King salmon season is behind us, and the pinks, chums, and silvers are running. So, how are the king numbers looking for the Susitna? Better, according to Fish and Game.
Statewide returns for much of the king salmon fishery have been disappointing. The Kenai and Yukon Rivers are both posting numbers below goals. Fishing restrictions for king salmon were tight in much of the Northern Cook Inlet region, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says that they are paying off. Single, un-baited hooks were mandated in most areas, and many stretches of the Susitna drainage were catch-and-release only. Area Manager Sam Ivey said in June that the restrictions were designed to compensate for what was expected to be another below-average year for the king run. Now that aerial surveys are nearly complete, Ivey says that the majority of the Susitna and its tributaries are likely to make their escapement goals.
Ivey says that streams such as Willow and Montana Creeks are likely to make their goals for the first time in six years. He believes that the fact that larger, older fish are returning is a good sign for years to come. Overall, Ivey says he is seeing more density of king salmon in spawning areas than he has observed in five or six years, and he credits the strict regulations for some of the encouraging numbers. Though this year’s returns are on the upswing, Ivey says that it’s important to remain conscientious when it comes to king salmon management.
Kings are not the only major species targeted by anglers on the Susitna, however, and early estimates of a strong silver salmon run seem to be coming true. The fish weir on the Little Susitna River is recording above-average numbers for this time of year, and Ivey says that pink and chum salmon are also coming in good numbers. The silver run is expected to reach the northern areas of the Susitna drainage in large numbers soon, which is another encouraging sign for area fishermen.