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

Emergency orders released preseason targeted a 100% reduction in king salmon harvest in the Susitna and Little Susitna rivers drainages through closure of fisheries. Typically, 5-year old fish constitute about half a given year’s run and on the Deshka River for the second year in a row, sibling models suggested a potential weak run of 5-year old fish in 2019. There was also uncertainty in the forecast of 4-year old fish in 2019. The low forecast of 5-year old fish was due to low abundance of 4-year old fish on the Deshka River in 2018. Given the low abundance of 4-year old fish in 2018 was widespread throughout the Susitna drainage, it was assumed the low Deshka River forecast would be reflective of other areas of the Susitna River drainage during 2019. Also, most escapement goals were missed in 2017 while allowing restricted harvest to occur over much of the season. All escapement goals were missed in 2018 when catch-and-release was allowed. Given the potential for the 2019 Susitna River king salmon returns to be less than 2017 and 2018, total closure was warranted and the most conservative action implemented.

Westside Susitna Tributaries

The Sustainable Escapement Goal (SEG) for the Deshka River of 13,000-28,000 king salmon was not achieved. The final weir count was 9,711 king salmon. Water temperatures rose to 21 °C by June 20, 2019, around the midpoint of a typical run, stalling salmon migration. Waters progressively warmed as water levels dropped, resulting in negligible fish passage and a cumulative count of about 7,500 fish through a 20-day period. During this period, king salmon were likely holding in the cooler waters of the Susitna River downstream of the Deshka River mouth. Once stream conditions improved around July 11, about 2,000 more fish passed over a 7-day period. However, the number of fish holding was ultimately insufficient to achieve the escapement goal. Aerial escapement surveys were conducted postseason on four other westside streams. Escapement goals were achieved on the Talachulitna River, Lake Creek, and Peters Creek. The survey on Alexander Creek of 1,297 fish, although below goal, was the highest count since 2005. This stock is likely depressed by a combination of low marine survival and northern pike predation. Intensive pike suppression work conducted by ADF&G since 2010 may be improving freshwater survival of juveniles.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2019, closed king salmon fishing in Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainages 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, which have established escapement goals. Surveys provide an annual index of abundance. Three of six goals were achieved in this area of the Susitna River drainage in 2019. Willow, Montana, and Prairie creeks failed to meet their escapement goals, while goals on Little Willow and Clear creeks and Chulitna River were met. Sheep and Goose creeks were not counted as cloudy water conditions due to the semi glacial nature of these streams prevailed.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2019, closed king salmon fishing in Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainages 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 of 2,100-3,900 king salmon as assessed by weir and 900-1,800 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 poor water visibility that lasted through the entire month of June. The weir was inundated by high flows for about a week during mid-June. However, it is not thought many fish escaped the weir undetected. The SEG was met by June 24, 2019, with a final count of 3,666 king salmon. The fishery was restored to special regulation on June 26. However, as the bulk of the run had already passed upstream of the weir, fishing success was low. The aerial survey was not conducted this year due to cloudy water conditions. Fishing at the Eklutna Tailrace was fair throughout the season.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2019, closed king salmon fishing in the Little Susitna River drainage. 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. each day.

On June 26, 2019, the Little Susitna River reopened to king salmon fishing.

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 Lewis rivers were not attained in 2019. The SEG for the Chuitna River was met.

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. The SEGs for Chelatna and Judd lakes were attained. The Larson Creek SEG of 15,000-35,000 sockeye salmon was missed. Water level on Larson Creek was extremely low due to widespread drought conditions throughout Southcentral Alaska during July and August. Temperatures taken at the weir were relatively high. The result was low fish passage and an inability to effectively assess run strength using the weir. It became apparent that fish holding in the mouth area were susceptible to the sport fishery longer than a more typical water level year. Given this situation and a low cumulative count on August 10, 2019, the sport fishery was closed. The final count at Larson Creek was 9,522 sockeye salmon. Near the end of the season, staff surveyed the creek downstream of the weir to the creek’s confluence with the Talkeetna River and counted 3,200 dead fish in prespawning condition.

Management Actions

On August 10, 2019, sport fishing for all salmon species 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 76,264 fish was above the SEG range.

Management Actions

On July 26, 2019, the Fish Creek Personal Use Dip Net Fishery was opened for all salmon species, except king salmon, through July 31.

On August 9, 2019, the salmon limits, excepted king salmon, were increased to six fish per day and in possession in all waters of Fish Creek opened to salmon fishing. However, only two fish 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.

Coho Salmon
Susitna Tributaries

The final coho salmon count on the Deshka River was 10,445 fish (SEG 10,200-24,100). Extreme water temperatures as high as 28° C were experienced on the Deshka River this season due to widespread drought conditions throughout Southcentral Alaska during July and August. Water levels were record low in many area streams. 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 and other streams in the Matsu area, including Cottonwood, Wasilla, and Jim creeks. No mortalities were observed on the Deshka River and a reasonable explanation is that enough cold water refugia exists along the Deshka mainstem from muskeg seepages. However, as is common on the Deshka River under similar, but usually less severe stream conditions, stream conditions resulted in the stalling of coho salmon passage for about three weeks during historical peak of the sport fishery. The cumulative weir count held at around 3,000 fish during this period and eventually the sport fishery was closed due to the low count and uncertainty in numbers holding near the mouth. As waters gradually began to rise late in August, fish holding in the Susitna River near the Deshka River mouth began to move upstream. About 6,500 salmon passed the weir over about a 10-day period at the close of the season, the goal was achieved on September 5, 2019. 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

On August 21, 2019, coho salmon fishing was closed in the Deshka River drainage including all waters within a one-half mile radius of its confluence with the Susitna River. In addition, the use of bait was prohibited.

Knik Arm

Weirs were operated on the Little Susitna River, Fish Creek, and Jim Creek. The SEG on the Little Susitna River is 10,100-17,700 fish. Widespread drought across Southcentral Alaska during July and August resulted low water and high stream temperatures throughout the Knik Arm area. Prespawning mortalities were observed by staff. Several hundred coho salmon in Wasilla Creek and less than 100 coho salmon in Jim Creek were observed dead prior to spawning, likely a direct result of warm water and low stream conditions. Record low water conditions in the Little Susitna River created a situation where coho salmon began holding in pools suitable for refugia throughout the lower 30 miles of river and upstream migration all but ceased beginning around August 10, 2019. The sport fishery was eventually closed on August 21, due to a low cumulative count and uncertainty in what remained of the run downstream of the weir and inlet. Migration had not resumed prior to the weir being pulled on August 3 as waters remained very low. The final count of 4,228 fish is considered to be incomplete. The Fish Creek SEG of 1,200-4,400 coho salmon was met August 12 and the final weir count was 3,025 fish. At Jim Creek, prespawning mortalities due to warm water conditions were observed early in the season. The SEG for Jim Creek of 450-1,400 coho salmon is assessed post season by a foot survey of McRoberts Creek, a small spawning tributary within the Jim Creek system. The survey conducted on September 26 counted 162 coho salmon, below the goal. A count of 632 fish on Upper Jim Creek, another spawning tributary, was average. A total of 3,736 coho salmon were counted through the weir. The low count on McRoberts Creek may, at least in part, be due to the late arrival of fish to Jim Creek that may not have migrated into the index area by the time of the survey. 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 14, 2019, the use of bait was prohibited on the Little Susitna River.

On August 21, 2019, coho salmon fish was closed on the Little Susitna River and the use of bait continued to be restricted.

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 2019 sport fishery.

See the printable PDF version, which includes a table of Region II Escapement Goals and Escapements (2010-2019).