The king salmon fishing on the Alagnak River is at times just about as good as any river in Alaska. The Alagnak River does not have an accurate way of counting king salmon so just how many kings come up and spawn in the river annually is a guess. I can tell you that we have weeks and days in most years where every customer is catching double digit numbers of kings daily, and for a 4 week period in July our king salmon fishing is amazingly consistent.
The Alagnak is one of the five major rivers of Bristol Bay Watershed. It has one of the most diverse runs for all 5 species of Pacific salmon. King fishing is still very strong there and despite all the negativity of king runs and the declines in Southeast Alaska and the famous Kenai River, we seem to be staying very steady with our runs on the Alagnak and we are doing all we can to keep it this way as sport anglers. We at Angler’s Alibi have not allowed a guest to keep a hen king salmon ever, and now do not let any guest keep any kings other than small jack kings. (Jack kings are 1-year return kings that are 20” in length or less) We now release all males as well in hopes of preserving the runs we are so fortunate to have. We do however harvest sockeye salmon during the king run in order to keep fish coolers full for a return flight home.
Where to Target King Salmon on the Alagnak River
The Alagnak River has a tidal area that is much shorter than most of the other rivers in Bristol Bay due to flow rate and actual drop in terrain. This makes our area where we target kings smaller than most rivers and therefore easier to pinpoint travel corridors and lies where kings will set up after coming into fresh water. The tidal area is about 9 miles from the mouth, and is fishable from about mile 3. This makes our location at mile 6 right in the middle of the tidal area and a very short boat ride either up or down river to stay focused on chrome salmon all season long.
Starting in early July, we focus on incoming tides bringing in fresh king salmon daily. Whether fishing fly or on conventional gear, we are there waiting for the new push of kings. This method works well as the new fish are eager to hit either fly or lure, as they are fresh off their feeding grounds and now eager to spawn. Remember, once in the freshwater, all salmon stop feeding so you are trying to elicit a feeding response.
Fly Fishing for King Salmon on the Alagnak River
Fly fishing for kings is a dedicated affair and is not going to produce the numbers that a lure would but certainly is more of a thrill for most as the fly rod requires a bit more skill and technique than say a trolled lure and rod. Not to say there is not skill in fishing conventional gear by any means, but a fly rod requires a little more skill overall to accomplish the goal of hooking and landing a king salmon on the fly. We post up either by wading or from an anchored boat and swing flies on sink tip lines to hopefully swing one right by a king’s field of vision, creating a feeding response to hit the fly. This method is very old and practiced for many years by both steelhead anglers as well as Atlantic salmon anglers. Swinging flies is the ticket for catching kings on flies for sure.
Recommended flies for kings on the tides are ones that utilize blue, chartreuse, and black, maybe even purple, but herring is the key. They like flash too on the tide but shy away from a lot of flash later in the season or higher up the river. Color choice changes in the flies too, as reds and pink flies work well. We even on occasion swing up large egg type flies while they are holding in the runs and softer water locations that meet their comfort zone.
Fishing for King Salmon with 'Conventional Gear' on the Alagnak River
Conventional gear is deadly on kings. We use lures on the tide on occasion as well as drifting large egg imitations. The lures replicate herring mainly, and a wobble type of action is mimicking a wounded herring and is what the kings thrive on in the open ocean to get large. They actually swim through bait balls of herring slapping them with their tails and then go back to pick off the wounded ones. This is a technique that many saltwater game fish utilize, even sailfish. By far our preferred method is drifting or casting and drifting large egg imitations called “Cheaters” from Beau Mac fishing company. These hard foam egg imitations are only just over an inch in length and have a profile of an egg. The funny thing is that kings absolutely love these imitations on a dead drift or even a slow swing! Really amazes me but by far is our number one method for catching kings on conventional rods or spinning rods. We have had customers land over 50 kings in a day utilizing this method on the Alagnak River.
Experience World Class King Salmon Fishing with Angler's Alibi
I can remember many good times on the Alagnak River fishing for kings, and some are almost too good to be believed! My first year we went down to meet the tide in a fog so thick you had to cut it with a knife to see where you were going. Once we got down to where we thought we needed to be, I stopped the boat and realized we were at slack water. This happens in the river where the current actually stops and you are in a lake basically. I told my customers to all cast their spoons. Within a few cranks of the reel on all 3 of my customers, they were tripled up on kings, yes, 3 huge chrome bright kings were zipping line off the bait cast reels like freight trains! This happened in 1994, my first year of guiding up there at Angler’s Alibi.
I can also remember a day when I had the opportunity to cast a fly in slack tide while not guiding. I was working a chartreuse fly on a single hand fly rod, stripping it back on the slack tide. My first king was hooked up and gave me a fight a small tarpon could! I remember fighting that king solo from a boat wondering how I was actually going to land it. Thank goodness a fellow guide came by and helped me land it and release a nice chrome bright hen in the 30-pound range. Believe me, I have been hooked ever since!
We are fortunate to have some of the best king salmon fishing in Alaska not only at our main lodge on the Alagnak River but also our small king camp on the fabled Nushagak River. Each river has its own specialty for sure, and we are very fortunate to not only start in June for a short three weeks on the Nushagak but also have the opportunity to go from one amazing river to another extending out king season and extra three weeks in June!
Photos from Angler's Alibi on the Alagnak River
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.