The state is banning all fishing for king salmon in the Susitna River drainage starting Monday morning because of poor runs.
Ken Marsh, a spokesman for the department's sportfishing division, said Friday that the ban will be will take effect at 6 a.m. Monday in an effort to meet minimum spawning goals.
King salmon returns throughout Alaska have been in deep decline for the last few years and the bottom may not have been reached yet, fishery biologists say.
The state has posted king salmon restrictions from the Yukon to Southeast to allow enough fish to make it to their spawning areas to preserve future runs.
At the same time, king salmon in depleted and endangered runs in Washington state, Oregon and California are doing better than average. Alaska's red salmon returns appear to be strong as well.
Marsh said the new restrictions in the Susitna River and all its tributaries will bar fishermen from targeting kings, even for catch-and-release fishing. If a king is caught accidently, such as by someone fishing for trout, it must be released immediately without removing it out of the water, Marsh said.
The ban includes the Deshka River. Other popular waters covered in the ban are the Talachulitna River, Lake Creek, Deshka River, Willow, Little Willow, Greys, Kashwitna, Caswell, Sheep, Montana, Goose, Sunshine, Birch, Trapper and Rabideux creeks, Clear Creek, and the East Fork of the Chulitna River.
In a prepared statement, Marsh said that as of June 21, only 6,852 fish had passed the Deshka River weir and the total escapement is projected to be approximately 11,350 fish.
The sustainable escapement goal for king salmon in the Deshka River is 13,000 to 28,000 fish. Even the low mortality associated with catch and release fishing is unacceptable with those numbers, Marsh noted.
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4345.Alaska Fishing: News
By RICHARD MAUER
Anchorage Daily News