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Photos: Fishing for silver salmon at Eklutna Tailrace

Sack Slims and his wife Doris, from Kwigillingok, fish for salmon at the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013.
Loren Holmes photo
Don Totemoff and his daughter fishing for salmon at the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Doris Slims holding up a fish caught near the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Fishing for silver and pink salmon at the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Fishing for silver and pink salmon at the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Joe Nicolie fishes for salmon at the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Mel Elamin, right, and Thomas Skipper fish for salmon at the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Mel Elamin, left, and Thomas Skipper with silver salmon they caught at the Eklutna tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Thomas Skipper fillets a silver salmon he caught at the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Fishing for silver and pink salmon at the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Fishing for silver and pink salmon at the Eklutna Tailrace. August 13, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Mike Campbell

Some 35 miles from downtown Anchorage, Eklutna Tailrace can be a crowded fishery, but one that typically lacks the elbow-to-elbow battles of places like Ship Creek in Anchorage and the Russian River on the Kenai Peninsula. There’s a sizeable parking lot right off the old Glenn Highway, and anglers fish both sides of the Tailrace, using gravel and dirt paths paralleling the Tailrace to where it dumps into the Knik River. This summer, many anglers are finding plenty of cooperative silver salmon in its waters.

“Fishing at the Eklutna Tailrace is mostly good,” says this week’s fishing report from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Make this your before-work fishing destination.”

The tailrace at Mile 3.6 of the Old Glenn Highway extends from the roadway downstream to its confluence with the Knik. Silver salmon smolt have been stocked since 1998. This year’s run is strong enough that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game this week bumped the daily bag limit of silvers up to three fish in the Mat-Su.

With good reason. Many Mat-Su waterways are seeing healthy silver runs.

The nearby Deshka River that flows into the Susitna River, for instance, has seen nearly 11,000 silvers pass the fish-counting weir near the river mouth in the last three days. A year ago, only 6,800 silvers made it upstream past the weir all season. 

Fish or no fish, Eklutna is relaxing. Some anglers bring folding chairs along with Mepps spinners, Pixie spoons and eggs. Dogs and toddlers have room to roam.

But the waterway is narrow enough that errant angler casts can wind up on the opposite bank -- or crossing lines with an angler on that bank.

"Hey, wanna get married?" an older man called across the tailrace a couple of years back after his line got tangled with a woman's.

"Can I call my husband first?" she chirped back.

An hour earlier, an angler shot a cast across the tailrace and high into the aspen on the opposite side.

"Don't you hook my dog," shouted the angler beneath the errant lure.

"Sorry 'bout that," came the response.

But when the fish are biting, as they can be this year -- particularly early in the morning -- anglers are jovial and friendly. Bringing home fresh filets brightens anyone’s mood.

Contact Mike Campbell at mcampbell@alaskadispatch.com