January – April 2019 Alaska Fishing Reports

April Open Water Fishing — Coming Soon  Last year I fished open water on the Little Susitna River for the first time on April 30,  and ran my first 0pen water guided fishing trip from my guide boat  on May 4.  With an extended stretch or above freezing temperatures jump–starting the spring ice and snow melt early this year, I am anticipating even earlier open water fishing opportunities during 2019.   Check this report for the latest updates.

The Reports for January — April 2019  are now complete — for our next Alaska Fishing Reports Update  go to our MAY 2019 Alaska Fishing Reports page. 

April 30, 2019 — Guide Boat launched and Fishing — Rainbow Tout Caught — Ben Allen and I took my primary guide boat out on Little Susitna River.   This was the first time I had one of my guide boats on the water in 2019.  We fished along the river for about 7  hours and each of us caught a couple nice rainbow trout on a small jig drifted under a float.  The water level was a bit higher than normal for this time of year, and there was still a bit of snow along the river in some of the more shadowed places.   We started about noon and were rewarded with warm temperatures and pleasant sunshine for the entire time we were fishing.   I had brought along two jackets — but never put either of them on.   During the trip we saw a bald eagle, several ducks, and a single trumpeter swan, along with some long-legged shore birds.  It was a wonderful experience to be out fishing a river again — we only saw one other person fishing.    A crew from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was installing the Little Susitna River Weir.  Note:  There are some short gravel sections on Pt Mackenzie Road as one drives out toward the Little Susitna Public Use Facility Boat Launch — one wants to be aware and slow down for these sections.

April 28, 2019 — I drove to Eklutna Tailrace — a bit later this evening, but with similar results.  I started fishing up by the highway this time and worked my way down toward the mouth of the tailrace since there was already 3 vehicles parked in front of the gate to the parking lot.  I did not see any salmon or get any bites. but I saw a beaver at the tailrace, and bald eagles and gulls down along the river side-channel.  Driving to and from the tailrace I saw some Canada geese, sandhill cranes, and a pair of moose.  Earlier today I talked with Amy Davis, manager at Deshka Landing, and she said there is still plenty of ice in the boat launch, the hill going down to the launch is still ice covered, and the river is so low even if the boat launch was ice free it would be difficult to get a boat into and out of the launch — not likely any one will be launch there in the next few days.  

April 27, 2019 —  Glorious Spring day — can you say sunshine and warm — we never have too many of these during April in Alaska.   My wife and I worked in the yard once the temperatures warmed up a bit. With the extra warm temperatures and extended evening sunshine I had to go get on the water in the evening.   Before I can get a guide boat out on the rivers –Eklutna Tailrace is this salmon guide’s comfort place.  The gate to the parking lot is still locked, and I’ve had the tailrace nearly to myself — although often people walk the trail to take a look.   I spend my time casting and swinging different Flashtrap Spinners through the current.   There was a hatch of bugs this evening — but fortunately  mosquitos have not bothered me — YET.  It was So pleasant this evening.   I saw several eagles flying around and some evening diving into the river, but I did not see any fish or get any bites.   On the drive to and from the tailrace I spotted moose, eagles, and trumpeter swans. 

April 26, 2019 — Eklutna Tailrace — In the evening I drove over to the tailrace and casted for a while with a silver / black Flashtrap spinner.  The water looked nice and the sunshine was warm so I fished my way from the mouth of the tailrace up and above the footbridge.   I did not see any fish or get any bites.   I did see a beaver swimming up the tailrace.  Looking down the Knik River side-channel from the tailrace I saw several gulls flying low over the river side-channel.  Driving home I spotted 8 bald eagles and 2 moose.  Driving by Kepler-Bradley Lakes I saw several vehicles and some tents of people out trying to catch the recently planted rainbow trout at this location.   There should likely be a good amount of weekend fishing effort at this and the few other locations that have already been stocked with catchable rainbow trout.

April 25, 2019 — Boat Shakedown Trip — As mentioned above I’m planning to take my primarily guide boat over to Finger Lake  today and see how it runs on a lake before I attempt to take it anywhere on a fishing trip.   I’ve also got several other chores to do today.   Mat-Su lakes stocked with  catchable rainbow trout — Alaska Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologist, Samantha Oslund told me the first spring truckload of hatchery trout was scheduled for planting in the Mat-Su Valley today.   First Frontiersman fishing column coming soon — I wrote my first column for the paper last night — it should be posted online possibly sometime today and may print in the Friday Frontiersman.   Boat on Susitna River at Deshka Landing — looking at the Deshka Landing web cam today, I noticed two individuals with a boat parked against the ice on the edge of the launch lagoon at Deshka Landing.   I called the landing and learned the boat had come down the Susitna River from Willow Creek.   Deshka Landing Boat Launch remains closed awaiting melting of the snow and ice on the launch hill and in the boat launch.

April 24, 209 — Fishing this morning — check back later in the day if you would like to know what is caught — I am planning on some catching today.   It is below freezing currently, but should warm up before long.    **Rainbow trout caught***  This morning I fished one of the Mat-Su Valley’s stocked lakes and I hooked 4 fish, but only caught 1 rainbow trout — which I released.   There were several other people fishing the same area, and I saw a total of 7 rainbow trout caught — all of which were released.   I also spotted some ducks and a bald eagle near where we were fishing.   It took a good bit of effort for each fish that was caught — I was fishing the same small area for close to 3 hours.

April 23, 2019 — Eklutna Tailrace — I drove to the tailrace in the evening and cast spinners for a while.   All the accumulated snow from this morning had melted off and it was pleasant fishing in the evening sunshine.   The gate was still locked keeping people from parking in the tailrace parking lot, and there was no one else at the tailrace this evening.   Water looked beautiful, but the only activity I saw was a king fisher dive bombing the water briefly.   Returning from the tailrace I spotted a dozen bald eagles, 3 moose, and 2 small flocks of sandhill cranes — even after several day snow spring is definitely on its way.   The weather report is calling for several sunny days coming up.   Temperatures are predicted to fall below freezing for the next several nights, but warm up into the 40s or low 50s during the day.  Rivers like the Susitna should continue to have a gradual break up with relatively small ice flows coming downriver as long as this weather pattern continues.  The webcam at Deshka Landing is showing that the ice in the boat launch lagoon is starting to break up, but there is still snow on the road coming down the hill to the boat launch, and the launch is not open — yet.

April 22, 2019 — Snowing heavily at times today — and more scheduled to fall before tomorrow.  Looked like nasty weather for fishing, and I had the thought there would like be little competition with this type weather.   The weather report is calling for drier conditions starting tomorrow and continuing for the next week — hopefully the weather report is correct.  

April 20, 2019 — Winter’s Hold — More snow on the ground this morning — just like yesterday.   It has been mostly melting off during the warmer afternoon hours, but the weather report is calling for freezing temperatures every night for the next week.  I was hoping to launch my boat at Finger Lake today, however, I may wait for a more pleasant and warmer day.  Several lakes in the Palmer — Wasilla core area are ice free or nearly ice free, and a friend of mine had his boat out and was fishing two days ago, and guided an open-water fishing trip yesterday.   People are bundled up in warm clothes in the pictures he took both days, and rightfully so.   They were catching Arctic Char, Rainbow Trout, and landlocked Coho Salmon.

April 18, 2019 — The ice jam  in front of  Deshka Landing Boat Launch washed away this afternoon.  The boat launch is still covered with snow and the launch lagoon is still covered with ice.   Spring keeps progressing however– and I’m thinking the launch could be open to Deshka Landing Outdoor Association members as early as late next week.  It all depends upon the weather and how soon the remaining snow and ice melt.

April 17, 2019 — Snow, Snow, Snow!   — Our unusually warm spring weather has been interrupted by a return to reality.   Snow today, and called for on the weather report for the next two days as well.   Should return to warmer temperatures after that.  Today I helped Jason Perrego finish up the custom rod he has now built  — the finish is drying as I type — the final product will look sharp and should fish well also.

April 16, 2019 — Eklutna Tailrace / Knik River — I casted a spinner for a while at the tailrace this morning.  Water was cleaner than the last time I was here — an indication that the nights have seen temperatures below freezing the past few days.  Looking down the Knik River side-channel from the tailrace nearly all of the ice and snow is now melted.   Looking up the Knik River side-channel from the tailrace there is still some snow and ice on the river bottom.   This side-channel usually does not have any water above the tailrace until the mainstream Knik River rises enough with snowmelt to start running down the side channel.      While fishing  I did not get any bites or see any fish.   The gate is still locked turning off the Old Glenn Highway toward the tailrace fishing area parking lot.   The road to the parking lot and the lower section of the parking lot is now dry and snow free — I hope to call someone with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to see when  the gate will open for the spring / summer.   Driving across the Palmer Hay Flats — Knik River looks nearly ice free both upstream and downstream from the Glenn Highway bridge.   I spotted one moose this morning on the flats. 

April 15, 2019 — Susitna River Ice Moving — The Deshka Landing webcam shows ice jams are now moving and forming on the Susitna River — one such ice dam is directly out from Deshka Landing at this time.  This process of ice chunks forming a dam, followed by the dam blowing out when enough water lifts and pushes the ice further downriver is how the ice gets cleared off the river.  We likely have a few days to maybe a week before most of the ice moves down river.  

This evening I will be driving go the Wasilla Legislative Information office (6:30 pm hearing starts) to speak in favor of legislators confirming recently appointed Karl Johnstone on the Alaska Board of Fisheries.  It is important that people like Mr Johnstone, who has studied the economic realities of different fisheries, and participated in different user groups have an opportunity to serve on the board.   I will speak in favor of legislators confirming all appointees.

April 14, 2019 — Northern Pike — This afternoon my nephew and I drove to a spot that we know northern pike like to hang out this time of year.   The ice was mostly melted and right after we drove up we saw a pike swirling the water even before we got out of my truck.   We started fishing and saw more pike waking in the shallows — we kept anticipating the bite — but it never came.   We tried several different lures, but it was one of those days when the fish were not interested in what we had on our lines.  My nephew had purchased a bow with a bow reel and fish arrow, so he attempted to harvest some pike with the bow and arrow, but even though he had several shot opportunities he never managed to arrow one of the pike.   We were fishing a stream in the Palmer – Wasilla area, but it  closes this even to protect spawning rainbow trout.    On the drive to and from our fishing spot we saw that Kepler Lake, Bradley Lake, Echo Lake, and Junction Lake all looked to finally be mostly ice free.   People are excited to get out and try some open water fishing.   We saw people fishing at Bradley Lake, and Junction Lake.

April 13, 2019 — Rod Building Class —The past couple days I’ve been helping  Jason Perrego, owner of Alaska Lakes Guide Service, build his first custom fishing rod.  He still has a ways to go, but I’m hopeful it will be finished and catching fish soon.   As Jason mentioned, it is always fun to catch fish with something you have made yourself.  If you know Jason, next time you see him, why not ask him about the custom fishing rod he built — and how many fish he’s caught on it!

April 12, 2019 — Deshka River Ice Flushes from Lower River.   I heard this news from an individual and confirmed  on the Deshka Landing website.  There remains enough ice at Deshka Landing that it would be difficult — if not impossible —  to drive my outboard jet boat to Deshka River today.   Once the Susitna River becomes ice free for 3 days at Deshka Landing, however, it means water / fishing conditions for northern pike, rainbow trout, and arctic grayling may be decent at the Deshka River.   The main Deshka channel will be high with run off, but there are slower water areas where trout, grayling, and pike can all be caught during high spring water flows.

April 11, 2019 — FISH CAUGHT — Mat-Su Valley Lakes — For a couple days now I have been out fishing 3 different Mat-Su Valley lakes in the evening.  There is a limited amount of open water with considerable ice cover remaining on the lakes I fished.    At one of the lakes, after casting my way through the open water available, I caught 3 landlocked coho salmon with a #0 Mepps Spinner — that is the only lure I’ve been fishing in the lakes so far.   Water is cold so it is more pleasant fishing if the temperatures are warm with no or little wind.  Last night was both windy and cool — and I did not see any fish or get any bites.   Some of the streams also have open water — but in the Palmer -Wasilla core area many streams close to all fishing starting in mid-April to protect spawning rainbow trout.

April 9, 2019 — Deshka Landing —  The Deshka Landing weather cam is still  showing snow and ice in the boat launch, however, a small amount of open water is now flowing in the Susitna River, past the shelf ice, out from the boat launch.  Amy Davis, Landing Manager, told me today that she expects the boat launch could be open to members sometime during the last week of April 2019.  Every year the landing has a contest to see when the first jet boat can be launched from the landing.   Amy thought last year’s first launch was on or near May 4.    Are you ready for a new early season boat launch record?   View boat launch conditions at Deshka Landing weather cam: http://www.deshkalanding.com/weather-cam/

April 9, 2019 — Little Susitna River Public User Facility Boat Launch — A friend asked what I thought driving conditions were  to the boat launch on  lower Little Susitna River.   There is likely  snow on Little Susitna Access Road in April, and usually the river is ice-covered.   I use the USGS data on Little Susitna River water flows to determine when Little Susitna River should have enough water to launch a boat.  My rule of thumb:  I consider taking my boat to Little Susitna River Public Use Facility Boat launch when the USGS Little Susitna River water flow exceeds 100 cubic feet per second — today the flow is 35 cubic feet per second.  View USGS Little Susitna River data at this location: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=15290000

April 7, 2019 — Eklutna Tailrace — Open water Casting — I drove over this evening and did some casting with another set of several fishing rods.   The gate is still locked going into the Tailrace parking lot, but most of the snow and ice inside the gate is melting quickly.    I saw several other people out walking near the tailrace, but did not see any fish — there was plenty of water for  casting and retrieving lures, though.   Ice continues to melt along the Knik and Matanuska Rivers, with some large chunks remaining along the shores.   Driving home I spotted a couple moose feeding in the Palmer Hay Flats.    Closer to Palmer the channel between Kepler Lake and Bradley Lake is now nearly ice free and again this weekend there were people out fishig this little bit of ice free water.   The ice on Kepler Lake and Bradley looks like a large wind would likely break most of it up — lacking a strong wind it may hang around for another week or 10 days.  At this point the spring melt looks about 10 days earlier than it was last year.

April 6, 2019  Great Alaska Sportsman’s Show — I drove into Anchorage and walked through the show, stopping to visit with several people I knew at the show.  On the ride home I spotted 4 moose out feeding near the highway as I drove by.

March 31, 2019 — Open Water Casting — I drove to Eklutna Tailrace and casted  spinners with some of the new custom fishing rods I built for this summer’s guided fishing trips.   The parking lot gate is locked at the Tailrace, however, there is room to park in front of the gate and other people have been out walking around the tailrace.  I intend to branch out and run some guided trips for rainbow trout, arctic grayling, and northern pike during late April, May, and June 2019.  I’ve built new lighter rods for these species, and most of them performed quite well — although I did not have any bites or see any fish.   On the drive to and from the tailrace I saw people fishing in the small amount of open water between Kepler and Bradley Lake near Palmer.  I also saw a man launching a small riverboat into the Knik River and could later hear him driving along the river.   Returning from the tailrace as the sun was getting low I spotted 9 moose along the Glenn Highway as I traveled across the Palmer Hay Flats.   Nearer to home I spotted some early migrating ducks paddling around  some open water on the edge of the Hay Flats, and I saw a couple more in a small meltwater pond in  a roadside field.  Most of the snow has now melted in the Mat-Su Valley lowlands of the Palmer / Wasilla core area.

March 25, 2019 —  Early Spring?  For the past 10  days the weather has been unusually warm both during daylight hours and overnight.  Unusually warm for Southcentral Alaska during March means overnight temperatures staying above freezing (32* F).  With 24 hours of above freezing temperatures for several of the past 10 days most of the snow cover has melted away in the lower elevations of the Mat-SU Valley.  Even the ice around the edged of some lakes is melting enough to expose the first small areas of open water.   For lakes in the Palmer — Wasilla core are of the Mat-Su Valley I plan on staying off the ice for the remainder of the spring and I would advise others to stay off the ice as well.  Attempting to catch a few fish is simply not worth the risk of fallen through a weak spot in the lake  or stream ice.     Before long the ducks and geese should be showing up on their migration North — usually geese start showing up in the Mat-Su Valley agricultural areas around April 15 — it will be interesting to see if they show up any earlier this year.   If the present temperature trends continue it is possible that we may have some open fishable water in lakes and streams by mid to late April  — that would be earlier than normal, but if it occurs I intend to get out and try fishing.  

March 17, 2019 — Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show Coming Soon — The Show will be this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday March 22, 23, and 24 at the Curtis Menard Sports Center in Wasilla.  My nephew, Paul Warta, and I will have a booth and will be discussing and making reservations for our 2019 guided fishing trips for the coming summer — May, June, July, August, early September.  In addition, I will once again be presenting the seminar,  Clobber Salmon with Bobbers and Bait on Saturday at 12 noon and Sunday at 1 p.m.    If you have a chance come talk with us about fishing at the show.  We will be in the Fishtale River Guides booth.   

March 16, 2019 — Spring Gear Testing — with warmer weather into the 40’s I drove to Eklutna Tailrace and checked out several new custom rods I had built this winter along with some 20lb Sufix 832 braided line, and a couple new spinning reels.  I was pleased with most of the new rods, although the chance to cast and retrieve some spinners with each of the new models helped me prioritize which ones I will likely use the most.   In addition, experiencing how the rods casted also helped me  plan how to finish the last of the custom rods I am building this winter.  The 20lb braided line worked well — although it did not cast a whole lot farther than the 30 lb line we used in comparison.   I could definitely tell the 20 lb braid felt more likely to break a few times when I casted all the way across the tailrace and got snagged in the snow / ice on the far side.   In addition, the lighter braid tended to tangle a bit more than the 30 lb.   I plan to use the 20 lb on some of my guided fishing trips during the summer of 2019, however, testing helped me decide I will be more selective than I originally thought in when and where I use the lighter braid..  The new spinning reels were light and smooth, and basically performed flawlessly like a new reel should, now I am interested in seeing how well each of these new reels holds up through a season of guided fishing trips.   I would mention that these reels are somewhat smaller reels than I have normally used in the past — and I’ve spooled them up with the lighter 20 lb. braided line.   Conditions at Eklutna Tailrace — plenty of snow along the banks, but not too deep.  Water was completely ice free.  We saw a couple of people working out and practicing their canoeing technique in preparation for an Alaska canoe race they plan to participate in next June.  They were paddle up and down the tailrace for about an hour or more.

February 17, 2019  — I’ve been spending considerably more time this winter preparing for next summer’s open water fishing opportunities rather than guiding ice fishing trips.    So far I’ve built several sets of custom fishing rods — primarily for use while salmon fishing during July, August, and early September.  Greg Acord stopped by this week and I  outfitted him with a new set of custom rods for his guide boat.  These rods are designed specially for casting our Flashtrap Spinners to silver, chum, sockeye, and pink salmon.   I have also finished building a set for Russ Colee’s boat — and am hopeful he will want to guide with them on a regular basis.

January 26, 2019 — Although I have not been guiding any ice fishing trips this month I did go fishing today with a visitor from out of state.   We each caught several landlocked salmon and between the two of us we also caught 3 rainbow trout.   All of the fish were caught on Balls O’ Fire single salmon eggs fished near the lake bottom.   During the trip we saw several other groups of ice fishermen and several bald eagles at different locations around the lake.  Ice was about 2 feet thick.

January 24, 2019 — The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission hosted a public meeting today with Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff to discuss management results from last summer’s salmon season and salmon management for the 2019 fishing season.   There were quite a few questions for the Department, and I hope the public went away from the meeting with a better understanding of likely salmon management during the 2019 season.

January 7, 2019 — 2019 King Salmon Regulations publicized.    Today the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued emergency orders closing all king salmon fishing (including catch and release king salmon fishing) in the Susitna River and Little Susitna River drainages from May 1, 2019 — July 13, 2019.   The only Mat-Su Valley location that will remain open during the 2019 season to fishing for ocean-run king salmon  under standard king salmon regulations is the hatchery enhanced Eklutna Tailrace / Knik River fishery.

January 1, 2019  — A friend of mine has a group up who wanted to go ice fishing so we did a friend trip to one of the local Kepler -Bradley system lakes.   Everyone fishing caught some fish — although all of the fish were smallish landlocked salmon.   All of the fish were caught on Balls O’Fire single salmon eggs fished just off the bottom.  During the trip we saw some bald eagles and other anglers out fishing as well.    The weather had been warm and melting snow the day before, but on the day of the trip everything had refrozen — so it was rather slick walking around.