Area Sport Fishing Reports
Mat-Su

fish Scales Season Text
Northern Cook Inlet Sport Fish Management Area
King Salmon
Greater Susitna River/Knik Arm Area

Below average escapements have resulted in preseason and inseason restrictions and closures on the Deshka, Eastside, Talkeetna, and Yentna king salmon stocks and other isolated streams since 2012. 2020 marks the first year of king salmon management under four new stock-based goals set on the Susitna River drainage. The preseason forecast for Deshka River king salmon was for a total run of 10,570 king salmon, with an 80% prediction interval of 1,860 - 19,280 fish. Given a new Biological Escapement Goal (BEG) of 9,000 - 18,000 fish and ability to adjust management actions during the season using weir counts, allowing catch-and-release fishing opportunity from the outset of the season was warranted. Catch-and-release fishing was also allowed by emergency order on the Yentna and Talkeetna stocks, the East Fork Chulitna River, and on small streams of the upper Susitna River (Unit 3) as escapements on these systems in 2019 showed improvement over 2017-2018 levels and an upward trend demonstrated over the past three years. The Eastside Susitna stock remained closed to king salmon fishing as abundance in this area of the Susitna River drainage has remained chronically low, even in 2019 when other Susitna River stocks showed increases in abundance over past years. The Little Susitna River was the only wild stock king salmon fishery opened late in the season in 2019. Although there was a harvestable surplus in 2019, an upward trend in abundance was not yet apparent and this fishery started the season with conservative catch-and-release fishing, but no harvest allowed.

Westside Susitna Tributaries

The Sustainable Escapement Goal (SEG) for the Deshka River of 9,000-18,000 king salmon was achieved and the sport fishery opened for the final six days of season downstream of the weir. The final weir count was 10,638 king salmon. Water conditions were favorable for fish passage this season and even though the weir was installed late, the count was considered to be complete and on time. Aerial escapement surveys were conducted postseason on three streams contributing to the Yentna king salmon stock and Alexander Creek of the lower Susitna. Assessment of the Yentna Optimal Escapement Goal (OEG) is pending data analysis; however, counts on Lake Creek, Talachulitna, and Peters Creek were below the recent 5-year average for those streams. The survey on Alexander Creek of 596 fish was below the SEG. In general, Westside Susitna survey counts were below 2018-2019 levels, but above 2017 levels. This year’s run was characterized by younger age fish, which on some streams were difficult to site, even under good survey conditions. Analysis of age data collected at the Deshka River weir is underway and likely the larger than anticipated showing of age 1.2 fish will result in this age class being under forecast, while the older age 1.3 and 1.4 fish may be over forecast.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2020, restricted king salmon fishing in Units 1 and 3-6 of the Susitna River drainage to nonretention and closed Unit 2 for the season. In addition, only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure was allowed in the waters normally open to king salmon fishing in Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainages. Sport fishing for other species was allowed seven days per week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. including the waters in Unit 2 that are normally closed on certain days during the king salmon season.

Eastside Susitna Tributaries

Management decisions effecting Eastside Susitna streams (Units 2, 3, 5, and 6) are based upon postseason aerial surveys over eight streams that are used to estimate run size and escapement of the Eastside (Unit 2 streams along the Parks Highway) king salmon stock and the Talkeetna River stock, which are two new stock goals for 2020. Assessment of the Eastside and Talkeetna stock goals is pending data analysis; however, low survey counts on Willow, Little Willow, Montana, and Goose creeks that collectively contribute to the Eastside king stock were not improved over 2018-2019 levels, years in which the Eastside stock goal would have been missed. The new East Chulitna River goal, an individual tributary goal, was missed.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2020, restricted king salmon fishing in Units 1 and 3-6 of the Susitna River drainage to nonretention and closed Unit 2 for the season. In addition, only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure was allowed in the waters normally open to king salmon fishing in Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainages. Sport fishing for other species was allowed seven days per week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. including the waters in Unit 2 that are normally closed on certain days during the king salmon season.

Knik Arm

The Little Susitna River and the stocked terminal fishery at Eklutna Tailrace are the only Knik Arm streams open to the harvest of king salmon by regulation. The SEG for the Little Susitna River is 2,100-4,300 king salmon as assessed by weir and 700-1,500 fish as assessed by aerial survey. The majority of the fish counted through the weir this season were counted at night using video, even during a period of significant flooding and poor water visibility that occurred during a six-day period from June 13 through June 18, 2020. Fortunately, it is likely few kings passed the weir undetected as appreciable upstream migration did not begin until after June 25. Guides reported following a large group of fish as they slowly moved through the lower 30 miles of river over a two-week period prior to June 24. The guides stated there were few fish below or above this group of fish. Fishing became good between the Little Susitna Public Use Facility and the weir by June 24, two days prior to these fish passing the weir. The SEG was met by July 9, with a final count of 2,445 king salmon. The fishery was restored to regulation downstream of the weir for the final three days of the season. The aerial survey was not conducted this year due to cloudy water conditions. Fishing at the Eklutna Tailrace was slow throughout the season.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2020, restricted king salmon fishing in the Little Susitna River drainage to nonretention. In addition, only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure was allowed in the waters normally open to king salmon fishing in the Little Susitna River drainage. Sport fishing for other species was allowed seven days per week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

On July 11, 2020, the Little Susitna River reopened to king salmon fishing downstream of the weir for the remainder of the king salmon season.

West Cook Inlet

Sport fisheries on the Chuitna, Theodore, Lewis, and the Beluga rivers drainages are closed by regulation. The SEGs on the Theodore and Chuitna rivers were not met.

Sockeye Salmon
Susitna Tributaries

Weirs are operated to count sockeye salmon escapement into two lakes- Judd Lake (Talachulitna River) and Larson Lake (Larson Creek) on the Susitna River. The weir on Chelatna Lake (Lake Creek) was not operated this year due to budget reductions. On Larson Creek, the sport fishery is in relatively close proximity to the weir, allowing for timely inseason management of the fishery. The SEG for Judd lake was attained. The sport fishery at the mouth of Larson Creek was closed on August 6, 2020 due to a near record low cumulative count by that date. The Larson Creek SEG of 15,000-35,000 sockeye salmon was missed with a final count of 12,018 fish.

Management Actions

On August 6, 2020, sport fishing for all species of salmon closed in the Larson Creek drainage and within a one-quarter mile radius of its confluence with the Talkeetna River.

Knik Arm

A weir is operated on Fish Creek to assess escapement and as a tool to manage the personal use dip net fishery. The SEG for the Fish Creek is 15,000-45,000 sockeye salmon. A personal use dip net fishery may open based upon an escapement projection in excess of 35,000 fish between July 15 and July 31. A final count of 64,234 fish was above the SEG range.

Management Actions

On July 19, 2020, the Fish Creek Personal Use Dip Net Fishery was opened for all salmon species, except king salmon, for a 13-day period through July 31.

On August 4, 2020, the salmon limits, except king salmon, were increased to six per day and in possession in all waters of Fish Creek opened to salmon fishing. However, only two per day and in possession may be coho salmon. In addition, sport fishing was allowed seven days per week from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day.

Coho Salmon
Susitna Tributaries

Due to budget reductions, the Deshka weir was pulled August 12, 2020 at the historical 50th percentile of the run. Through this date 5,368 coho salmon were counted. The projection at this time for coho was the lower end of the goal would be achieved at 10,284 fish (SEG 10,200-24,100), below a previous 10-year average of 16,200 fish. Water levels were good, and fish progressed through the coho season steadily. Throughout the season, anglers reported consistent slow fishing success across the Susitna and Yentna rivers drainages, with some good days in which limits were taken.

Management Actions

No management actions were implemented during the 2020 sport fishery season.

Knik Arm

Weirs were operated on the Little Susitna River, and Fish Creeks. Due to budget reductions, the Jim Creek project was cut. The SEG on the Little Susitna River is 10,100-17,000 fish. The sport fishery restricted the use of bait August 4 prior to bait being allowed by regulation August 6, 2020. At this time, the projection and anticipated harvest would put the fishery below the bottom end of the SEG. August 11 the coho fishery was further restricted to a one fish bag limit as the projection continued to drop near the 42nd percentile of the run. A late push of coho came through on August 24 and the bottom end of the goal was achieved. All restrictions were rescinded beginning the next day. The Little Su run was similar to other coho runs around the Knik Arm and Susitna considered mediocre. The Little Su weir was pulled on August 29 earlier than normal with flood waters projected. The final coho count was 10,765 fish and the estimated escapement was 9,931 (preliminary escapement estimate uses weir count minus five-year average harvest above the weir).

The Fish Creek SEG of 1,200-6,000 coho salmon was met August 4, 2020 and the final weir count was 4,555 fish. The weir count is considered incomplete as the Fish Creek weir was pulled August 14 due to reductions in budgets. The projection for coho on that day was 12,934 fish. The SEG for Jim Creek of 250-700 coho salmon is assessed post season by a foot survey of McRoberts Creek, a small spawning tributary within the Jim Creek system. The survey counted 735 coho salmon. A count of 877 fish on Upper Jim Creek, another spawning tributary, was average. Fishing was reported to be average and good early in the season through about the first week of August. Fishing success became slow throughout the Knik Arm area during the rest of the season.

Management Actions

On August 4, 2020, the use of bait was prohibited on the Little Susitna River.

On August 4, 2020, the salmon limits, excepted king salmon, were increased to six per day and in possession in all waters of Fish Creek opened to salmon fishing. However, only two per day and possession may be coho salmon. In addition, sport fishing was allowed seven days per week from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day.

On August 13, 2020, coho bag limit was reduced to one fish on the Little Susitna River and the use of bait continued to be restricted.

On August 22, 2020 bag limits were increased from two to three coho on Fish Creek and fishing was allowed 7 days per week from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day.

On August 24, 2020 all restrictions on the Little Su were rescinded. The use of bait was allowed and the bag and possession limit for coho salmon was restored to two fish.

West Cook Inlet

Coho salmon escapement is not monitored on West Cook Inlet area streams and ADF&G must rely on trends in harvest and angler effort taken from the Statewide Harvest Survey and reports from anglers and guides when assessing these stocks. The combination of high stream temperatures and low water were the likely cause of prespawning mortalities observed in Bachatana Slough and Montana Bill Creek in the West Cook Inlet area. Several thousand coho salmon were reported dead in these shallow streams, likely a direct result of low water and high stream temperatures. In general reports from anglers fishing West Cook Inlet streams was good throughout the season.

Management Actions

No management actions were implemented during the 2020 sport fishery season.

See the printable PDF version, which includes a table of Region II Escapement Goals and Escapements (2010-2020).