Coho salmon counts rise significantly on Little Susitna, Deshka

Daily counts for coho salmon on the Deshka River.  This year (red) compared to 2016 (black).  Photo via screengrab

Daily counts for coho salmon on the Deshka River. This year (red) compared to 2016 (black). Photo via screengrab

After a very slow start, the coho salmon runs on the Little Susitna and Deshka Rivers saw a significant uptick over the weekend.

Late last week, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order eliminating the use of bait for coho, also known as silver, salmon on the Little Su. As of last Thursday, only about 700 fish had passed the counting weir. The sustainable goal for the Little Susitna is for at least 10,000 cohos to make it to their spawning grounds.   Fish and Game warned that additional restrictions could be in store for anglers unless the run improved.

On Friday, more fish passed the weir than had in the entire coho season leading up to that point. Counts of 400 to 500 fish on Saturday and Sunday followed Friday’s spike in numbers. Despite the sudden increase, the Little Susitna is still significantly behind recent years in terms of total numbers of silvers.

The Deshka River saw an even more dramatic increase in coho salmon over the weekend. Coming into last Friday, fewer than 350 silvers had passed the counting weir. Friday saw more than 1,000 cohos, which was only the beginning. Sunday peaked out with more than 3,000 silvers passing the weir. While that is a significant number of cohos in a single day, two times 2013 posted higher single-day numbers.

Similar to the Little Susitna, the Deshka has an escapement goal of at least 10,000 silvers. As of Monday, about two-thirds of that had been counted.

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