Area Sport Fishing Reports
Mat-Su

fish Scales
Northern Cook Inlet Management Area
King Salmon
Greater Susitna River/ Knik Arm Area

Below average escapements since 2012 have resulted in preseason and inseason restrictions and closures on the Deshka, Eastside, Talkeetna, and Yentna king salmon stocks. 2021 marks the second 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 11,464 king salmon, with an 80% prediction interval of 3,041 - 19,887 fish. There was uncertainty in the forecast of 4-year old fish due to a history of weak brood years 2013-2015 that returned low numbers of 4-year old fish during 2017-2019. The biological escapement goal (BEG) of 9,000 - 18,000 king salmon was achieved in 2020 with a catch-and-release fishery in place. Given a forecast within but near the low end of the BEG, coupled with uncertainty in the return of 4-year old fish, a cautionary approach to management was again warranted and the Deshka king salmon fishery started the 2021 season as a catch-and-release fishery only. The Deshka weir is a tool for gauging run strength during the season and making regulatory adjustments accordingly. 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). The Eastside Susitna stock was also included as a catch-and-release fishery during 2021 as abundance of this stock showed some improvement in 2020, although fishing time was reduced to three, two-day weekends that started a week earlier than in regulation. Similar to 2020, the Little Susitna River started the 2021 season as a catch-and-release fishery only as the sustainable escapement goal (SEG) on the Little Susitna was attained in 2020 near the low end of the SEG range with a catch-and-release fishery in place. However, the past several years had demonstrated no apparent trend in abundance.

Westside Susitna Tributaries

The BEG for the Deshka River of 9,000 - 18,000 king salmon was achieved on June 16, 2021, and the sport fishery was opened to regulation effective June 18, nearing the midpoint of the run. The final weir count was 18,664 king salmon. The run was about three days early based on the historical midpoint. Early in the season, reports from anglers and lengths taken from kings at the weir, indicated a relatively high proportion of 5-year old fish and that this portion of the forecast might be under forecast. A post season preliminary look at age-sex-length data suggests that indeed this age class contributed to the bulk of this season’s spawning escapement. Aerial escapement surveys were conducted in late July on three streams contributing to the Yentna king salmon stock and also 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 slightly below the recent 5-year average for those streams, but greater than in 2020 when the Yentna SEG was missed, but the OEG attained. (Yentna SEG 13,000 - 22,000; Yentna OEG 16,000 - 22,000). The survey on Alexander Creek of 288 fish was below the SEG. The age composition of the Deshka Chinook run and forecast for the 2022 season in pending analysis of age data collected at the Deshka River weir.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2021, restricted king salmon fishing in Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainage to catch-and-release only and further, limited fishing time within Unit 2 to fishing seven days per week through the second Monday of June and then only on Sundays and Mondays for three consecutive weekends.

On June 18, 2021, the Deshka River reopened to king salmon harvest per regulation.

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 in place since 2020. Assessment of the Eastside and Talkeetna stock goals is pending data analysis; however, survey counts on Willow, Little Willow, Kashwitna, Montana, and Goose creeks that collectively contribute to the Eastside king stock and Clear and Prairie creeks that contribute to the Talkeetna stock, were similar to the 10-year mean with many large fish (5 and 6-yearr old) sited during the surveys. The Chulitna River SEG of 1,200 - 2,900 was achieved with a post season aerial count of 1,535 king salmon.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2021, restricted king salmon fishing in Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainage to catch-and-release only and further, limited fishing time within Unit 2 to fishing seven days per week through the second Monday of June and then only on Sundays and Mondays for three consecutive weekends.

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. This weir-based goal is the primary goal used for assessing escapement unless flooding or some other event results in an incomplete weir count. Nearly 75% of the king salmon counted through the weir this season were counted at night using video. Use of video at this site has enabled fish to be counted even during periods of high spring runoff when water clarity is poor. This was the situation this year as poor water visibility lasted from start up on May 7 through June 23, 2021. Upstream migration out of the estuary and lower 30 miles of river was again delayed this season, making inseason assessment of run size difficult for managers. Cold water temperatures may be a factor in slowing migration during the period of spring runoff. The bulk of this year’s run passed the weir June 28 through July 2 as waters warmed from 10° to 16° C. The SEG was achieved on July 2. Given achievement of the goal late in the season with uncertainty about what was yet to come and having achieved the goal near the low end of the SEG range in 2020, an emergency order was issued that allowed limited harvest opportunity downstream of the weir only for the final 10 days of the season, while conserving those king salmon that had already passed upstream of the weir. A final count of 3,121 was considered a complete count for 2021.

Management Actions

A preseason emergency order effective May 1, 2021, restricted king salmon fishing in the Little Susitna River drainage to catch-and-release only. 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 3, 2021, the Little Susitna River reopened to king salmon fishing downstream of the weir for the remainder of the king salmon season. The annual limit was restricted to two king salmon. Artificial lures with multiple hooks may be used and bait is not allowed.

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 were 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 4, 2021, due to a near record low cumulative count by that date and because the SEG had not been attained in the past two years. The Larson Creek SEG of 15,000 - 35,000 sockeye salmon was achieved on August 13 and the sport fishery reopened on August 14. The final count was 21,987 fish. The run was about eight days late this season.

A Susitna River personal use dip net fishery was implemented by the Board of Fisheries in 2020 to take place on the lower Susitna River from a point located approximately one mile below the old Susitna Station, downstream to the Alexander Creek turnoff/tip of Bell Island. This fishery in remote and only accessible by boat or short field performance aircraft capable of landing on gravel bars. The fishery is part of the Upper Cook Inlet Personal Use Salmon Fishery management plan and occurs each Saturday and Wednesday between 6:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. from July 10 through July 31. 2021 was the second year of this fishery. Fishing effort mostly mirrored last season with relatively low participation. Fishing success increased incrementally with each period through the end of July.

Management Actions

On August 4, 2021, 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.

On August 14, 2021, the above action was rescinded.

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. By management plan, a personal use dip net fishery may be opened by emergency order between July 15 and July 31, if the escapement can be projected to be above 35,000 fish. Due to budget cuts, the weir was staffed only through July 28 this season. However, a video system operated through August 15 in an effort to count the full run. Staff counted 22,335 sockeye salmon through July 28. The final count is pending review of the video data.

Management Actions

On July 24, 2021, the Fish Creek Personal Use Dip Net Fishery was opened for all salmon species, except king salmon through July 31.

Coho Salmon
Susitna Tributaries

Due to budget reductions, the Deshka weir was pulled August 12, 2021, at the historical 50% of the run. Through this date 3,431 coho salmon were counted. Despite the low weir count by this date, no actions were taken to restrict the sport fishery as downstream indices, such as good sport fishing success on the Deshka and other Susitna tributaries, were favorable. The Offshore Test Fishery (OTF) conducted across the opening into Cook Inlet indicated late arrival of coho into Cook Inlet. An OTF model that pairs historical OTF catch data with weir counts predicted the Deshka SEG would be met.

Management Actions

No management actions were implemented during the 2021 sport fishery season.

Knik Arm

The Little Susitna weir was operated for the majority of the coho salmon season. The SEG on the Little Susitna River is 9,200-17,700 fish. The final coho count was 10,923 fish and the estimated escapement was 10,123 (preliminary escapement estimate uses weir count minus five-year average harvest above the weir). This count is considered a minimum count as the weir became submerged during a high-water event that occurred August 28, at the 90% point of the historical run. The weir was pulled following the flood. Sport fishing success on the Little Susitna was below average at the outset of the season. However, that situation quickly changed and beginning July 28, 2021, and continuing throughout the month of August, fishing success was consistently good and mostly above average as monitored by the exit survey conducted at the Little Susitna Public Use Facility fee booth.

The weir at Fish Creek was pulled at the end of July. The coho salmon run was not counted this season due to budget cuts. 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 1,499 coho salmon. Fishing was reported to be good this season at Jim Creek and other Knik Arm streams.

Management Actions

No management actions were implemented during the 2021 sport fishing season.

West Cook Inlet

Coho salmon escapement is not monitored on West Cook Inlet (WCI) 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. Sport fishing success as reportedly good this season in tributaries of WCI.

Management Actions

No management actions were implemented for the 2021 sport fishing season.