Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
April 2017

Planning your next family fishing adventure

By Terry Thompson
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Hatchery stocked rainbow trout caught on a Mat-Su lake. ADF&G photo

As I watch the snow slowly melt from my yard, emphasis on the slowly, my anticipation to get out fishing grows by the day. Early spring in Alaska, with its increasing sunlight and warming temperatures can only mean one thing… it’s time to go fishing!

While most folks take the winter off from their pursuit of fish, or at least slow down on their fishing adventures, staff within the Division of Sport Fish work year-round to ensure everyone has an opportunity to catch fish. Ranging from our area management biologists to our sport fish hatchery staff, all work throughout the year for our customers, the sport angler.

For many anglers, the efforts of our hatchery staff are very important to their fishing enjoyment and success. Our two hatchery facilities are continually working to grow fish, from eggs to catchable size. Their work ensures that anglers have ample opportunity to harvest fish while reducing fishing pressure on our wild stocks. We often stock waters with fish that are easier to access for families, or someone just getting in to the sport of fishing, making these waters one of our best kept fishing secrets throughout Interior and Southcentral Alaska. If you live on the road system, you don’t have to travel far to find areas to fish where the Division stocks a variety of sport fish just waiting for your bait or lure. In fact, each year the Division stocks over 250 locations with rainbow trout, Arctic char, Chinook and coho salmon. While a large number of the salmon are stocked in area land-locked lakes and ponds, hundreds of thousands of Chinook and coho smolt are released into fresh and saltwater systems each year. Like all Pacific salmon, these smolt migrate out into saltwater where they feed and grow larger while maturing in the marine environment. Ultimately, these fish will return as adult spawners to the very stream or location they were released. Some of these stocking locations include the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon in Homer and Ship Creek in Anchorage.

So where do these fish come from?

About six years ago, construction was completed on two state-of-the-art sport fish hatcheries. These two hatcheries, one in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks, are the only state-run sport fish hatcheries in Alaska. If you’ve ever had the chance to visit a fish hatchery in the past, throw that image out of your mind. These hatcheries are literally breaking new ground, or maybe I should say, water, when it comes to raising fish for sport anglers. Using recirculating aquaculture technology, our hatchery managers can now recycle the water, thereby reducing the total amount of water required to raise fish by up to 95 percent! In Alaska, we actually have to warm the hatchery water so that our fish can grow quicker. Being able to conserve the warmed water reduces our costs, allowing us to produce fish at a lower cost.

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William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery staff stocking salmon smolt. ADF&G photo

If you ever find yourself in Anchorage, please visit the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery, or in Fairbanks, the Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery. They’re both an impressive sight to see. Due to the threat of disease in a recirculating system we can’t allow visitors to actually get on the production floor, but expansive windows will allow an amazing view of the entire operation. In 2016, these two facilities combined to produce over 6 million fish for the sport angler. Talking with our hatchery staff, they are proud of the fact that they now produce fish that are larger in size, and in a shorter period of time. Meaning, you can immediately have opportunities to catch a nice catchable sized fish.

Family friendly fishing opportunities!

Growing up in a family that loved to fish has shaped both my career and my love of the outdoors. Agencies such as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are now realizing that we live in a much different world than say I did, eons ago. Today, families have so many activities to keep them busy that at times we forget, or don’t take the time to get outside to fish. Our agency takes this lifestyle change very seriously, and has even developed a program we call, “wefishak.” Keep an eye out for our wefishak brand over the coming months. The goal of this program is to promote family fishing opportunities, by breaking down barriers that might keep families and individuals from enjoying the day at a local lake with a fishing rod in hand.

If you don’t have your own fishing equipment we can help. Several of our offices across the state loan fishing rods in the summer, and ice fishing gear in the winter. A list of these offices can be found by visiting our rod loaner program web page.

A great idea to get the entire family out fishing is to participate in our Five Salmon Family Challenge. It’s free and easy to get involved. The premise is simple – catch and photo document all five species of Pacific salmon and we’ll recognize your family with a certificate suitable for framing. Our goal is to promote family or group participation, proper salmon identification and ethical angling practices. Whether your family is from Alaska or beyond, it’s open to all who fish in Alaskan waters.

Try out one of our youth-only fisheries!

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Proud young man with his first king salmon caught while fishing at the Eklutna Tailrace.Photo credit: Jessica Hay

The Alaska Legislature, along with the Alaska Board of Fisheries are both committed and supportive of promoting sport fishing to our youth. Over the past several years the board has designated, by regulation, specific days, locations, and times where youth 15 years of age and younger can fish where they don’t have to compete for space with adults. In 2017 there will be numerous locations around Southcentral Alaska with youth-only fisheries, and many times there will be Division staff available to provide fishing gear; teach the kids how to use the gear; explain the regulations; promote proper fishing ethics; and, how to take care of their catch. Please note: effective January 1, 2017, a resident of Alaska 18 years of age and older is required to obtain a fishing license. Non-residents must still purchase a fishing license at age 16 and older.

Check out the closest youth fisheries to you, but first, be sure and get a copy of the 2017 Southcentral regulation book to confirm exact locations, date, and start and stop times.

Anchorage / Mat-Su Area Species Event date

Ship Creek king salmon June 17, 2017

Campbell Creek king salmon June 24-25, 2017

Eklutna Tailrace king salmon June 17, 2017

Eklutna Tailrace coho salmon August 19, 2017

Fish Creek all species except kings August 5-6, 2017

Kenai Peninsula

Ninilchik River king salmon June 7, 2017

Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon (Homer) king salmon June 3, 2017

Nick Dudiak Fish Lagoon (Homer) coho salmon August 5, 2017

Seward Lagoon/Outfall Creek king salmon June 16-18, 2017

Seward Lagoon/Outfall Creek king salmon July 7-9, 2017

Seward Lagoon/Outfall Creek coho salmon August 25-27, 2017

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Production tanks inside the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage, Alaska

Seward Lagoon/Outfall Creek coho salmon September 1-3, 2017

First Lake (Seward) rainbow trout May 18-21, 2017

Where can I go fishing?

As was mentioned earlier, the Division of Sport Fish stocks over 250 lakes, ponds, streams, and marine waters each year, primarily throughout Interior and Southcentral Alaska. An easy way to find out where fish are being stocked is to visit our Hatcheries and Stocking web page. By simply selecting a region of the state, the species of fish, and a length of time, this web page will show you the location, species, number of fish stocked, and even how big they are when stocked! It’s a great tool to use before planning your next fishing trip.

Here are a few suggestions from our in-the-know staff about stocked waters to try this summer.

Interior (Fairbanks)

  • Cushman Lake in the Tanana Lakes Recreation Area: Managed by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation, and stocked by Fish and Game, this area is just minutes from downtown Fairbanks. The park offers plenty of outdoor opportunities year-round for people of all ages.
  • Small roadside ponds out the Steese Highway and Chena Hot Springs Road: easy access but without the crowds.
  • Lisa Lake, Donna Lake, Ken’s Pond, and Coal Mile #5 Pond near Delta Junction: A limited number of Fish and Game public use cabins are available without a fee by advance reservation only. A more remote experience with gorgeous views!

Kenai Peninsula

  • Ninilchik River: hatchery king salmon returning to the Ninilchik River provides fun for all! The Ninilchik River can be accessed from the Sterling Highway.
  • Upper Summit Lake: located about 80 miles south of Anchorage along the Seward Highway. Upper Summit Lake is stocked annually with rainbow trout fingerling, and Dolly Varden are also found in the lake. Tenderfoot Creek Campground is located on the east side of the lake and provides day use parking, camping, toilets, water, hiking trails, and boat launch.

Meridian and Vagt lakes: Located in the Chugach National Forest near Moose Pass and Seward these lakes provide more remote lake fishing opportunities. These lakes are stocked with rainbow trout fingerling and are accessible by a well-maintained hiking trail (approximately 1.5 miles) and provide primitive camping opportunities. The use of float tubes for fishing is recommended.

  • Kasilof River: Sport anglers have the opportunity to fish for returning naturally- and hatchery-produced early-run Chinook salmon. Crooked Creek, a tributary of the Kasilof River is often stocked with Chinook salmon smolt, raised at the Anchorage hatchery from eggs gathered at the Crooked Creek facility. Anglers can access this shore based, road accessible fishery near the confluence of Crooked Creek at the Crooked Creek State Recreation Site located on North Cohoe Loop Road in Kasilof. The Crooked Creek State Recreation Site has day use parking, camping, toilets, water, picnic sites, trails and fishing platforms.
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Hatchery staff at the Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery in Fairbanks placing eyed rainbow trout eggs into incubation trays.

Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su)

  • Matanuska Lakes Complex (formerly Kepler-Bradley): This State Park is a popular fishing, hiking and biking park that comprises several rainbow trout stocked lakes by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, including Matanuska, Canoe, Irene and Long Lakes. Matanuska Lakes State Park is within easy driving distance of Anchorage located just north of the Glenn Highway at milepost 36.4, west of Palmer. These lakes were named in 2016 as one of the top 100 family friendly fishing spots in the nation!
  • Lake Lucille: A Mat-Su Borough Park Campground provides camping, picnic tables, toilet facilities and a short boardwalk trail to lake.
  • Finger Lake: Designated as a State Recreation Site, the area includes fee campsites with picnic tables, toilet facilities, and a developed boat launch.

It’s now up to you to plan your first fishing trip of the season! But, before you go, be sure and purchase your 2017 fishing license, which you can do online. And, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the appropriate 2017 regulation book for the region where you plan to fish.

Sport fishing is a lifetime activity for all ages. It’s fun and can put an amazing dinner on your plate after a day on the water. If you’ve never fished before, now is the perfect time to start. If you haven’t fished for several years, there is no better time to renew your relationship with your fishing equipment. I truly hope you enjoy the upcoming fishing season, and look forward to seeing you out on the water!

Terry Thompson is the Statewide Communications and Outreach Coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Sport Fish.

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