The Mat-Su Valley is about to see the closure of a popular fishing spot to king salmon fishing, as state officials move to protect limited stocks of kings on the Little Susitna River with restrictions taking effect Friday.
While other waters in Southcentral Alaska, such as Anchorage’s Ship Creek, are still seeing decent runs of the prized fish, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports that king counts on the Little Su are low.
"The justification for this one is the department doesn't believe we are going to meet the minimum escapement goal," said Fish and Game information officer Ryan Ragan.
Fisheries managers want to see 900 to 1,800 king salmon returning to sea after spawning. The department says so far, it has only counted about 63 fish.
“We think the fish are just holding the lower river with low water conditions right now,” said Fish and Game biologist Samantha Oslund. “We really don't know how many fish in the rivers, so we need to close the fishery and let some of them come up.”
On Kodiak Island, the Ayakulik and Karluk rivers are also seeing closures to fishing for kings effective Saturday. Fish and Game says the rivers have seen 350 and 250 kings counted toward their respective escapement goals of 3,000 to 6,000 and 4,000 to 7,000 fish.
While the Little Su is off-limits for keeping kings, Fish and Game says it sees good number of them on both the Deshka River and Ship Creek. The department also points out that many areas have great numbers for red salmon.
"The Kenai Peninsula is flooded with sockeye right now; the Russian River is great, Klutina is great, and the whole Copper River,” Ryan said. “In fact, Fish and Game just upped the bag and possession limit for sockeye on the Copper River drainage.”
Alaska State Troopers say you could face at least $250 in fines for being in possession of a king salmon in waters where it's illegal to fish them.
Channel 2's Chris Klint contributed information to this story.