Anglers on the Little Susitna River now have the green light to get their lures in the water and catch some big fish.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced it would open the river drainage for sport fishing after reaching its escapement goal of between 2,300 and 3,900 king salmon.

Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey said the weir in the river has had an underwater camera for about three years. This year, staff have fine-tuned the system so it’s able to help them better track the number of fish passing through.

The fish that are caught on camera overnight are counted in the morning. The camera also makes it easier for staff to see the fish if the water gets murky from the glacial silt.

“Having this weir in place allows more timely, in-season management of the sport fishery when the fish show up we can assess run size fairly quickly and that’s what we were able to do in this case,” Ivey said.

Monitoring the run is crucial to preserving the future of the fish. According to Ivey, the Little Su was closed to king fishing for most of the 2018 season and the 2019 season started off closed as well.

ADFG had a hard time counting fish that passed through the weir in 2018 because the river flooded; Ivey said the fish count data on the state’s website is not accurate for that year.

He estimates a little more than 900 fish made it through the weir in 2018. So far there have been three times that this year.

"This year’s run has taken an unexpected, but pleasant turn for the better, with a jump in counts over this past weekend,” Ivey said in a release announcing the river's opening. “With the goal achieved we can relax restrictions on the Little Su and provide another opportunity for anglers to go catch a king salmon”.

Technicians counted 857 fish alone on June 24. Ivey said many of the salmon seem to be around 5-years-old, which is promising.

“There's a couple positive things that we’re seeing in the age composition of this year’s run that could bode well for the future, we’ll just see how those pan out,” he said.

The Little Su opened to king salmon sport fishing on Wednesday. The day proved successful for some people who came back with tales of the one that didn’t get away.

“He was a good fighter. He took quite a while, bit really hard,” said Marlena Aleksandrushkin as she showed off her sizable Chinook.

One of the best catches of the day belonged to Daniel Warta. The Anchorage college student reeled in a king salmon weighing about 30 pounds about an hour after he started fishing.

“It was quite a fight," he said. "One of the better fights I’ve had with a king salmon before."

The Little Su closes to king salmon sport fishing on Saturday, July 13 at 11 p.m. ADFG says the bag and possession limit for king salmon, 20 inches or greater, is one per day, one in possession.

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