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King run starts early and strong, but will it last?

by Phillip Manning ~ June 11th, 2014

One of the many things that summer brings to the Upper Valley is King Salmon.  This year’s run has begun about two weeks earlier than last year, though they are arriving at about the same rate.  Thus far, nearly 6,500 kings have passed by the weir on the Deshka River.  In 2013, the run didn’t get that high until June 23rd.  Sam Ivey, Area Fish Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, says that’s a good sign.

“Things are off to a good start for us.  They’re not starting real weak, where we’re watching things build as the run emerges, as has happened in previous years.  We’re starting on a high note.”

While the numbers do look good now, Sam Ivey says that it will take more time to determine if this year’s run really will be stronger than in years past.  Fish and Game’s ultimate goal is to have between 13,000 and 28,000 fish successfully spawn in the Deshka.  As of now, the Deshka River is the only one in the Upper Susitna drainage where keeping a King Salmon is allowed any day of the week.  Even so, bait is not currently allowed, and anglers are limited to a single hook.  Sam Ivey says that, if the run continues to be strong, that could change.

“When our projections firm up, we could look at putting bait back into that fishery, as we did last year.  Last year that happened, I believe, around June 25th or so–a little bit later.  What we have to look at, now, is that what we’ve been seeing go through the Deshka weir sustains itself for a few more days, to get to that point where we’re confident in our decision, and we’re not just seeing a spike that’s going to quickly go away.”

Sam Ivey says that, while the Deshka is the only river that currently has data from a fish weir, that other rivers have mechanisms in place for estimating run strength.  At a time when many river systems are desperate for more salmon, Ivey says the current numbers to provide hope for the season in the area, as well as the future runs of kings in and around the Upper Valley.

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