective for fish located in the lower end of these streams. The most readily available food source for these fish during May is usually out-migrating young salmon.

Northern pike

During the past week I’ve talked with people from five different groups who made specific efforts to catch northern pike. All but one of those groups caught and harvested pike, including some fish in the 8 to 10 pound class. Big Lake, Lynx Lake (Nancy Lake System), Deshka River (sloughs) and Fish Creek in the Susitna River drainage all provide good opportunities to catch pike this time of year. Alexander Lake will remain open to pike fishing this summer following two years of summer closure to all fishing — there should be some big ones available here, since access is by aircraft or a long boat ride. ADF&G biologist Parker Bradley suggests looking for pike at lake outlets or side slough confluence areas where they like to wait in ambush of out-migrating salmon smolts. Herring under a float (where legal), weedless spoons, plastic swimbaits that imitate small fish, and inline spinners will all catch these toothy predators. Pike like slow or still water, weed lines, and often become more active in the shallows as water temperatures warm up later in the day. There is no limit to the amount of pike that may be harvested.

King salmon

The earliest ocean-run Mat-Su Valley king salmon (I am aware of) caught in 2021 was hooked May 15 at the Deshka River on a Kwikfish plug. A woman in my boat caught that fish, but it is possible someone else may have landed an earlier king salmon. Also on May 15 ADF&G passed their first king salmon of the season through the Little Susitna River salmon counting weir, and on May 16 a second king salmon swam past that same weir.

Samantha Oslund told me that ADF&G is hoping the water level will drop enough at Deshka River for them to install their salmon counting weir at that location by Thursday May 20. Fish counts for Deshka River and other weirs located in Southcentral Alaska may be found on the ADF&G website. The fish counts are often updated daily — although not necessarily on weekends. Use the following link to search for ADF&G sport fish counts:

I drove to the Eklutna Tailrace/Knik River king salmon fishery on May 18, however, it appeared the outflow through the tailrace had been shut off or at least greatly reduced. This is usually an annual occurrence as the Eklutna Power Plant does maintenance for several days during early to mid-May. Combining low Knik River early season water flows with hardly any outflow from the tailrace creates a situation where it is highly unlikely any king salmon will be available in this legal fishing area until the tailrace outflows returns to a more normal level. This may occur on or before the May 22 — 23 weekend, however, I was unable to confirm a timeline with Eklutna Power plant staff.

Remember the Knik River / Eklutna tailrace fishery is the only Mat-Su Valley location where ocean-run king salmon harvest is allowed this year, while Little Susitna River and the Susitna River drainage king salmon fisheries are restricted to single-hook artificial lures and catch and release fishing for king salmon at this time.

Have a Great Weekend and Fish On!

Andy Couch is a Mat-Su Valley fishing guide who is also a member of the Matanuska -Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee.

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