To put it mildly, Mother Nature could not have been any tougher on us for our inaugural season on the Nushagak River. Alaska experienced the hottest summer in recorded history. With low water conditions to start the season, this was a recipe for one hell of a tough start. Warm water and salmon do not mix. Pacific salmon are coming out of the ocean on every tide to start their migration up river to spawn. When the salmon go from low 40-degree ocean temps to warm 60 to even 70-degree water, they kind of go into a survival mode and a lot of the king salmon will not bite anything. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to find willing king salmon on a daily basis despite the less than desirable conditions throughout the entire season.
The Alaska trout opener has become an amazing way to kick-start the Alaskan fishing season on the Alagnak. Just imagine hungry, eager, trout that have not seen an angler of fly in over 8 months! These trout are more than willing to strike both top water and sub surface patterns on June 8th - and four fortunate guests of Anglers Alibi were ready and willing to present a fly as the clock struck midnight. We had set up a small camp for just the night and enjoyed a nice dinner at an extremely remote area of the Bristol Bay Watershed. With a nice campfire and some spirits, the guests were more than amped up for a trout opener that they would never forget.
Trout, lake trout and Arctic Grayling were slurping dry flies as we all waited on baited breath, constantly checking our watches to see just how many minutes were left on the day until it was legal time to make that first cast. Bets were placed on who would have the first trout on the fly and, sure enough, the first trout was stripping line off a reel that all could hear in seconds from the opening yell of “go time”. Yes, one of the guests had hooked up on a trout on their first midnight cast!
The Alaska sockeye fishing season was another one for the record books here on the wild Alagnak River. Although it started extremely late, I would say around the 5th of July was the first day we could really go after them with limits a non-issue. This run usually starts on the 29th of June – July 1 like clockwork, but not this year. Many were getting very nervous about the fish having some high seas catastrophe over the winter but I can assure you this was not the case. The sockeye salmon started late and ran later than we have ever targeted them. We were still catching limits of sockeye in the mornings and catching silvers in the afternoon in late July. I have to admit, this is something I have never seen in over 25 years on the river.
The upper rivers where they spawn will have plenty of biomass to feed a thriving wild trout population. These wild Alaskan trout are so coveted to the many sport fish anglers that fish this watershed on an annual basis. The huge biomass will also feed the entire ecosystem from the trees and brush that line the banks of the river to the bears and many bird species that call this river drainage home. The sockeye are no doubt the largest supporters of this watershed in terms of fertilization, and this year is a banner crop yet again.
Anglers Alibi has been known as a premier salmon fishing lodge on the Alagnak River in Alaska for the last 25 years. This river branches out from Bristol Bay, winding and weaving for 60 miles up river to its origin, Nonvianuk and Kukaklek Lake. The lodge sits on top a bluff with a riverfront view at mile marker six. Locals will tell you that good fishing begins at mile marker three and prime fishing begins shortly after...giving guests at Anglers Alibi front row seats to pristine fish-able tidewater.
The month of August got underway with hordes of bright chrome chum salmon arriving on the tides daily still with some silver salmon in the mix right on schedule but definitely not a lot of them in our first week. Many rods were broken while fighting these huge chrome Calico salmon on the fly and conditions were setting up to be perfect with very normal or average temperatures for a nice change.
At the end of our 6th week, it was becoming very apparent that we might be on the verge of a great silver salmon run. On the last day of our 6th week, I had a 12 year old and his father down in the lowest portion of the river we fish. Both were novice fly anglers at the start of the week but by weeks end, they were literally doubling up on silvers and just having the time of their lives. With rain and wind in the forecast to start our 7th week, I knew we might experience what we call a “silver tsunami”. Well, yes, we sure did get that tsunami, and with all the silvers that were coming in the river, were even more bright chum salmon, although it was apparent that they were finally starting to slow down. The silvers were everywhere and fishing drift boat style was just a blast! We were having days on the fly for silvers that were as good as this river ever gets!
The king run this July was definitely above average. We had strong king salmon fishing through the entire month with some kings still being caught while targeting chum salmon on the fly from the sand bars! The only slow periods occurred during warm spells that brought the river temperature up into the mid 60 degree range. This is normal, but with the river being so low, it did not take long for a few warm days to really spike the river up to high levels. Chum salmon fishing and braids fishing were great while this was happening and we were able to keep going day in and day out with bent rods a common sight. The mighty chums kept us going with plenty of rod breaking action and amazing runs.
Our first week was nothing more than amazing as usual, that is if you like sockeye salmon so thick that limits were taken daily on the fly while king salmon were in full force pushing the scales at over 40#’s per day…YES, our guides boated an average of 1 king per day over 40#’s! This is going to be a great run for sure.
The sockeye run has been really strong this season despite being a little late. They really started pouring in on the 2nd of July and did not have a stop until the 7th of July when there was a slow down. BUT, on the 8th, they kicked right back up and were really thick, creating wakes along the banks of the lower river for miles on end.
The opening of Angler’s Alibi went pretty smooth this month. We arrived at camp to find that the only damages over the winter were done by a bear in the fall.
The bear tore off our plywood door cover in the back of our kitchen and went through the storm door, pushing in the glass and tearing through the screen.
The bear went through the freezers and fridges, then decided it would be nice to take the BBQ grill out the other entrance that was shut tight with plywood. It looked as if the BBQ was jammed through the plywood like the old Cool Aid commercials where the Cool Aid man busts through the wall.
Needless to say, a destroyed grill was not all that bad. We were able to repair the back storm door which was pretty amazing since a brown bear went through it!
The silver salmon run of 2014 on the Alagnak River in remote Bristol Bay Alaska was somehow even better than the previous season. The Alagnak River saw a little push of silvers during the fourth week of July, but the run exploded again starting August 1st and lasted well beyond our shut down week into the month of September!
The 2014 fishing season on the Alagnak River will go down as one of the top seasons on record. We experienced a great start to our king salmon and sockeye salmon runs in late June that carried on for the entire week. Daily limits of kings and sockeye were easy to come by, and releasing quality kings was an enjoyable task to preserve such a wonderful resource.
As the month of July started to move forward, so did the warmer temperatures. This seemed to make the king fishing a little slower, but average to say the least with daily catches per boat near or in the double digits. The sockeye run really started to slow down the second week of July, but with that slow down came our first run of chum or calico salmon. The fly fishing was superb as an alternative to fishing king salmon on the Alagnak River, and quite enjoyable to actually fish while wading to escape some of the afternoon heat! The calico salmon were hot fighters and were eager to take a swung or stripped fly, and were not at all content on staying underwater for their fights. The calico salmon were airborne almost as much as silver salmon, but willing to break a record 26 rods in 4 weeks time!
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.