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!
If it’s been a while since you visited Angler’s Alibi in Alaska, or are considering a first visit, then some updates we made last spring (2018) may be of interest.
If you aren’t familiar with us, Angler’s Alibi is a premier tent cabin lodge on the Alagnak River and the somewhat unexpected update was to our main dining tent. We had to make some decisions about a rotting floor and a very tired canvas top so we decided the smart decision was to build a new main lodge, including dining, instead of repairing the old one. Russ was the main carpenter on the project and together with the rest of our crew, we managed to get a brand new dining room with a small bar, stand alone fireplace, and plenty of seating for both dining and relaxing.
The rainbow trout opener was another first for us at Angler’s Alibi in 2018. We wanted to share what our lodge fishing guides and I have been experiencing for the past several summers with some guests on the now annual trout opener in Bristol Bay Alaska. This trout opener is always on June 8, and has been a good break for the staff to head up river and target trout on mice patterns, dry flies, or swing flies.
We only took 4 guests for this special opening event and the results were actually better than we imagined they could be. We started out by splitting up the guests into two groups. One group headed up to a special place where they camped out for the midnight opener while the other pair headed up river to some very solid places in the Alagnak River Braids for that first cast of the season at midnight.
The group that was on the overnight got lines in the water at midnight and fished until about 3am, landing more trout than they could ever imagine on mice patterns. The rainbow trout were extremely concentrated with an appetite that was literally ferocious. By 3am, our guests were tired out and ready for bed, so they went back to the tent for a short rest. By 10am, they were back at it all day until the pick up at 5pm. One of the anglers in this group was quoted as saying:
“This is literally the best trout fishing I have ever seen in my 35 plus years of trout fishing all over the country,” they went on “After several trout openers in Yellowstone, this is by far the most superior opening day event ever!”
The 2018 fishing season was nothing short of amazing for us on the Alagnak River in Alaska. A very late run of sockeye salmon and king salmon to Bristol Bay made for a slow start to the first week on the Alagnak but once it got going, just after the 4th of July, we quickly forgot about the first few slower days. The weather was finally “average” with probably a little more rain than usual. This is not the greatest for flying out but was fantastic for our water temperature and keeping the salmon on the bite. Once the sockeye started, they did not stop until the last days of July – late start…but a late, and very good, run!
I am very proud that Angler's Alibi will now offer our new King Camp on the world famous Nushagak River this coming summer. This river is located only a short 20 minute flight from our main location on the Alagnak River.
The Nushagak River of Alaska is on the map for clearly one reason, and that is it’s incredible king salmon runs. The king salmon runs on this river are measured by a sonar system by the Alaska Fish and Game. This sonar count exceeds 100,000 king salmon almost annually! This river has several other rivers and lakes upstream that it supports and is toted as having one of the largest combined salmon runs in the World. Some of the main tributaries of the Nushagak River are the Mulchatna, Nuyakuk, and King Salmon Rivers. This drainage is estimated to be over 280 miles long and supports many villages and sport fish lodges along its path.
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.
One thing you will notice on your way to Angler’s Alibi is that we are the true definition of a “remote Alaskan fishing camp”. You see, the closest town is King Salmon, AK and we are about a 30-minute floatplane ride from the there – and that town is reached through a commercial flight from Anchorage that takes just over an hour. The bottom line is that by the time your journey ends at our dock, and the fishing week begins, you are pretty much left with what you brought with you. That can make packing for this week of fishing in Alaska a daunting task – but is actually pretty simple if you follow some of these guidelines.
Anglers Alibi is an all-inclusive Alaskan fishing camp, so you won’t need much outside of the clothing you bring with you and that’s what this post focuses on. It’s important to realize that, during the fishing season, average Alaska temperatures are in the upper 60’s during the day and lower 40’s at night. HOWEVER, it can get as low as 30 degrees at night and into the 90’s during the day! The coldest days fishing will be in the 50’s and the hottest in the 90’s, so you want to be prepared for these potential huge temperature changes. So, we’ll cover what clothing to bring for your time fishing…
Sockeye salmon are noted as being the best tasting salmon in all of Alaska. They are the number one targeted species for commercial fisherman with their rate of $1.00 or more per pound every year. But, this is not an article on how to catch sockeye salmon with a net. Fly fishing for sockeye salmon is also very popular and this article gives tips and advice for those anglers looking to target sockeye.
Sockeye salmon spawn in a lake or most spawn above a lake as part of their life cycle. Once the sockeye salmon hit their native spawning river, they usually only stop a few times to rest unlike the other salmon species. These salmon pretty much charge up the river in a migrating stupor that is an amazing sight to see. Just think what it must look like when over a million salmon swim by our shoreline hugging the bank on this migration that lasts weeks. It is truly a sight to see.
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.