This summer, dipnets will be allowed in the Susitna River for the first time ever, thanks to a 5-2 historic vote by the Alaska Board of Fisheries yesterday. The fishing spot is remote, requiring a roughly 18-mile boat ride from Deshka Landing. Dipnetters can harvest every species except king salmon.
“The creation of the personal use fishery in the Susitna River is a historic move,” said Mac Minard, fisheries consultant for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. “The fishery will afford local residents access and opportunity to harvest salmon for personal consumption without having to travel out of the area hundreds of miles,” he said, referring to the Kenai Peninsula dipnet fishery.
During deliberations, Board Member Israel Payton submitted substitute language to the proposal. The fishery will close on July 31, 15 days earlier and reduce the days per week from 3 to 2. Says Payton, “This was my thought on being conservative but still providing opportunity.”
Despite the conservative approach, Board member John Wood was concerned these actions didn’t do enough to protect the Susitna Sockeye and made an amendment that would join Sockeye Salmon with the Chinook (king) Salmon as the two non-retainable species. The amendment was voted down and Wood stuck to his promise by voting down the proposal. “I am not going to vote for any proposal that would see Sockeye being intercepted.” Said Wood.
One issue that came up in discussion, is the difficulty in distinguishing between Sockeye and Chum salmon. As Salmon transition from salt water to fresh water, their appearance changes over time. The closer to the mouth of the river, the brighter the fish appear and the harder to tell them apart. This is a big challenge for even the most seasoned fishermen. Mike Wood is a north side set-netter who knows the Susitna better than most. He says the close similarity between the two species is one good reason to include Sockeye in the available personal-use harvest . “I believe they made a good choice.” Says Wood, “Those two fish are just so hard to tell apart. I think lots of fish would just end up being thrown away to avoid violations.”
The new dipnet fishery will be located on the Susitna River below the mouth of the Yentna River, from the Susitna Station to Bell Island/Alexander Creek cutoff at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game regulatory marker.
Dipnetting will be open July 10 through July 31, two days a week, Wednesday and Saturday, from 6 am to 11 pm. The total annual limit is 25 salmon for the head of household and ten salmon per dependent.
The only local opportunity in the Mat-Su for personal use fishing is Fish Creek on Knik Goose Bay Road, which is a small fishery and is often not open, requiring emergency openings in order to fish.
For more information contact Public Affairs Director Stefan Hinman at 907-982-2805