May 2020 Alaska Fishing Reports

May 2020 Fishing Reports — 2020 Trips greatly reduced because of Coronavirus Concerns / Regulations:

May 1, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I had to try catching a king salmon on the first day of May.  At the tailrace I casted and fished a #5 Silver / Black Flashtrap Spinner from just about the pedestrian bridge to the tailrace confluence with the Knik River side-channel.   Water was very clear and with good sunlight and polaroid sunglasses I could see to the bottom in most place.  I did not get any bites or see any fish.   Wildlife spotted:  2 flocks of sandhill cranes, 1 pair of trumpeter swans, 1 pair of Canadian geese, lots of ducks, there were also about a dozen gulls on the lower Knik River (and indication that hooligan may be running soon).

Deshka Landing — the Susitna River is quite jammed with ice chunks in front of the boat launch lagoon.  Will the river ice finally blow out this afternoon or evening? 

May 2, 2020 — Blow Out!   The ice jam blew out from in front of the Deshka Landing boat launch.  There is still snow on top of the road to the boat launch, and it may be a while before the boat launch opens to the public, however, this part of the river is now mostly ice free.   Even when the river is open and ice free — I like to wait at least 3 days before launching a boat from Deshka Landing, because additional ice can wash downriver from upstream, creating hazardous boating situations.

May 3, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I went to the tailrace in the late evening, and cast my #5 Silver / Black Flashtrap Spinner from the pedestrian bridge down toward the tailrace confluence with the Knik River side-channel.   I did not get any bites or see any salmon.   Sunset occurred on my way home and was after 10 pm.   While driving I spotted sandhill cranes, Canadian geese, a bald eagle, and a moose.

Echo Lake and Reflections Lake are now mostly ice-free, and Kepler – Bradley Lakes will be mostly ice-free before long.

May 4, 2020 — In Search of 2020’s First King Salmon — I fished the tailrace again this morning, and also compared 5 rods we will be using when casting spinners for salmon this season.   I fished a #5 Silver / Black Flashtrap Spinner from just above the pedestrian bridge down to the tailrace confluence with the Knik River side-channel.   Water remains very clear in the tailrace, and hardly any water coming down the Knik River side-channel.   I did not get any bite or see any fish.   Driving over the Knik River bridge I saw a huge flock of gulls on the river bar downstream of the bridge — made me wonder if hooligan were available in the inertidal Knik River waters below the bridge.     This morning I also saw a moose, a swan, and a duck.    Kepler Lake had lost a significant amount of ice overnight on the east side, near the channel connecting it to Bradley Lake.

Deshka Landing — the access road leading to the boat launch has been plowed of snow, but remains quite muddy.   There are still ice flows coming down the river.  A small boat in the boat launch lagoon this morning, however according to an individual I talked to at the landing office, the boat launch is scheduled for use by members and season pass holder’s starting Friday May 8, 2020.   Launch use by the general public is not scheduled to open until May 15.

Wednesday May 6, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I casted my 5 Silver / Black Flashtrap Spinner and fished from near the pedestrian bridge down toward the confluence with the Knik River side-channel.  The tailrace water is getting more color as the glacier(s) must be melting up above Eklutna Lake.   There is hardly any water coming down the Knk River side-channel, however that will change as the river rises with snow and glacier melt.   I did not get any bites or see any fish.    Wildlife spotted not this trip — lots of ducks on the Palmer Hay Flats and in particular in Reflections Lake.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has been stocking some of the more popular Mat-Su Valley lakes with catchable size rainbow trout the past 3 days.

Susitna River tributary streams from Willow north toward Talkeetna are open.   Yesterday, Jared at 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla told me that people had started catching rainbow trout a the mouth of Willow Creek (often the best place early in the season — but also the most fished).   Note:  This fishery is restricted to single-hook artificial lure only and all rainbow trout must be released at this time.

In the afternoon /evening I wrote and submitted the weekly fishing column for the Friday edition of the Frontiersman Newspaper.

Thursday May 7, 2020 — I attended my reserved time at Alaska State Parks Finger Lake office and provide the paperwork and fees to get Fishtale River Guides 2020 commercial use permit for the Little Susitna River Public Use Facility.   Afterward I drove down and looked at the Finger Lake campground / boat launch.   Finger Lake looked completely ice free and I saw 4 fisherman working the water in front of and near the boat dock and launch.   I also saw some people launching a boat onto Finger Lake.  This is one of the most popular launch sites that boaters use to make a check out run before venturing out on Mat-Su river or to saltwater areas.

While driving past, I notice that Wasilla Creek was high and muddy with  run off.  Conditions may be similar at other Mat-Su streams and river —  higher and muddier than normal for the first week of May.  

Later in the day I worked on Fishtale River Guides Covid-19 safety and  response plans which I hope to submit tomorrow.  I also participated in a Mat-Su Borough Fish and Wildlfe Commission Meeting.

May 8, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I sure enjoy getting out to the tailrace and casting — especially on a morning like today.    Temperatures are a bit cooler in the morning, and there are less bugs flying around.   I did not see or hook any salmon this morning at the tailrace.    

Guide Boat Trips Soon!  Spring conditions are starting to look advanced enough that a few early king salmon could now be available at some Mat-Su freshwater locations.  I hope to take one of my guidebooks on a check run soon,  followed by boating Mat-Su rivers in search of king salmon.

This afternoon I finished writing and submitting  Fishtale River Guides’ Client Covid-19 Response Plan and Community / Workforce Covid-19 Action Plan.   The State of Alaska responded and gave me the green light for Fishtale River Guides to proceed with business as outlined in the plans, until such time as I might receive further directions or new business practices are developed by the State of Alaska.

May 9, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I casted my #5 Flashtrap Spinner and fished from just above the pedestrian bridge down to where the tailrace runs into the Knik River side-channel.   No bites  and no fish.    Another beautiful morning — I went quite early today and spotted 4 moose along the highway in the Palmer Hay Flats.    

Deshka Landing — lots of boat were launched yesterday from Deshka Landing — so  the boat launch was open to Members and Season Pass Holders on Friday.     Most of the ice flowing down river seems to be over for the season from what I have seen watching the Landing’s daily weather cam.     I may have more to add later today.

May 10, 202o –Happy Mother’s Day!  My wife and I stayed around the house most of the day, although later in the day I drove over and took a walk with my mom.  A very enjoyable day — but I did not do any fishing or preparation for fishing today.

May 11. 2020 — Boat prep — I am working at getting my first guide boat ready to go — hopefully with a check run later in the day.  The USGS water data for Little Susitna River shows much higher than normal water levels for this early in May.   Talking with Mike Hudson, owner of 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla today, he told me water level on the Deshka River was extremely high right now.   Looking at a Palmer, Alaska weather forecast:  Daily high temperatures are forecast to top 6 degrees every day for the next 10 days.   With those forecasted daily high temperatures, I  expect water levels will remain high at Deshka River and continue to go up at Little Susitna River over the next 10 day period.   Based on what I’ve seen during pervious years, it is my opinion  a small number of king salmon are likely available right now at both Little Susitna River and Deshka River.    With the volume of water in both rivers at this time, it will be difficult finding a few king salmon in all that water.    That is the challenge I am taking on this week.

May 12, 2020 — I teleconferenced with the statewide sport fishing, personal use fishing, and guided sport fishing group working with coronavirus  issues / regulations in the afternoon.  We heard from Commissioner of Fish and Game Doug Vincent Lang that the state feels the primary methods of controlling the virus are currently 1.  Social Distancing,  2.  14-day Quarantine required for people arriving in Alaska.      Regulations / mandates are scheduled to be re-evaluated by the State of Alaska on May 19.    It was discussed by participants  whether other safeguards could potentially allow the state to relax the 14-day quarantine.  The next update on 14-day Quarantine should be May 19.

May 13, 2020 — Communicating with Sam Ivey, Regional Sportfish Management Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) I learned:   Little Susitna River salmon counting weir was installed Tuesday, however, there is still more work to be done for it to be fully operational at counting salmon.   Sam said there was only about 6 inches of visibility in the water when they were instilling the weir.  In other words, fishing conditions at Little Susitna River are likely challenging at present to say the least.

Thursday May 14, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I casted and fished my #5 silver/ black Flashtrap Spinner form just above the pedestrian bridge downstream to where the tailrace empties into the Knik River side-channel.   I did not get any bites and I did not see any fish.  The tailrace water is getting a bit more color — so the glaciers up above Eklutna Lake must be melting a bit.  There is still hardly any Knik River water flowing down the side-channel above the tailrace confluence.  I spotted a beaver, two ducks, and a moose in my time at the tailrace.   Driving across the Palmer Hay Flats I saw one additional moose.   The best Mat-Su Valley fishing option this weekend for those who would like to experience the best opportunity for catching fish:  fishing in the lakes for rainbow trout, arctic char, arctic grayling, or northern pike.

Susitna River and Deshka River Update — I talked with Israel Payton who had been over to the Deshka and then on down to Alexander Creek.   Israel mentioned the Deshka was still very high with strong current down near its confluence with the Susitna River.    The Susitna River is also high for this time of year and normally this high of Susitna water volume would slow the Deshka outflow near the Susitna confluence to almost lake–like slowness.  The Deshka is extremely high this May.    Israel also mentions he clogged his jet boat several times with debris floating down the Susitna River.   When that happens a person has to shut down and clean out the debris inorder to get the boat running efficiently again.    Although I was hoping to get my boat out on Deshka River or Little Susitna River this week — water conditions at both locations sound extremely difficult for attempting to catch a king salmon.   If one of my nephews wants to get out with me in a boat this weekend, I may go.  Stay Tuned.

May 15, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — fished in the morning, and covered more water today, but still did not get any bites and did not see any fish.   Wonderful morning to be outside, and I saw lots of ducks and a pair of Canadian geese. 

May 16, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I started above the pedestrian bridge and fish my #5 silver / black Flashtrap Spinner down the tailrace and into the Knik River side-channel.   There is still not much water flowing through the side-channel.   I did not get a bit and did not see a fish.   I enjoyed another beautiful sunny morning and spotted a pair of arctic terns (first I’ve seen this spring).  In addition I saw  ducks, gulls, a pair of swans,  a snowshoe hare along the road, and a second snowshoe hair flattened on the road.

Fishing Report Update:   To the best of my knowledge the first 2020 king salmon has still not been caught from Ship Creek in Anchorage.  Dustin Slinker, who owns the Bait Shack along lower Ship Creek is providing a gift package of tackle and gear valued at over $450 to the person catching the first Ship Creek king salmon this year and bringing it by the Bait Shack for photos, weighing and measuring.     I’m planning to fish Ship Creek this afternoon, for the first time since the 1970s.   Check back this evening for my first 2020 Ship Creek King Salmon Fishing Report.

Ship Creek Fishing Report — I fished Ship Creek with two other people who had caught salmon there before, and there were also between 25 – 30 people within sight of where we were fishing.   I casted a #5 Flashtrap Spinner the entire time, while the other my two partners fished salmon roe behind a Spin-N-Glo most of the time the tide was coming in, and then switched to casting Virbax Spinners.    We did not get any bites and did not see anyone else hook a fish, and did not see any fish.   It was a beautiful warm afternoon to be out fishing and we saw some geese and ducks along Ship Creek.

May 17, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I casted a #5 Flashtrap Spinner and fished from the pedestrian bridge down to the Knik River side-channel.   There were several other people at the tailrace this morning, but I did not see anyone having any more luck.   No bites and no fish sightings.   The wildlife I saw this morning was arctic terns and a pair of  trumpeter swans.

May 18, 2020 — King Salmon Caught at Ship Creek by a young lady fishing from the bank.   This was the first king salmon of the year reported to the bait shack and there is a picture posted on the Bait Shack Facebook page.  Ship Creek runs through Anchorage and the lower section is open for king salmon (which are stocked as smelts that go out to the ocean and return after they’ve grown larger and become mature).  This is the first king salmon I know of that was caught from a Northern Cook Inlet stream drainage.  

I spent most of my day building Flashtrap Spinners.

In the evening Ben Allen, owner of Miller’s Riverboat Service gave me a fishing report from a hooligan fishing trip he made out of Deshka Landing.   They fished a few spots along the Susitna River, below the Deshka River confluence. and caught a few hooligan, but when he finally made it down to a tried and true spot up the Yentna River a little ways the group filled 3 coolers and were ready to head back.  Susitna River remains high and Ben reported there were plenty of people out in boat on the river.

Eklutna Tailrace — late in the evening I drove over and fished the tailrace from just upstream of the pedestrian bridge down to the tailrace confluence with the Kink River side-channel.   I did not see any fish and I did not get any bites.    I saw some ducks at the tailrace and a moose as I was driving home.

May 19, 2020 — In their weekly fishing report for Northern Cook Inlet waters, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game mentioned  the first king salmon had been caught at Deshka River, but that water remains high and muddy.  The coming week through Memorial Day weekend will likely provide the best   hooligan fishing for the entire season on the Susitna River drainage.

May 20, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I fished the tailrace early this morning, but when I arrived there was already another fisherman, who told me he had been there since about  1;30 this morning.   I fished my #5 Flashtrap Spinner from just above the pedestrian bridge down near the tailrace confluence with the Knik River side-channel.  I did not get any bites or see any fish,  The other angler was fishing just below the tailrace confluence with the Knik River side-channel and using a salmon roe behind a Spin-N-Glo.   He had the same luck while I was fishing there, and kept fishing after I left.   A man and two young kids also showed up to try their luck just as I was getting ready to drive away.  NOTE:  Around May 20 on a normal year, I figure my chances of seeing king salmon, hooking a king salmon, or catching a king salmon on a guided riverboat trip increase significantly.   It continues to get better on through the remainder of May and into mid-June.

May 21, 2020 Eklutna Tailrace — I spent a couple hours early this morning watching and talking with some other people fishing the tailrace.   Nobody had any bites and we did not see any fish.  We did see some ducks splashing around that could attract interest until one realized they were not fish.

May 22, 2020 Eklutna Tailrace — I fished more water at the tailrace today, but did not see any fish, did not get any bites, and did not see anyone else having actions.   There were 7 other people fishing at the tailrace while I was there.   The water continues to rise on a daily basis, but is still low.   I saw some ducks while fishing at the tailrace and while driving across the Palmer Hay Flats.   Conditions keep looking more conducive for people to start catching king salmon at the Eklutna Tailrace / Knik River fishery.

May 24, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — This was the earliest morning I’ve fished in 2020.   Weather was a bit drippy over against the mountain, which was one of the reasons I wanted to fish this morning.   Really quiet and pretty, but I did not get any bites or see any fish.  With the cooler weather we’ve had the past few days, the Knik River has dropped significantly, although there is still plenty of water in the tailrace itself.   There were are few other anglers out fishing, while I was there, but I had the opportunity to fish the section of water I most wanted to fish all by myself.   I heard trumpeter swans calling while I was fishing, but did not get the chance to see them.   On the way home I saw a pair of Canada geese beside the road.   Moose and most waterfowl is becoming more difficult to spot both from increased vegetation levels and I suspect moose are becoming more secretive as they start to have their calves, and likely waterfowl are now nesting.

May 25, 2020 — Guide boat king salmon trip — I fished with two friends from my guide boat on the Little Susitna River.  The water was indeed higher than normal and dark in color.  We fished thought about 13 miles of river, and caught 1 rainbow trout on a Spin-N-Glo.   There was one other brief bump on one of the lures, but not any more solid bites.  The only other fish we saw were very small outgoing salmon.    During the trip we saw several moose,  quite a few ducks, and some bald eagles.   We briefly talked to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game employee at the Little Susitna River salmon counting weir and learned that a total of 3 king salmon had been counted past the weir this season.   So there are a few king salmon in the river, and while the water is high and cold, it is in good enough to  catch a king salmon.     King salmon have already been caught by sport anglers at Deshka River and Ship Creek in the Northern Cook Inlet area.   We also talked to one group of boaters who told us they had caught a king salmon on the Little Susitna River today.

May 26, 2020 — I learned from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game today, water has been too high  to install the Deshka River salmon counting weir.   I also learned from Mike Hudson of 3 Rivers Fly & Tackle that people were catching a decent number of  king salmon in the lower Deshka River over Memorial Day weekend — something that should  be happening this time of year.   Remember Deshka River is being managed as a single-hook artificial lure only, catch and release king salmon fishery this season.   Give us a call if you would like to schedule a Deshka River king salmon fishing adventure:   907-746-2199

With a considerably amount of rain over Memorial Day weekend several of the Mat-Su streams are high with runoff.   I plan to get out king salmon fishing more this week — and am tentatively scheduled to fish with a friend and his wife Wednesday morning.  Check back for the fishing report!

May 27 — KING SALMONS LANDED!   I fished with Dan Suprak and his wife, Cilla at Deshka River today.   We fished exclusively with spinners, and Dan caught a king salmon on his 3rd cast.   I caught a king salmon a few minutes later.   We saw 3 anglers in another boat land 2 king salmon, and also saw several of the salmon surface.   Dan’s fish was caught on a #6 Vibrax Spinner with a silver blade and green bell.   My fish was caught on a #5 silver / chartreuse Flashtrap Spinner.    During the trip we saw only a few other anglers along the river, some bald eagles, several ducks, and a pair of trumpeter swans.    Can’t think of much I would rather do than fish for king salmon in Alaska at this time of year.  Did I mention the weather was wonderful!

May 28, 2020 — Eklutna Tailrace — I stopped by the tailrace and fished for a short time this morning.   Water is still low in the Knik River side-channel,  but likely to come up with the warmer sunny weather once again.   I did not hook or see any fish, and I did not see any of the other people fishing have any action either.  I’ve been helping my wife around the house since getting back from the tailrace — she is selling some items at the neighbors yard sell.

May 29, 2020 — Little Susitna River — I fished with two friends in the morning, and we managed to briefly hook one king salmon on a Spin-N-Glo.  In addition, we saw a king salmon surfacing near our boat at another location, but were unable to get it to bite.   During the trip we saw ducks and 3 sets of cow moose with a calf.    Fishing pressure was light and it was  beautiful day to be on the water.   The river remains high and dar- colored, but had dropped and cleared a bit since I was last fishing it.

May 30, 2020 — Fished the Deshka with 2 friends in the morning.   Each of us hooked a king salmon and one person hooked a rainbow trout.    3 king salmon were hooked on #6 Viibrax Spinners, 1 king salmon and 1 rainbow trout were  hooked a magnum Wiggle Wart.  2 king salmon were landed.   We saw a few king salmon surface, but not many.    Like usual there were some bald eagles to be seen at the Deshka.

May 31, 2020 — I fished the Knik River with a friend in the afternoon.   The water in the side-channel open to king salmon fishing was quite low, and there were several other boaters fishing the same limited area.   We saw a couple of king salmon caught by other boaters, but did not manage to draw any strikes.  We fished with Fire Cured salmon roe under ESB Bobbers, a Spin-M-Glo with roe, and Kwikfish.  

Check out our June 2020 Alaska FIshing Reports for the next update.   

Fish On!   — Andy Couch