Why you need to fish for slivers on your next Alaska fishing trip!
Calendar wise - silver salmon are the last species of salmon to migrate into their spawning rivers in Alaska and begin to arrive in late summer and keep right on pushing into the rivers well into early fall. They are no doubt the most sought-after species by anglers seeking a superior fight by an aggressive acrobatic fish that will crush both top-water flies, lures and other sub-surface patterns with reckless abandonment! There is no doubt that silver salmon will strike a rapidly retrieved fly or lure faster than any other species in the Alaskan fisheries!
Silver salmon return to their rivers to spawn after 3 years in the ocean and average 6 –15 pounds in our river system (and eat great!). There are some rivers in Alaska where silver salmon return to their rivers up to the 20-pound range, and while these silver salmon are pretty rare in Alaska - some anglers stay on the hunt for these “silver of a lifetime” every year!
The best time to fish for Silver Salmon in Alaska
The best times to catch Silver salmon starts in early August in most river systems in Alaska - and our Alagnak River is no different. We start to see silvers as early as the last week of July - and by the end of the first week of August, we are typically limiting out daily (with most of these being released back to the river to spawn). While they can be fished for in the open ocean in Alaska as they head back to their native spawning river using lures and flies in estuaries and near the coastline - this experience pales in comparison to targeting fresh silvers on the incoming tide moving in shallow water as they make their way into the rivers!
Targeting Silvers on the Fly
Fly-fishing for silvers is no doubt our favorite way to catch silver salmon. While they definitely are easier to catch on traditional spin fishing gear – it is an unreal experience to see a silver salmon strike a fly and immediately run and jump as they cartwheel down the river! This is no doubt the reason why they are the most sought-after salmon species on a fly. You simply cannot “out strip” a fly past a silver salmon - even while using both hands and tucking the rod under your arm. Clients repeatedly tell us about this phenomenon and how the silver “came out of nowhere” to ambush their fly.
We usually target silvers on 9’ or 9’6” eight or nine weight fly rods. Saltwater rods tend to hold up better to the fight than most and seem to be built stronger to battle these explosive fish. On spey rods, we use 7 or 8 weight rods in lengths of 12 – 13 feet. Both spey and single hand rods are best lined with either a floating line or an intermediate sinking tip line. Remember, these silvers DO hit top-water fly patterns so a floating line is a must for a “waking and chugging” poppers.
We tend to find silvers on the edges of sandbars on the Alagnak river and in water that is deep and slow off these edges in “lagoon” type waters. The Alaskan term for the lagoon water is “frog water”, and I cannot think of a better word to describe this type of holding water that they tend to hold in. While fishing this type of water, it is best done drift boat style. This allows the anglers to cover a lot of water and also creates a more downstream retrieve from the bank that seems to elicit more strikes. Wade fishing is certainly the most fun way to fish silvers and fortunately, the Alagnak River has miles of wade friendly waters. The lower river has long sandbars that can fish extremely well on the right tide. The key is to get to the outer edges in the sun and fish the upstream cast with a down river utilizing the strip retrieve or the “swing”.
Fly Fishing for Silver Salmon with Angler's Alibi
A memorable day few years back was fishing the incoming tide below our camp when a huge “push” of fresh silvers was heading upstream. Clients were just hammering these fish literally on every cast. When the tide finally eased up we were at the point in the river where the current stopped and the river became almost like a lake and you could SEE a huge school of circling silvers near the surface! I encouraged our clients to use only top-water pink poppers to try and create memories for a lifetime. It worked! We boated and released over 50 silvers that day and a most were on the top water popper! A day I will never forget!
If you are looking for incredible silver fishing (remember that big rainbow trout are on the prowl then too!), the Alagnak River is hard to beat! We experience a solid silver run every year! That, coupled with the chum and pink salmon (pink salmon on even years only) create a smorgasbord of opportunities! This mix of salmon and huge trophy rainbow trout make the Alagnak River one of the best options for an Alaskan fishing trip of a lifetime!
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.