The holidays are again upon us, and I can’t help reflecting on what an incredible season we had on the Alagnak River this summer! Naturally, we had some world-class salmon fishing; but this year we were also able to take advantage of multiple fly-out options (and at peak times), in what I can only describe as a “giant trout cycle” that we are experiencing here in Bristol Bay and nearby Katmai National Park. This cycle is due to an overwhelming return of sockeye salmon numbering in the millions annually that is helping to provide a great food source for the trout population and keep average lengths of over 20” in many rivers!
Candidly speaking, it was not all “peak” this summer, but it was definitely much better overall than our challenging 2020 season. It started out immediately with a bang as we had a record sockeye return that started like clockwork on June 29th. With this giant push of sockeyes came the king salmon, and thankfully we had a much better return of kings this summer than we have seen for many years! We aim to continue our catch and release policy for all kings in our river systems with an attempt to one day bring it back to where it was in the 90’s and early 2000’s. This is exciting news! The sockeye salmon limit was again raised this summer with the daily limit increased from 5 to 10 sockeye a day. Our guests loved it! I think we even set a new camp time record for 30 sockeye salmon harvested in less than 55 minutes! Let me explain: The clock started when we left the dock. We caught the salmon and were back to the dock in 55 minutes with 30 fresh sockeyes ready to clean! Needless to say, our guide, “Thermo”, was a busy man for that very brief window of time. These sockeyes were often running 15 to 25 fish wide, going nonstop and was absolutely incredible to witness!
In other good news, our chum salmon run was also significantly better than 2020 where we saw the lowest numbers we have ever seen. The timing was also perfect with the peak chum run occurring in week 7. It felt like “normal” again. With this strong run of chums, you get the additional benefit of again having a solid food source for our resident rainbow trout in the Alagnak “braids”.
The silver salmon run was our only disappointment of the season. For some unexplained reason, the Alagnak saw a much lower silver salmon return even while other rivers seemed to have fairly good runs. Hopefully this was an anomaly. In speaking with our local fisheries biologist, he speculated that it could have been lower due to some warm periods we had the previous few summers which effected the young silvers. Thankfully, the river was cool and high this year with only a brief time of warm weather. Overall, this cool summer coupled with a very wet August and September (with plenty of frosty mornings) bodes very well for our 2022 fishery. Speaking of cold, as I type this recap the Alagnak is capped solid with ice as winter came early!
Again, the fly-out fishing was honestly as good as I have ever seen it in my 27 years on the Alagnak. The huge influx of sockeye salmon is no doubt keeping rainbow trout numbers and average lengths at all-time highs! We were able to take advantage of this on the Kulik River multiple times this season with many guests having their personal best days ever on trout. Even our longest standing guest, Jesse C., who has never missed a summer since 94, said he had his “best day by far” ever in Alaska. Rods were hard to put down with back-to-back casts often yielding trout that would take you into your backing in seconds that ranged from 18” to 28”! In the early season, fly outs to Lower American on our private lease gave us plenty of crazy good trout fishing days. One trout in particular was caught on a dry fly after several fly changes and enough casts that I thought were enough to put any trout down for the day. Well, on about the 5th fly change, the trout was hooked after sipping a dry fly and netted after a very long fight! The monster measured in the 26” range and again, is standing as my personal best guided dry fly trout ever! We landed several trout on mice there as well that would make most anglers experience what we call in the hunting world “buck fever”. Imagine huge heads that came out of the depths to crush a mouse pattern! We almost hit the 30” mark on one trout here this season, but even with a good stretch, taped out at 29.5” long but was still a huge specimen!
As we roll into the holidays it only seems fitting to thank all of our guests (both new and returning), for such a great opportunity to host you. I think we can all agree that the beauty of Bristol Bay is almost indescribable. I would ask that each of you watch the short video below that our very own Jackson Gilmore filmed in hopes of raising funds to put permanent protections on our watershed and the end to Pebble Mine. Your donations will be matched dollar for dollar and just might be all that we need to once and for all put these permanent protections for the Bristol Bay Watershed. You can make a donation here: https://gifts.tu.org/donate/sbb-fishitforward
Lastly, a warm and sincere thank you to our entire guide team and staff for yet another great season. We always have challenges over the course of a long summer (and now into early fall), but this team ALWAYS rallies, keeps a cheerful disposition and is always ready to jump into a different role when duty calls. I am truly a lucky guy.
Thank you again to everyone and have a wonderful holiday season with friends and family and I will see most of you in 2022!
John Perry and the Angler’s Alibi Crew
About the Author
The primary contributor, John Perry, is the owner and manager of the lodge. He'll offer fishing summaries and tips too...check back or sign up for the email news to get updates when posted.