Turnagain Arm salmon runs begin
By Jim Magowan
Turnagain Times Correspondent
Ken Smith/Turnagain Times
Bird Creek has one of the few runs of king salmon on Turnagain Arm. This year the creek was closed until July 14 to reduce incident catch and illegal harvest of kings in the Bird Creek drainage. The creek supports a small run of wild Chinook with an annual average escapement of approximately 160 fish.
You don’t have to go far for salmon in Turnagain Arm. Whether you want to catch salmon with a camera or a lure or if you just want to catch a glimpse of them in a stream, Turnagain Arm is the place to go.
Wild stock of all five salmon species (king/Chinook, silver/coho, chum/dog, red/sockeye, pink/ humpy) are found in Turnagain Arm although some, such as kings, are less common than pinks and silvers. With the exception of hatchery-raised silver salmon stocked in Bird Creek, all the salmon in Turnagain Arm are wild or native stock. Silvers in other streams are more likely to be “wild” and other species, such as pinks in Bird Creek are also wild stock.
The salmon fishing season in Turnagain for both fishing and viewing is just starting.
“The pink run has just started in Bird Creek,” said Chuck Brazil with Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “The popular Bird Creek fishery for pink, chum and coho opens July 14. Pink and chum salmon begin arriving as soon as this fishery opens and typically peak by the end of the month. Bird Creek has a good sized return of pink salmon and these willing biters make great sport fish for anglers young and experienced, alike.”
Brazil advises consulting current sport fishing regulations and contacting the Sport Fish information center (267-2218) prior to sport fishing. The importance of doing so is borne out by the fact that the regulations booklet says salmon fishing is open year-round in most of Turnagain Arm when, in fact, this year’s opening is on July 14. Remember, regulations can change after the booklets go to press and emergency closures can be imposed at any time. It is the fisherman’s obligation to check for changes before fishing.
“Willing biters,” is an apt description of a fish that will often hit a small Pixie on just about every cast during a good run. For many Alaskans, and probably visitors as well, the pink or humpback (humpy) salmon is the first salmon they ever caught and their introduction to salmon fishing addiction.
The boardwalk at Potter Marsh and the viewing platform at Williwaw Creek campground in Portage Valley are great places to see and photograph salmon, usually pinks or silvers, moving into their spawning areas and this is the viewing season. Williwaw Creek and Potter Marsh are eye and camera fishing only areas; no hooks allowed.
A photo opportunity, often overlooked by people taking family and friends to see the salmon at Potter and Williwaw, is getting shots of the viewers looking at and photographing the salmon in the water. These shots will be treasured in later years. When family and friends look at the photos they will not recognize the salmon in the water, but they will remember Aunt Maude (look at how young she was on that trip) looking at the salmon.
The same is true when fishing with others. The traditional shot of the victorious fisherman holding the trophy does not capture the imagination the way an action shot does. The most memorable photos are usually those that capture the activity and people involved. Possibly the greatest and most enduring shots, except when Uncle Billy trips and fills his waders with a ton of water, are of the kids engaged in pitched battle with the mighty pink or silver salmon. The camera is an important piece of today’s fishing gear especially when you fish with kids.
If you don’t want to ‘get out of town’ for wild silvers and pinks, “The confluence of California and Glacier Creek in Girdwood is also a popular destination for anglers targeting pink and coho salmon during the months of July and August,” said Brazil.
If in-town fishing is not your thing an ‘expedition’ to Ingram Creek might be the way to go.
“Ingram Creek has some quality pink salmon fishing and all except kings may be encountered there from the end of July through August,” said Brazil.“ ”Ingram Creek runs usually peak in late August or early September.”
“Wild silver salmon are also found in Twentymile River, Placer Creek and Portage Creek and all species except kings are in Glacier Creek,” said Brazil.
According to The Anchorage Area Sport Fishery Summary, the largest run of wild stock silver salmon in the Turnagain Arm area is in Twentymile River. Access is usually by river boat.
Red and chum run in most of the waters with silver runs. Because red and chum runs in Turnagain Arm are small these species are usually an incidental catch by people fishing for other species such as silvers.
While king salmon are found in small numbers in Turnagain Arm, all fishing for kings is prohibited.