There have been changes to the salmon regulations regarding the Susitna and Yentna River drainages for 2014. I see all of them as being positive especially for those who are seeking only to catch some of these most beautiful and strong of all the salmon species. For the local crowd many of whom are strictly looking to catch and kill the season limit the new regulations may not be so attractive.
In previous years the department of fish & game has delayed setting harvest ratios until they had determined that the fish were in trouble as far as the numbers of returning fish go. In my opinion the delay allowed for many of the precious stock to be caught & killed before there was a closure. Not true for 2014; my home river will begin the season with the rule set to harvest allowed only on Saturday – Sunday and Monday. All fishing will be single hook, to quote from the F&G website; [" Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure is allowed. Single-hook means a fish hook with only one point. Treble hooks and more than one single-hook are prohibited. The use of bait is also prohibited."]
What this means to a fly fisherman / Spey caster who is looking for the challenge of the kings is that there will be virtually no one fishing the rivers on days when the killing of king salmon is not allowed. Myself, I have stopped taking this species three years ago and prior to that time had never killed the 5 fish limit allowed by law. The most damaging facet of the harvest is that when the use of bait was allowed it was the hens which were the most sought after of the species. This was so that the eggs could be taken and cured for use as bait for the taking of more kings……….. Is it just me or does that sound a little short sighted?
My experience last season with rivers during the ‘no kill catch & release’ regulations was that I was virtually alone while fishing. Very few if any boats out and just me and the fish. It doesn’t get much better than that. My best day resulted in hooking and releasing 8 king salmon inside a 4 hour period and all were unharmed to the best of my knowledge. If you would happen to end up fishing with me as your guide I have stocked a good supply of the fly that has proven for 4 straight seasons to produce and produce multiple fish.
The regulations are also affecting the commercial fleet which fishes Cook Inlet with the big nets. Due to the restrictions of the 2014 commercial fleet we may see a dramatic increase in our salmon returns on all species. As soon as our ice goes out and travel is safe on the rivers and creeks I will begin scouting new destinations.
The new destinations will be the result of a new means of transporting fishermen to remote stretches of our waterways. This ‘new means’ does not have a dramatic impact on the price of guided trips and can be discussed at length with any and all people who contact me in regarding setting up dates. There are still some windows open for scheduling but they are filling quickly. I know that a real time calendar showing available dates would be helpful but I have not found one that works for me at this time. The easiest way to determine availability is a simple e-mail request and I will be happy to either call or reply via e-mail as to weather I am open during your trip to Alaska.
In a nutshell the king salmon season is looking good. At this time we are behind on snowpack throughout this region of Alaska. This may result in some of the best water conditions seen in years for the early season June – July. There is always a chance of three foot falling between now and the breakup but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. A deep snowpack results in high and discolored waters with the warming weather. As fly fishermen and women you know that a river running at normal of just below normal levels is a very desirable thing as opposed to the other……….
I’m ready to fish
This posting is an effort to help those planning a trip to better target certain fish during their stay in Alaska. Without further preamble I’ll get right to it.
Pike Fishing Through out June and early July the Pike fishing at the lake and nearby drainages is at its peak. By August they become much harder to locate so if you are interested in this species think early summer.
King Salmon will begin to show by mid June and the run strength should increase through the 25th of June. Generally by the 25th or shortly thereafter the large number of kings have returned to the rivers and creeks and are still bright fish. The king pictured is a rather small specimen but was chosen because it demonstrates what I mean by bright fish. As June begins to wane into July the fish begin to take on spawning color. The color does not affect the ability to lure them to the fly but they have begun to lose the bright body color of an ocean fish.
These 2 photos show a larger fish that is beginning to turn, this particular fish came to a rather small salmon fly called a Jock O’ Dee, I was quite surprised because I was hoping for rainbow trout in this run when the king took the fly.
Fishing for King Salmon ends by July 13 but the best chance at bright or lightly colored fish is from June 15 – June 30th. Many of our fisheries are now having Catch & release fishing for this species and they are not to be removed from the water during capture. I can still help you to get photographs of you and your king but the fish must remain submerged.
Fly Fishing the Rainbow Trout
Throughout June and basically all season long the trout are present and make for some great fishing. With salmon in the rivers and creeks it can become a challenge to find the trout and to avoid the salmon but it can be done. The best times for a rainbow trip in my experience would be during July or September. Those 2 months give windows where the salmon numbers are limited. During July most of the salmon are Kings that are engaged in spawning and large numbers of other salmon have not yet appeared. By July’s end the Pink – Chum and sockeye are entering the watersheds and their presence complicates trout fishing somewhat. As we enter August Pacific Silver Salmon begin to show in greater numbers.
September is perhaps the very best time for trout. The kings have spawned and died, likewise most Sockeye – Chum and pink salmon have spawned and are in the process of dying off. There are silvers in the rivers but they are colored up in most cases and although very aggressive they can usually be seen easily and avoided. The trout hang around these spawning salmon and the game is to draw trout to the fly and avoid having a silver hooked on many casts. On a first day the catching of the salmon will be exciting but as you see how often it can occur you learn quickly to stick with the target of the trout. There are trout in these rivers that will get as large as 30″ and that my friend is a salmon sized fish.
So: If you would like to hunt King Salmon, look at June 15 – June 29th
Chum – Sockeye and pink salmon – July 7 through August 1st
Silver salmon; August 5 – August 28th
Rainbow trout; June – September 30th with the best fishing occurring September 1 – 30th.
After late September the weather becomes way to unpredictable for me to tell anyone that it is a good bet to come to fish.
I will soon have a calendar on the pages here that will show days that are still open for this season. There are many people inquiring about trips and having a booking calendar on the site will be a big help for those wondering if I am available.
Soon it will be February and I will be gone, working at the cabin. Your e-mails will be checked by my wife and she will be able to contact me there. I have no internet at the cabin however the phone number on the contact page here will work out there. We can arrange details by phone during February and March if I am away working.