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Bird Creek offers urban salmon fishing, with a touch of scenery

Anglers try their luck fishing for salmon at Bird Creek on August 15, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Young anglers try their luck fishing for salmon at Bird Creek on August 15, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Fairbanks resident Medardo Paralejas with a humpy salmon that he caught in Bird Creek on August 15, 2012. It was his first in two hours of fishing.
Loren Holmes photo
Unintentionally-camoed fishermen make their way to the mouth of Bird Creek on August 15, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
A family tries their luck fishing for salmon at the mouth of Bird Creek on August 15, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Anglers fishing under the highway on Bird Creek. August 15, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
A fisherman holds a beautiful salmon that he had to release back into Bird Creek because it was a snag catch. August 15, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Loren Holmes,Mike Campbell

While this year’s salmon run to Bird Creek is beginning to fade a bit, anglers continue to flail the waters of the pretty creek about a half-hour drive south of Alaska’s largest city.

Silver, pink and chum salmon all return to the Bird Creek, though most anglers prize the acrobatic and tasty silvers.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game releases 100,000 hatchery smolt in the creek each year, hoping that as many as 6,000 survive the dangers at sea and return.  Some years, fewer make it.

No matter the fishing, Bird Creek makes for a more-scenic urban fishery than its Anchorage cousin, Ship Creek. Verdant river grass on the north bank sways in the breeze. Upsteam from the muddy banks where Bird Creek empties into Turnagain Arm, there are birch trees whose leaves are yet to turn. Majestic Bird's Eye Peak rises sharply to 3,191 feet.

Hard to believe Dimond Mall -- the largest in the state -- is some 25 miles north on a busy thoroughfare in Alaska's largest city of nearly 300,000 residents.

"I grew up eating salmon, and I'm sick of them," Anchorage angler Steve Fuller said. "But I like catching them -- and I don't particularly like standing in Ship Creek, looking up and seeing a building."

The returning silvers are the final class from the old Anchorage hatchery on Fort Richardson. The smolts released into the creek this year came from the new $96 million William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery, and they’re a little bigger than in the past -- largely due to the warm water available at the new hatchery that powers smolt growth.

Silvers return after a year at sea, and even though the Bird Creek silvers aren’t particularly large, the 5-to-7 pounders outweigh the pink salmon. And sometimes the chums are even bigger, even though they’re not quite the table fare as silvers. 

Contact Loren Holmes at loren(at)alaskadispatch.com and Mike Campbell at mcampbell(at)alaskadispatch.com