Due to a poor run, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists have ended king salmon fishing in the Little Susitna River, wiping out the final two weekends for anglers, with the Deshka River soon to follow suit.
The reason? Few fish. As of Thursday, 1,240 kings have passed the Little Su weir at river mile 32.5. That's well short of the escapement goal of 2,100-4,300 of the big fish. Without restrictions, said regional biologist Sam Ivey, the escapement goal likely would not be met.
This year's return is also far less than the count of 3,500 kings by the same date last year, and an even bigger return in 2015.
"It was definitely a weaker run than we anticipated," said Ivey. "But one good thing was a high proportion of large fish, ages 5-6, in the run … even though the overall numbers are down.
"I've heard of a number of 40-pound plus fish coming out. Not a lot, but a lot more than usual."
The Deshka River, the biggest Mat-Su king fishery, will close, too, at 6 a.m. Tuesday. As of Wednesday, 9,781 kings had passed Deshka weir, less than half the number that swam by a year ago as of the same date. However, the Deshka's minimum escapement goal of 13,000 kings should be within reach.
Interestingly, king returns on the Kenai Peninsula are trending the opposite way.
Some 7,000 kings have been counted on the Kenai River, the most since 2013 in that river's early run and more than the escapement goal of 3.900-6,600 kings.
Farther sound, the Anchor River has already achieved its minimum escapement goal of 3,800 fish with 4,140 kings past its weir.