by Phillip Manning
As we pass the mid-point of August, many minds have turned to evaluating this summer’s tourism business. One of Talkeetna’s many appealing factors to tourists is the excellent fishing prospects of the upper Susitna Valley waterways. This year, however, has not been without its challenges to the sport fishing industry. The early closure of the King Salmon fishery dealt a blow to the many guiding services that call Talkeetna home, and low escapement numbers of coho, or silver, salmon downriver have caused some concern that the season may be in for more bad news.
In order to assess the impact on our local fishermen, KTNA spoke with local fishing guides Rhett Nealis of Phantom Salmon Charters and Peter Mathiesen of Alaska Wilderness River Fishing Guides. Both guides related that silvers are still being regularly caught upstream of Talkeetna, and that their respective guiding services have remained busy despite the early closure of Kings.
Mathiesen explained that any early closure of a fishery, even the discussion of an early closure as in the case of coho salmon, can be a cause for concern, as many trips are booked well in advance under the assumption of a fixed length for the season. When that fishery is closed early, it leaves guides having to find alternatives in order to provide their clients with a positive fishing experience.
Looking toward the future and the impact of shortened or even eliminated seasons, Mathiesen’s greatest concern was for communication between the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the sport fishermen. While he believes that conservation is important since, as he put it, “all of us want rivers full of fish,” he also stressed that early and ample communication are key in order to make sure that fishing guides can plan their business accordingly. When asked about the potential for losing one or two King Salmon seasons altogether, Mathiesen again expressed a need for adequate warning, “Don’t give us a season and then take it away.”
For now, late season salmon and trout continue to be caught upstream, and the guides are staying busy.