Alaska reporting few king salmon, worrying biologists

WASILLA, Alaska — The king salmon season in one of the most popular fishing streams in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is off to one of its worst starts ever.

The number of returning fish is so low on the Deshka River that the state on Thursday banned the use of bait by anglers, beginning Saturday. The ban will remain in effect for a month.

Unless the return improves, the Department of Fish and Game may consider further restrictions, including limiting anglers to one fish per season on the river, said Dave Rutz, Mat-Su area state fisheries biologist.

An iron-colored tributary to the glacial Susitna River about 50 miles northwest of Anchorage, the Deshka supports one of the region's pre-eminent king salmon fisheries. The small, winding stream not far off the road system attracts tens of thousands of anglers each year. They flock to it by floatplane and boat via the Deshka Landing boat ramp on the Susitna.

Nobody is sure of the run will stay weak. Summer has come late to Southcentral. Cold ocean waters have slowed the return of salmon from Chignik to Kodiak to the Anchor River on the Kenai Peninsula, Rutz said. What biologists don't know, and what worries them, is the possibility the year's runs are not just late, but poor.

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