It didn’t take long for the three 9-year-old girls in a boat on the Little Susitna River on the first day of bait this past summer to reel in two silvers each, their limit. On Fish Creek off Knik Goose Bay Road, a family splattered in mud laughed as they slipped and hauled out their bounty of cohos in a heavy ice chest. More people were getting fish on these waters close to Knik Arm.
According to Alaska Fish & Game, the escapement for cohos on the Little Susitna River was the best it’s been since 2006 and the greatest on Fish Creek since 2002.
The little girls and the mud-slick family had no idea that a group of mostly-retired men and a tireless outdoorswoman known as the Mat-Su Borough Fish & Wildlife Commission had bird-dogged a meeting that ran 13 days, which was stuffed full of testimony and resolutions and high stakes: food on the table and money in the bank.
Game-changing Regulations were Adopted
The volunteer Commission told Alaska’s highest fish board its news of declining salmon upriver amidst record commercial catches downriver. They told them, it takes fish to make fish. Please let the coho through. And the Board of Fisheries listened.
Game-changing regulations were adopted that restricted the drift gillnet commercial fleet to fish closer to shore where they sought after sockeye swim, so the northbound coho can return to spawning grounds in the Mat-Su.
We know it’s early to lay claim to a direct link, but the uptick in silvers is promising.
Making Substantial Contributions to Fish Habitat Conservation
Another two new fish passage culverts went in this past summer, this one on Caswell Road near Willow, a $218,981 construction project, and another on Vine Road a $512,130 project. Since 2001, nearly 100 fish culverts have gone under Mat-Su roads to allow fish to pass. In 2013, the figure tallied $7 million with funds from the Borough, the State, and US Fish & Wildlife.
Mat-Su Borough was a National Fish Habitat Partnership Award Winner in 2014. The exceptional leadership of the Mat-Su Borough and staff are making substantial and positive contributions to fish habitat conservation, the award states.
The State Legislature funded $2.5 million in 2014 for prioritizing salmon research and fish passage.