January – April 2018 Alaska Fishing Reports

Save $20 per Person on Select May King Salmon Trips  — Join us on a 6-hour  guided fishing trip on Tuesdays Wednesdays or Thursdays between the dates of May 8 — 24  and save $20 per person.   These are guided boat trips with quality fishing gear provided to either the Deshka River or Little Susitna River.   Expect uncrowded fishing conditions and therefore an enhanced opportunity to catch king salmon on these trips as all king salmon fishing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at both of these locations is limited to catch and release fishing.    Northern Pike may be targeted and harvested on Deshka River trips.   Get your special pricing using the online reservations system on this website.   Start the process by clicking, “Book”.    Select our standard 6-hour guided fishing trips and click, “Book.”    Select the Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday between May 8 – 24 you would like to fish and click on that date.   Fill in your contact information and payment information —  when prompted fill in the Promotional Code:  SAVE20   Your last step is simply to click the Complete Booking button near the bottom of the page.     You may also call us at (907) 746-2199 if you have questions about these trips or would like to make your reservations over the phone.    If you prefer the opportunity to harvest a king salmon consider joining us on our Little Susitna River trips on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays —  harvest trips are available at our regular low prices.

Note: To View our May 2018 Alaska Fishing Reports — you will need to go to that specific page.

April 30,2018  — Deshka Landing Ice Moving —  Ice in the Susitna River started flowing past Deshka Landing this morning.   This is the exact date that ice started breaking up and flowing past Deshka Landing one year ago.  There is still plenty of ice in the river and it may take a few  days to a week before the river is ice-free enough for safe boat travel to and from Deshka Landing.  I hope to do more reporting later in the day.

Later report  in Day April 30  — Deshka  Landing on the website is saying water was backed up and flowing over the ice off the landing, but evidently the ice is still anchored to the bottom.   Nonetheless, that ice should blow out before long — especially when we start getting some warmer daytime temperatures.

Little Susitna River — Today was the first time this year I have been to the lower Little Susitna River — I spent some time casting near the landing with a #5 Silver / Black Flashtrap Spinner in hopes that I might better my earliest caught  Mat-Su king salmon by a single day — but I did not get any bites nor did I see any fish.   River condition wise, Little Susitna was muddy (like it always is shortly after the ice goes out) but clear enough that a person could catch a fish.  I am confident that in a few days to a week the water should clean up considerably and likely pickup some more volume as well.  I fished late in the day when temperatures should have been warmer, however, there was a cool wind along the river and the water was very cold.   Along the banks in some places there was a little bit of ice and a little bit of snow in the more shaded spots.  I hope to get my first guide boat ready to go and make a check out run on a lake before next weekend.  I hope to have a boat ready to fish for king salmon by Friday May 4 — and I would run a guided trip this coming Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday   (May 4, 5, 6, or 7 ).  It would be low odds to catch a king salmon this early in the season, but I love fishing enough that I’ve tried it many times.  Give use call if interested in an early shoulder season king salmon fishing trip.   907-746-2199

April 29, 2018 — Deshka Landing — looking at the weather video at Deshka Landing  I can see the  ice has been shifting around just above the launch — the weather has remained cool everyday lately  and it snowed some yesterday in the Willow area, however, it is looking to me like the ice sheet could start flowing downriver at the Deshka Landing area either today  or tomorrow.   Last year it started flowing late on the last day of April.  *** Evening Update — I drove to the Eklutna Plwerplant  tailrace and casted a #5 Silver / Black Flashtrap spinner as I fished from the pedestrian bridge to the Knik River.    Water looked wonderful, but I did not see any fish or get any bites.   While driving to and from the tailrace I saw a couple different flocks of sandhill cranes.   In addition I noticed more open water in both Kepler and Bradley Lakes, and just across the highway for the first time this year I noticed a considerably amount of open water starting to appear in Echo  Lake.   Also as  I crossed the lower Knik and Matanuska Rivers most of the ice seem to have melted — a change since just yesterday.    I plan to get out fish and report again tomorrow.

April 28, 2018  — I attempt for an April King Salmon in the Mat-Su Valley.  Back in 2013 I caught a Mat-Su Valley king salmon on May 1.   Since then I’ve been attempting to catch a Mat-Su king salmon during the month of April.   Since April is nearly over, I drove to the tailrace and worked a #5 silver / black Flashtrap Spinner through about half of the better water at the tailrace.  I did not see any fish or get any bites.   I did see some ducks and lots of sea gulls.   The tailrace water was very clear with a green tint.  Clear enough that I could see some lures stuck on the bottom in some of the deepest spots.  Nearly all of the snow was melted from along the tailrace, and the road into the parking lot had been graded — however — the gate was shut and locked just off the highway so I walked down the hill to where I fished, then walked and looked along the tailrace back to the highway.   I fished more just below the highway, then walked back along the road to my truck.  Driving to and from the tailrace there was still a bit of ice floating in the Knik River and quite a bit more ice in one of the Matanuska River channels.  Conditions are still early for even searching for a king salmon in open water.   One could not even boat to the Deshka River right now — and the water level is extremely low on the Little Susitna River right now.   Therefore the tailrace at this point provide my best opportunity to pursue that elusive April king salmon.   There is still a few days  left in the month — so if you are at all curious you might check back for the next couple days to see how my quest goes.   I’m planning to fish and report.  My friend Jason Perrego caught a nice rainbow trout from Bradley Lake today and e-mailed me the photo.   He caught it on a fly and only saw one additional fish while he was there today.

April 27, 2018 — Deshka River open and flowing.   I read on the home page of the Deshka Landing Outdoor Association — deshkalanding.com —  that the ice had blow out from the lower Deshka River yesterday.  Now in a few days if the ice on the Susitna River near Deshka Landing breaks up a person could boat down to the Deshka River and go fishing.   This early in the season there are rainbow trout, grayling, and northern pike available at the Deshka.  Usually the ice starts flowing on the Susitna River the very last part of April or the first week of May.  The last day of April is Monday and I’m hoping the ice will be flowing downriver by then, but we’ve had cool cloudy weather for about a week now and water levels at some locations have dropped a bit.   It is the runoff and rising waters of warmer weather that cause the ice to start flowing downriver — so hopefully that will get started soon!

April 25, 2018  I glued handles on the last 8 custom rods I will be building before I start guiding fishing trips.  All of these rods are 7′ 2″ medium heavy spinning rods — they make a very sweet rod for casting Flashtrap and Vibrax Spinners for silver salmon and chum salmon.  In addition, I intend to let guests use some of them while casting for king salmon either on the Little Susitna River or on the Deshka River.   I would not be building these rods this late in the spring, but the blanks had to be backordered and i just recently received them.  Some of these rods will be built for a few other salmon guides that operate on some of the same rivers I fish.

Lakes opening up — I drove over to Wasilla today and noticed that both Bradley Lake and Loberg Lake had enough water where a person could cast and maybe catch a few rainbow trout.  The warm sunny weather we were enjoying earlier in April has turned to cool cloudy and windy weather — we have also had a few sprinkles of rain, but not enough to amount to much.  I’ve been talking to Mike Hudson, owner of 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla, and he has mentioned that a few rainbow trout have been caught up the Parks Highway at the lower end of Willow Creek, and he has also heard of a few rainbow trout  taken from a couple lakes where the ice has thawed enough to where people have been able to do some fishing from the bank.   Rivers are still locked up or extremely low water — I expect ice to start flowing off the Susitna River within the next week — if not earlier.  We’ve been enjoying a rather slow gradual breakup this year — but it still looks like the ice is melting about on time in several of the core area Palmer — Wasilla lakes.   I’ve got a bit of crud, but am planning to get out and do some fishing as soon as I start feeling better.   Check back in a few days for an open water fishing report.

April 22, 2018 — I drove to Eklutna Tailrace and casted spinners as I compared several new rods.  I spent about a couple hours casting, but did not see any fish or get any bites.   While driving to the tailrace I spotted 3 moose, and on the drive home I also spotted 3 moose.  The lower Knik River still has some ice along the sides and a few large chunks in the river as well.  There was plenty of water running out of Eklutna power plant, but the Knik River was  low enough that the power plant water was providing the whole amount of flow down the south river channel.

April 20, 2018  — I wrote and submitted a Conservation Oriented article for Fish Alaska Magazine today — it may come out in the June 2018 issue.  Very little snow remains in the more shady portions of our yard and we had a little rain today that helped melt some of that.   It was a rather cool and cloudy day with some showers, and later  in the day I drove around to some of the locations where I’ve done some spring open water fishing in the past.  Everywhere I looked today there were only very small patches of open water at the most, instead I found more snow and  ice.

April 18, 2018Eklutna Tailrace –I drove to Eklutna Tailrace where Jason Perrego and I casted spinners with several custom rods I had built this winter.   Plenty of ice free water to cast into and it was fun just casting and retrieving lures in open water for a change.   We did not see any fish or get any bites — but that was to be expected.   I was quite pleased with most of the fishing rods we checked out — several of which will be used on my guided salmon fishing trips this summer.  While driving we saw an individual fishing the small bit of open water between Kepler and Bradley Lakes — still looked very icy at that location.  At the tailrace we saw an individual wearing a snorkel, mask, an wetsuit, who was diving for lost lures.   Looked cold to me.

April 17, 2018    Lure Set Up — Spinner Building — Boat Prep — Rod Building — Trip Promotions  —  Columns, Articles    I’ve started setting up the plugs, spinners, and spoons my guests will be casting and backtrolling for king salmon when the rivers become ice free.  This involves setting up lures to be fished with single hooks.  Through experience and by talking with other guides  I’ve found certain sizes, styles, and ways of rigging single hooks  that produce better results with different lures.  For instance when rigging with one single hook it is standard practice to use a larger hook than when using one or multiple treble hooks — but at the same time — hook size can not be too large or it will off balance the lures.  I’ve also experienced better landing rates with specific styles of Siwash single hooks — I had enough single hooks to get started rigging, but special ordered more hooks through Mike Hudson at 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla, and am hopeful those hooks will arrive sometime this week.  I’ve already rigged enough lures with single hooks to supply two guide boats for the king salmon season — however there is more I want to do with the thought that it may help guests catch a few extra salmon this summer.  For king salmon my boat(s) will have Mag Lip Flatfish, Kwikfish, Magnum Wiggle Warts, Pixie Spoons, Flashtrap Spinners, Vibrax Spinners, Beau Mac Spinning Cheaters, and Spin -N-Glos all rigged with single hooks for guests to use in 2018.

Later starting in mid-July when fishing for chum and silver salmon my primary lure is our own Flashtrap Spinners.   After the king salmon season closes I primarily fish with treble hook spinners and some treble hook plugs, so I  intend to build an  additional 500-800 spinners before I get busy guiding king salmon fishing trips.   This is a project that maybe should have been done earlier in the winter — however — as with my order of single hooks, I also have an order of 1000 spinner blades that has yet to arrive.

As every year I need to get my guide boats checked out, do a little maintenance, and have Greatland Welding and Machine do some touchups for me as well.  Lake ice is thicker than the past few years at this same time, so I’m thinking it may a bit later before I might have the opportunity to get boats out on a lake and be sure everything is in good running order for another season.

New Rods — If you were following my few reports last fall / early winter you likely know I’ve built several new rods for guests to use on our trips this summer — however — I have a backorder bunch of parts for 6 additional rods I hope to finish building before I start open water fishing — or at least before I get Overwhelmed with open water fishing.  Some of these rods will be built for other guides to use this summer.

Trip Promotions — As some of you have already noticed, by necessity, we will be guiding more catch and release king salmon fishing trips this year.   We still have the option to harvest king salmon 4 days per week on the Little Susitna River, however, we hoping to run a good number of catch and release trips to both Little Susitna River and Deshka River.  For those who would enjoy a more relaxed fishing opportunity with less competition from other boaters — we’re thinking this might provide that opportunity along with a correspondingly higher king salmon catch rate.  At times we may harvest other species during king salmon season — however I think the greatest opportunity to harvest fish other than king salmon will likely be northern pike early in the season over on the Deshka River, and starting in late June or early July chum salmon start showing up in harvestable numbers on the Little Sustina River.  You likely already noticed our Save $20 promotion at the top of this page — I hope to get a newsletter sent out to past guests mentioning that offer this week as well.

Communications — Newspaper,  Fish Alaska articles  — I should start churning out weekly fishing columns for the Mat-Su Valleys Frontiersman Newspaper starting this week.   In addition I have a Fish Alaska Magazine article on Mat-Su Valley salmon fishing due out in the May issue, and should have another Fish Alaska Magazine article coming out later this summer.   It may not be my busy summer salmon guiding season — quite yet, but there are certainly plenty of things to do.


April 13   Ice Fishing    In the evening my nephew Paul Warta and I went ice fishing on a nearby Mat-Su Valley lake.   With the warm weather we have been having recently one might wonder how good is the quality of the ice.   Where we were at the ice was thick and hard, but with the recent warm weather we were able to find holes that had been drilled in all of the spots we wanted to fish.   The holes had remained open, because  recently daily temperatures had not beed cold enough to refreeze the water in those locations.    Paul and I fished for about 3 hours and caught  mostly small landlocked salmon, but also caught some rainbow trout and Arctic Char.   I would guess the larger fish were in the 8 – 10 inch range.   All  of my fish were caught on Pautzke’s Balls O’Fire salmon eggs and Fire Ball salmon egg imitations.   Paul caught fish on the same bait and also caught a good number of fish on small jig-type lures.  Depending upon ice conditions there may be another solid week of ice fihsing opportunity on some of the lakes.    This time of year it is always a good idea to proceed cautiously and check ice conditions before venturing too far from shore.

April 11, 2018  Spring Breakup is On!   We’ve enjoyed 4 days in a row of warm temperatures with nightly lows only slightly below freezing, and the large amount of snow and ice near out house has been shrinking rapidly.  The mountains area still white with snow, but a person can see it is melting up there as well.   I’ve been seeing some ducks and swans the last few days, and I expect migrating geese should arrive in the next few days as well.   If this weather continues for an extended period of time I hope to start my king salmon guiding season right around the first of May.   It will be a while before I’m fishing open water — but the melt is on — and people are getting excited about open water fishing.    Give us a call at 907-746-2199 to talk about or reserve your guided fishing trip or you can also make an online reservation on this website.  

April 8, 2018   Ice Fishing    I guided 2 guests on an ice fishing trip which turned out to be one of my best ice fishing trips of the winter.   We started at 10 am and it was warm and sunny enough that I spent the whole time on the ice in a short sleeve t-shirt.  We drilled holes in 5 different locations and walked around and fished each spot.   My guests caught mostly landlocked salmon and rainbow trout, but also landed 6 Arctic char, 4 of which were fairly nice size.    During the trip we saw several bald eagles flying around the lake.   All of the fish were caught on Pautzke’s Balls O’ Fire salmon eggs.  Ice was still 3 feet deep.

April 2, 2018  Fish Alaska Magazine Article and KAKM Radio Interview                                                                                        I helped edit the 2018 Mat-Su Salmon Forecast article I wrote for the May issue of Fish Alaska Magazine — edits were necessary to account for the king salmon regulation changes the Department of Fish and Game announced in March.  I’m excited to see the final product and which gives an extensive list of Mat-Su fisheries for 5 species of salmon.

Earlier in the day I  drove into Anchorage and participated in a radio show interview today concerning our 2018 king salmon fishery.   I felt long-winded and not adequately preparedly with short sound bite answers for some of host Charles Wohlfoth’s questions.   He mentioned the show should air on Thursday.    I wish I’d asked for the show time.

Great Alaska Sportsman’s Show   April 1, 2, 3, and 4                                                                       Two of my friends have booths at the show this year, and I’m planning to go in and help them out.   I also hope to see  the show for myself — I’ve always felt that anyone participating in the show needs a break to see the show.   The show always provides an opportunity for me to catch up with friends in the fishing business and an opportunity to see new fishing products / find show deals.  Hope to see you at the show.

March 25, 2018   New Outboard Jet Foot                                                                                             I placed an order with Gary Feaster of Greatland Welding and Machine for a new molded resin jet foot (I like to try new technology).  I’m thinking this new jet foot will likely increase the efficiency of my outboard jet motor.   It is an interesting product and you can see one at the Greatland Welding and Machine Booth at the Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show today.    Note:  Free Admission to the show today from 10 – 11 am!


March 21, 2018     Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show in Wasilla                                         Come see us at the show March 23, 24, and 25.   On Thursday March 22 we are setting up our Fishtale River Guides Booth for the 2018 Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show in Wasilla at the Menard Sports Complex.    Greg Acord will man our booth to open the show at 12 noon for us on Friday May 23, while  my nephew Paul Warta and I will arrive as soon  after my morning ice fishing trip as possible.   At 4 pm on Friday I am presenting my seminar,  “Clobber Salmon with Bobbers and Bait.”   It will be in the designated seminar conference room.   At this year’s show we will display a plethora of photos from our 2017 trips,   along with Flashtrap Spinners Paul Warta will be building during the show, and some of the custom rods I will be providing on my guide boat during 2018.

On Saturday March 24 Paul Warta and I, along with Russ Colee plan to man our booth at different times during the show — come ask us the questions you may have about our salmon fisheries, guided fishing trips, and exclusive charters.   Show goers will have a second chance to participate in my “Clobber Salmon with Bobbers and Bait,”  seminar at 1 pm.

Free Admission — for the first hour of the show on Sunday March 25 from 10 am – 11pm.   Show hours run through 5pm on this last day of the show.   Paul Warta and I will split time in the booth, and I will present, “Casting Spinners for Salmon,” seminar at 1pm.  Each  seminar provides an opportunity to learn what specific gear we use on our charters, including specific instruction that helps us hook and catch more salmon, your questions are welcome.  — we hope to see you at the show!  If you go, please stop by our booth and say “Hi.”

March 14, 2018         2018  KING SALMON REGULATIONS ANNOUNCED

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the king salmon regulations which will go in effect on May 1, 2018.    On Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays we will be guiding trips where guests may harvest a king salmon they catch on  Little Susitna River.     On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays  we will be offering Catch and Release trips for king salmon on the Little Susitna River and  / or Deshka River.  At this point we also have availability for Deshka River Catch and Release trips 7-days per week.    As in some past seasons regulations require the use of single hook artificial lures.     If this sounds a little confusing Please call us or send an e-mail and we will be glad to provide additional information   907-746-2199.

Early Booking Opportunity for Summer Salmon Fishing Trips:  Guests and potential guests are contacting us and making reservations of our guided salmon fishing trips for May, June, July, August and September 2018.  Making early reservations ensures you will have the best selection of prime dates and times.  Give us a call (907) 746-2199 or make your reservation online from this website.   Greg Acord, Russ Colee, and I  each have prime dates and times available.   — Andy Couch

New Reservation System  2018     Shows Guide and Charter Availability                                                                                                                               Our new reservation system is now on the website and we’ve already taken our first reservation with it.  I still have some work to do getting it fully implemented, however, when that is done it will do a much better job showing availability of guide / charter dates throughout our May — September open water salmon fishing season.  Reservations may now be made in a few minutes with one easy credit card payment online from this website.  Our online system is available to take your reservation 24 hours per day, 7 days per week including holidays.   This new service will cost a little more money, so you will now see our guide / charter prices have remained the same, however the reservation system fees have been included as an itemized addition.   You should find your total guided fishing cost remains competitive or less than with other guide services that offering a similar experience.   If  you experience trouble operating our online reservation system feel welcome to give us a call and we can also make your reservation over the phone.  Reservations over the phone are best made between the hours of 9 am and 9pm Alaska time.    907-746-2199


WINTER ICE FISHING                                                                                                                                        My schedule has been busy enough that I have not guided many ice fishing trips this year — and at this point I am busier than ever getting ready for the summer salmon season.  Below are a few daily ice fishing reports — I’ve run more ice fishing trips and will attempt add them as time permits:

February 2, 2018   Ice fishing — after about a week of very strong winds the weather improved a bit today, so I took my nephew, Paul, and went ice fishing.  We fished during the warmest temperatures of the day in the afternoon — and it felt fairly warm until the sun started going down.  We fished with Pautzke’s Balls O’Fire salmon eggs just off the bottom and caught several small rainbow trout and landlocked king and coho salmon.   The largest fish was a landlocked king salmon of only about 8 inches, but the action was fairly quick.  During the trip we saw a pair of young bald eagles that hung out in some trees near where we were fishing.

February 3, 2018  Ice fishing — I took my wife fishing this afternoon — to a different lake looking for better sized fish.   She caught the largest one, and it was a rainbow trout of only about 10 or 11 inches.   We also caught several very small landlocked coho salmon — maybe 3 or 4 inches in length.   They were so small, that it was difficult to hook the bites and frequently they would steal our bait without getting hooked.  During the trip we saw a couple adult bald eagles and an immature bald eagle.   All of the fish were caught on Pautzke’s Balls O’Fire salmon eggs fished just above the bottom.   Ice was about 18 inches thick