Area Sport Fishing Reports
Mat-Su

fish Scales fish Scales
Mat-Su Sport Fish Management Area
King Salmon
Greater Susitna River/Knik Arm Area

Emergency orders released preseason targeted a 100% reduction in harvest in the Susitna drainage and approximately a 70% reduction in harvest on the Little Susitna River, based upon harvest and escapement data and performance of fisheries over recent years. On the Deshka River, sibling models suggested a potential weak run of 5-year-old fish in 2018. 5-year-old fish typically constitute about half a given year’s run. There was also uncertainty in the forecast of 4-year-old fish in 2018. The low forecast of 5-year-old fish was due to low abundance of 4-year-old fish on the Deshka River in 2017. Given the low abundance of 4-year-old fish in 2017 was widespread throughout the Susitna drainage, it was assumed the low Deshka forecast would be reflective of other areas of the Susitna drainage during 2018.

Westside Susitna Tributaries

The Sustainable Escapement Goal (SEG) for the Deshka River of 13,000 to 28,000 king salmon was not achieved in 2018. The final weir count was 8,544 king salmon. The run was on time, with a midpoint of June 20. Inseason reports from weir staff and anglers fishing the Deshka River suggested a high proportion of small young, predominantly male fish, in line with the forecast. Reports from lodge owners, guides, and anglers further up the Susitna River drainage at Lake Creek and the Talachulitna River also indicated that the king salmon return may be as weak as in 2017 when all escapement goals were missed in this area. This anecdotal information was later substantiated by ADF&G flown king salmon escapement surveys conducted from July 19 to July 26. Escapement in this area of the Susitna River drainage was below four established goals. One goal on Peters Creek was achieved.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2018, closed all Westside sport fisheries to the harvest of king salmon (catch-and-release only). Escapement goals in this area of Susitna were not met in 2017 while allowing restricted harvest to occur over much of the season. Given the potential for Susitna River king salmon returns in 2018 to be less than in 2017, prohibiting retention was expected to provide the greatest potential for achieving escapement goals during 2018 yet continue to provide fishing opportunity.

Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure was allowed.

King salmon harvest, of any size, was prohibited within Unit 1 (lower Susitna), including the Deshka River and in Unit 4 (Yentna drainage). Fishing, but not harvest of king salmon was allowed during days and times normally open to king salmon fishing within these management units.

On June 22, 2018, the Susitna River drainage closed to sport fishing for king salmon

Eastside Susitna Tributaries

Management decisions effecting Eastside Susitna streams (Units 2, 3, 5, and 6) are based upon postseason aerial surveys over eight streams, which have established escapement goals. Surveys provide an annual index of abundance. No goals were achieved in this area of the Susitna River drainage in 2018.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2018, closed all Eastside streams to fishing for king salmon given the potential for Susitna River king salmon returns in 2018 to be less than in 2017, a year in which escapement goals were largely not met in this area of the Susitna drainage.

Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure was allowed.

Fishing for king salmon, of any size, was prohibited on the Eastside Susitna (Parks Highway) streams within Unit 2, the Upper Susitna River (Unit 3), Talkeetna River (Unit 5), and Chulitna River (Unit 6).

On June 22, 2018, the Susitna River drainage closed to sport fishing for king salmon.

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 of 2,100 to 4,300 king salmon as assessed by weir and 900 to 1,800 fish as assessed by aerial survey. Fish were counted through the weir both by staff and by video until about June 10 when the weir became overtopped by high flowing water, which remained for 22 days. A weir count of about 550 fish is considered an incomplete, minimum count. An aerial survey conducted on July 23 counted 530 fish, below the aerial SEG range. Water visibility was marginal in the lower portion of the index area. Guides and anglers reported fair catch rates early in the season, going into the flood. Fishing at the Eklutna Tailrace was fair throughout the season.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2018 was similar to restrictions imposed 2012-2016 based on harvest and escapement data over recent years and in anticipation of effort diverted from closure of the Susitna River drainage.

King salmon harvest in the Little Susitna River was allowed four days per week, Fridays – Mondays, and catch-and-release only Tuesdays – Thursdays.

Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure was allowed.

The annual limit was reduced to two king salmon, greater than 20 inches in length.

On June 15, 2018, the Little Susitna River was closed to the retention of king salmon.

On June 22, 2018, the Little Susitna River was closed to fishing for king salmon and terminal gear limited to one, single-hook, artificial lure while fishing for other species.

West Cook Inlet

Sport fisheries on the Chuitna River, Theodore River, Lewis River, and the Beluga River drainage are closed by regulation. The SEGs on the Chuitna River, Theodore River, and Lewis River were not attained in 2018.

Sockeye Salmon
Susitna Tributaries

Weirs are operated to count sockeye salmon escapement into three lakes: Judd Lake (Talachulitna River) and Chelatna Lake (Lake Creek) on the Yentna River drainage and Larson Lake (Larson Creek) on the Susitna River. Sport fisheries on the Talachulitna River and Lake Creek are too far downstream of the weirs for timely inseason management. On Larson Creek, the sport fishery is in relatively close proximity to the weir, allowing for timely inseason management of the fishery. All three SEGs were attained in 2018.

Management Actions

On August 1, 2018, the Larson Creek sport fishery was liberalized to six sockeye salmon per day and in possession.

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 to 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 71,516 fish was above the SEG range.

Management Actions

On July 24, 2018, the Fish Creek Personal Use Dipnet Fishery was opened by emergency order through July 31. This season, additional area near the mouth was opened.

On August 8, 2018, the Fish Creek sport fishery was liberalized to allow harvest of six sockeye salmon per day and in possession.

Coho Salmon
Susitna Tributaries

The SEG for the Deshka River of 10,200 to 24,100 coho salmon was met on August 12, 2018, with 12,933 fish passing through the weir by the season’s end. Fishing reports were favorable on the Deshka River during the first two weeks of August during a period of strong daily weir counts. Inseason reports from guides and anglers on Eastside Susitna streams and up the Yentna River drainage to Lake Creek indicated very good to excellent fishing at times. Reports of large fish were common. Angler reports and weir counts indicated coho salmon to be on time to several days early. In general, a strong run of coho salmon was experienced on the Susitna River drainage.

Management Actions

On August 14, 2018, sport fisheries were liberalized, increasing the sport fishing bag and possession limits for coho salmon, to four fish per day and eight fish in possession, in all waters open to salmon fishing on the Susitna River drainage (Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). No more than three per day and six in possession could be pink, chum, and sockeye salmon in combination.

Knik Arm

Weirs were operated on the Little Susitna River, Fish Creek, and Jim Creek. The SEG on the Little Susitna River is 10,100 to 17,700 fish. About 7,600 coho salmon were counted through the Little Susitna weir before the weir was overtopped by high water on August 7 at the first quartile of the historical run. The flooding lasted the rest of the season and the count considered incomplete. Based on inseason reports of excellent fishing, it is likely the SEG would have been attained or even exceeded. The Fish Creek SEG of 1,200 to 4,400 coho salmon was exceeded on August 26 with a count of about 4,849 fish passing through the weir. The SEG for Jim Creek of 450 to 1,400 coho salmon is assessed post season by a foot survey of McRoberts Creek, a small spawning tributary within the Jim Creek system. The weir count of 5,351 fish indicates the goal may be met. In general, a strong run of coho salmon was experienced in most areas of Knik Arm.

Management Actions

On August 8, 2018, the Little Susitna River bag limit was increased to three per day and in possession, all of which could be coho salmon.

On August 9, 2018, the Fish Creek bag limit was increased to allow four coho salmon per day and in possession. In addition, fishing was opened to seven days per week.

On August 10, 2018, Cottonwood Creek and Wasilla Creek bag limits were increased to four fish per day and in possession, of which, all four could be coho salmon. In addition, these weekend only fisheries were extended to four days to take place each Friday-Monday.

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 effort taken from the Statewide Harvest Survey and reports from anglers and guides when assessing these stocks. Similar to the Susitna River, reports from anglers and guides were of a strong run of coho salmon to streams supporting popular sport fisheries, such as the Kustatan River and Big River Lakes.

Management Actions

No management actions were implemented during the 2018 sport fishery.

See the printable PDF version, which includes a table of Region II Escapement Goals and Escapements (2008-2018).