Low fish count prompts Alaska to end salmon fishing in key river

ANCHORAGE — At the peak of the season for the most popular salmon species in the state, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is preparing to close fishing on the premier king salmon stream in the Susitna Valley.

Biologists have been concerned since the beginning of the month by the low number of fish returning to the Deshka River to spawn. They expected to announce Thursday that fishing wouldn't be permitted on the river. Whether they will allow fishing through the weekend remains uncertain at the moment, but the expectation is that they will not.

Biologists say they need to save every fish to ensure reproduction. Fewer than 200 kings passed the Deshka weir Wednesday. Biologists were hoping for hundreds more to continue what seemed to be a building run days ago.

Last year at this time, almost 8,000 kings had passed through the weir; the year before, almost 14,000. The cumulative count for this year, however, stands at just 2,009. Biologists fear that even with a full closure of the fishery, it's unlikely that 13,000 spawners will make it up the river this year as they had hoped.

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