Fish and Game closes setnets in Northern District

Commercial set gillnet fishermen in the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet won’t get to fish this coming Monday.

King salmon returns continue to be poor in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, prompting the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to close Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainage and in the Little Susitna River from Cook Inlet to the Parks Highway Bridge to king fishing, including catch-and-release, effective Friday. The upriver subsistence fishery in the Yentna River is also closed.

To protect the kings moving north, Fish and Game issued an emergency order at the same time closing the setnetters in the Northern District on Monday, when they were scheduled to have a regular 12-hour period. The main purpose is to protect any Deshka River or Little Susitna River kings moving north, according to the announcement.

The Deshka River king run isn’t likely to make its escapement goal of 13,000–28,000 kings — the current estimate for passage is 3,893 fish through June 19, according to the announcement. The Little Susitna River is seeing a weak return as well.

“In the Little Susitna River, high water has flooded the weir for numerous days resulting in an incomplete estimate of king salmon passage,” the announcement states. “Nonetheless, substantiated reports from guides and anglers, in conjunction with an observed low abundance of five-year old king salmon, which typically make up about half of the run on any given year, indicates that the Little Susitna River is experiencing a weak run of king salmon.”

The Northern District setnetters are normally scheduled to have four openers specifically for king salmon fishing in May and June, all of which were closed this year to protect the Deshka River run. Stream systems across Cook Inlet are seeing weak king salmon returns this year, prompting sportfishing closures.

Managers expect to open the setnetters in the Northern District for their regular period Thursday, according to the announcement.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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