As area rivers begin to open up, many anglers are preparing to take to the water to try to catch king salmon. KTNA’s Phillip Manning spoke with Sam Ivey, Sport Fish Area Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, about what they can expect this year.
King salmon are one of the premier draws for sport fishermen in the Susitna Valley, but weak runs have meant that most areas are limited to catch-and-release for kings. Sport Fish Area Biologist Sam Ivey says that’s not expected to change this year.
For the last few years, the Deshka River is one of the few in the area where retention of king salmon has been permitted. Ivey says this year, the river will not start the king season with any special restrictions.
“The annual limit will be five fish at the Deshka River. Last year, we started with the annual limit restriction of two, as the only restriction. We’ll proceed as per regulation. Bait starts on the Deshka River on June 1, so we’ll be looking forward to the kickoff of the season, there.”
In addition, Sam Ivey says the Little Susitna River will be open to retention every day, as opposed to only a few days per week as it has been in recent years.
“We have liberalized that fishery with bait late in the season in the last two years, in 2016 and ’17, and we’d like to spread out harvest a little more evenly across the run.”
Some limited harvest will be allowed on the Talachulitna River for the first time in recent years as well. Sam Ivey says the king runs in other area streams just haven’t strengthened enough to allow harvest to resume.
“The kinda moderate-to-low producers of salmon that are kind of stretched out among a myriad of streams along the east side just aren’t quite as productive, and they’re susceptible to a lot more harvest when they’re open to harvest fishing opportunities.”
One cause for concern for some Upper Valley anglers is the impact of the flood of 2012 on king salmon runs. Sam Ivey says that rivers with counting weirs, specifically the Deshka and Little Susitna, saw a strong showing of kings of the age group that would have been affected by the flood.
“So that’s a good sign. On the other hand, where we don’t have direct age information available along the Parks Highway streams, we did see a dip in 2016, where those escapement numbers dropped a little bit over 2015 numbers.”
Sam Ivey says the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will continue to monitor the strength of this year’s salmon runs, and may make regulatory changes as a result. The most current fishing regulations and emergency orders can be found at Fish and Game’s website.