ADFG Clarifies Regs On Susitna River King Salmon Fishing Restricted To Catch-And-Release Only

The following is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

(Palmer) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is issuing a correction to a previous emergency order dated January 22, 2021, that unintentionally limited the fishing area on the Deshka River. All waters normally open to king salmon fishing on the Deshka River are open to catch-and-release only for king salmon. Specifically, the Deshka River is open to catch-and-release fishing for king salmon from its mouth upstream to ADF&G regulatory markers near Chijuk Creek (river mile 17), and in all waters within a one-half mile radius of its confluence with the Susitna River. The rest of the Susitna River drainage (Units 1-6) is restricted to catch-and-release only when sport fishing for king salmon. Sport fishing gear is restricted to one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure in all waters of the Susitna River drainage (Units 1-6). A single-hook is defined as a hook with only one point. Any king salmon caught, must be released immediately. A person may not remove a king salmon from the water before releasing the fish.

Days in which catch-and-release fishing is allowed in Unit 2 of the Susitna River are restricted to seven days per week from May 1 through June 14 and then only on Sunday and Monday for three consecutive weekends starting Sunday, June 20 (June 20 – 21, June 27 – 28, and July 4 – 5).

These regulation restrictions are effective 6:00 a.m. Saturday, May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, July 13, 2021.

“The Deshka River achieved its escapement goal last season with a catch-and-release fishery in place,” stated Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “The forecast for the Deshka River in 2021 indicates the escapement may be achieved near the lower bound of the goal range; however, there is uncertainty in the forecast of the 4-year old age class due to a history of weak brood years in recent years. Catch-and-release fisheries will provide anglers an opportunity to fish from the outset of the season while run strength is monitored at the Deshka River weir should additional actions be necessary to either close fisheries or relax restrictions during the season. The Eastside stock made escapement in 2020 and since this area of the Susitna River drainage has been closed in recent years, we are proceeding cautiously by opening it up to catch-and-release but limiting the days of fishing. Other areas of the Susitna River drainage continue to perform near the lower margins of their production ranges; in these areas, trends in abundance are not perceivable and any harvestable surpluses not predictable, warranting catch-and-release only fishing practices.”

According to 5 AAC 21.366 Northern District King Salmon Management Plan, which was modified at the 2020 Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting, if the Deshka River king salmon sport fishery is restricted to catch-and-release fishing, fishing periods in the directed king salmon commercial fishery shall be limited to no more than six hours in duration. Because the Chuitna River king salmon sport fishery remains closed, those waters of the Northern District from the wood chip dock to the Susitna River will remained closed during the directed king salmon commercial fishery.

In conjunction with this restriction, emergency order 2-KS-2-06-21 restricts fishing for king salmon in the Little Susitna River to catch-and-release and sport fishing gear to one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure. Please review the emergency orders in their entirety.

This management strategy is designed to provide sport fishing opportunities where possible and achieve king salmon escapement goals during 2021. Weirs on the Deshka and Little Susitna rivers will be used to gauge run strength inseason.

For additional information, please contact Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey at (907) 746-6300.