Chinook Salmon Research Initiative
Susitna River Chinook Salmon

Adult Spawning Abundance

Project Summary

Project Name:

Susitna River Adult Chinook Salmon Spawning Abundance


The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and private consultants conducted environmental assessments in 2012 and 2013 using funds provided by the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) for research associated with the proposed Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric project. In 2012, fish wheels were operated in the mainstem Susitna River to capture and radio tag Chinook salmon and to track these fish to identify spawning distribution. In 2013, this effort was expanded to include the Yentna River tributary and to estimate distribution as well as drainage-wide escapement. Weirs at the Deshka River and Montana Creek, and sonar at the Chulitna and Talachulitna rivers, along with telemetry receivers at each site, were used to sample the escapement for tagged and untagged fish. The Chinook salmon escapement in the Susitna River mainstem was estimated at 89,463 fish, with 18,469 (21%) going to the Deshka River. An abundance estimate could not be generated for the Yentna River as sampling was insufficient. Historically, a drainage-wise escapement estimate was achieved in 1985 when escapement was estimated at 113,931 fish using a mark-recapture project conducted by the department. No other drainage-wide escapement estimates have occurred in the Susitna River. Instead, Chinook salmon escapements in the Susitna drainage are monitored annually by the department with aerial surveys on 12 clearwater tributaries and one tributary weir on the Deshka River. These surveys provide an index of escapement rather than a complete census of the escapement. The Chinook Salmon Research Initiative funds are slated to continue this project starting in 2015 through 2018 in an effort to generate drainage-wide estimates.


Susitna River near Wasilla, Palmer, and Anchorage

Total Project Cost:

$2,480,000 (funds from the Mat-Su Salmon Research, Restoration, and Enhancement Initiatives)

Project Dates:

2015, 2016

Project Type(s):

Adult abundance

Life Stage:



Susitna River Chinook salmon


Division of Sport Fish
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
1800 Glenn Hwy., Suite 4
Palmer, AK 99645

Fishery Biologist 3

Nicholas Decovich
Phone: (907) 267-2239