Susitna River Drainage To Close For King Fishing

Susitna River delta photo by Walter Siegmund/Wikimedia

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

Susitna River drainage king salmon anglers are advised that, in an effort to meet minimum escapement numbers, king salmon sport fisheries within the Susitna River drainage (including Deshka River) will be closed effective 6:00 a.m., Tuesday, July 4, 2017, through July 13, 2017. The closure prohibits sport fishing for king salmon, including catch-and-release fishing. King salmon may not be retained or possessed; king salmon caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

Anglers are reminded that:

  • Bait will remain prohibited on the Deshka River and only one, single-hook, artificial lure will be allowed in waters normally open to king salmon fishing through July 13.
  • The Susitna River remains open to fishing for finfish species other than king salmon. King salmon may not be targeted and those caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

Emergency orders issued prior to the season targeted a 50% reduction in harvest, all management units of Susitna River Drainage Area included, based upon harvest and escapement data and performance of fisheries over recent years. To date, all indices of abundance suggest king salmon run strength in the Susitna drainage are lower than anticipated at the outset of the season.

The sustainable escapement goal (SEG) for king salmon in the Deshka River is 13,000 to 28,000 fish, as measured at the weir located at river mile 7. Based upon average run timing, approximately 80 percent of the escapement should have passed the weir by June 29, 2017. At this time, only 9,960 fish have passed the weir and the total escapement is projected to be approximately 12,472 fish. The anticipated sport harvest on Deshka River for a below-average run is approximately 3,300 fish with at least 80 percent occurring prior to June 29. With fewer than 700 fish expected to be conserved through closure of the fishery, any additional harvest cannot be justified, and all fish entering the lower Deshka River must be conserved.

The department monitors escapement by post season aerial count of spawners on 12 streams within the Susitna River drainage that have SEGs.

The Prairie Creek goal of the Talkeetna River drainage (Unit 5) has missed its SEG in three of the past five years and most recently in 2016, a year in which the majority of Susitna River Area SEGs were attained.

The Chulitna River SEG in Unit 6 of the Susitna River has been missed in four of the past five years, most recently in 2016. Any additional mortality associated with continued catch-and-release fishing cannot be justified, and all fish within these units and upper Susitna River (Unit 3) must be conserved.

King salmon fisheries of the Yentna drainage (Unit 4), with the exception of the Talachulitna River, have been restricted to four day per week harvest since 2013 and under this strategy, SEGs have been attained at Lake Creek and Peters Creek near the low end of their respective SEG ranges.

The SEG on the Talachulitna River has been attained since 2012 under a catch-and-release only fishing restriction. With a harvestable surplus observed in 2016, harvest was again allowed on the Talachulitna River in 2017 with emergency regulations that matched the rest of the Yentna River drainage. An aerial survey conducted on June 26 indicated fewer numbers in these areas than observed in recent years.

Angler and guide reports on fisheries of the Susitna River combined with recent staff surveys indicate a weaker than anticipated run to the Susitna River drainage, commensurate with the Deshka River run size assessment, and all areas of the Susitna River drainage must be conserved to provide the greatest potential for achieving escapement goals in 2017.