Mat-Su Anglers FIshing Corner By Andy Couch for June 10, 2016
Mat-Su Waters Clear After Monday Rain
When I talked with Mike Hudson on Wednesday he mentioned that streams along the Parks Highway were dropping back into shape following Monday’s deluge of wet weather, and fish catching opportunities were once again picking up. There is still a couple days before this column prints and before the weekend for water levels to drop even further. Marilynn Rouswell at Susitna Landing reported that guests were once again catching rainbow trout on Wednesday as waters had started dropping and clearing on the Kashwitna River north of Willow.
Copper River Subsistence and Personal Use Fisheries
Although not in the Mat-Su Valley, subsistence fish wheel and dip net fishing has started on the Copper River drainage and I’ve already talked to Alaska residents benefitting form the opportunity to harvest fresh sockeye and king salmon. The personal use dip net fishery is also getting started on the Copper River, but both of the subsistence and personal use fisheries are open to Alaska residents by permit and participants must choose between the subsistence or personal use permit for the year. Contact an Alaska Department of Fish and Game office for additional information.
Mat-Su King Salmon Fisheries
I would expect good king salmon harvest opportunities this weekend at Eklutna Tailrace, Deshka River, Little Susitna River, and the Yentna River drainage (specifically the Lake Creek area).
Mike Hudson told me he’d heard some very good reports from the Eklutna Tailrace fishery, and that people had been catching king salmon. This is the first confirmed report I’ve heard from the tailrace in 2016, however, I’ve been busy running charter trips and have not had as much time to gather information as I did in 2015. Mike also mentioned some specific instances where people were already catching strong numbers of king salmon from Lake Creek.
Mondays rain had also raised water levels on the Deshka River and Little Susitna River, but both rivers should be dropping back into more normal flow patterns in the next few days as well. King salmon continue to pass the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G’s) Deshka River Weir at much higher than normal levels for this time of year. Through Tuesday June 7th 9,590 king salmon had already swum past Deshka River Weir, and rather than having any trouble attaining the minimum Deshka River king salmon spawning escapement of 13,000 king salmon it now appears much more likely that the final king salmon count could exceed ADF&G’s 28,000 fish upper bound of the management range. With a chance that Deshka River king salmon escapement could pass the lower end of the escapement range before the weekend, the obvious question remains: Why has ADF&G NOT returned the Deshka River annual king salmon limit to the normal 5 fish per year level specified in the 2016 Southcentral Alaska Sport
Fishing Regulations Summery?
Every day the return to the normal annual king salmon limit is delayed represents lost harvest opportunity for Mat-Su sport anglers, and the Department has already restricted the Susitna River drainage and Little Susitna River king salmon sport fisheries for more than half of the May 1 - July 13 timeframe. Such a delay in returning to normal regulation also represents lost economic opportunity for many Mat-Su businesses that benefit from sport king salmon fishing opportunities. Some of these businesses include gas stations, boat launches / landing areas, fishing tackle and food retailers, boat dealers, fish processors and shippers, lodging and campgrounds. The state, borough and cities lose out on opportunities to collect additional tax revenues. With such economic stakes involved why does ADF&G continue to delay returning even one Mat-Su sport emergency king salmon regulation to the normal regulation? The Kenai River emergency king salmon fishing closure were already liberalized by ADF&G, the Upper Cook Inlet sport fishery is harvesting king salmon without any emergency restrictions, and the Northern District commercial set net fishery has already returned to normal king salmon harvest regulations. Why has ADF&G chosen to treat Mat-Su sport anglers as 2nd class citizens?
Concerning the Deshka River king salmon fishery, ADF&G has commented that run timing seems to be early this year, but the Department should also mention the magnitude of 2016 escapement numbers compared to past years. In last week’s column I mentioned two past year with large early Deshka River king salmon escapements. In 2003 4,595 king salmon had passed the Deshka Weir through June 7 and the final weir escapement was 40,069 fish. In 2004 4,655 king salmon had passed the Deshka River Weir through June 7 and the final weir escapement was 57,934 fish. The 2016 return past the weir through June 7 is significantly larger than either the 2003 or the 2004 returns.
Perhaps this fishing column may seem like somewhat of a rant, however, if Mat-Su anglers want to enjoy more of the benefit of improved Mat-Su king salmon returns instead of continuing to shoulder the lion’s share of conservation burdens (that in specific cases no longer exist) then individual anglers need to start holding ADF&G accountable.
Have a great weekend and Fish On!
Andy Couch has guided Mat-Su Valley salmon fishing trips since the early 1980’s. You may visit his business website at http://www.fish4salmon.com