Area Sport Fishing Reports
Bristol Bay

January through February Season

Don't forget: your fishing license expired Dec. 31! A sport fishing license makes a great gift - one that lasts all year. (Neither the ADF&G Permanent ID license nor the ADF&G Disabled Veteran's license expire.)

The sport fishing regulations are good through April 15 of the new year. Look for new booklets around March or early April.

By mid-February of the new year, look for our Pre-season Management Outlook. We'll post it on our web site as soon as it is completed and approved.

Also by that time, we'll have a draft of the Bristol Bay Commercial Services Provider list. This list includes lodges, accommodations, guides, equipment rental, air taxis, other government agency offices, Native Corporation offices, and map sources. Although it's not a complete directory of every sport fishing-related business, it's pretty thorough. We use it to contact businesses and agencies in-season to inform them of news events and regulation changes, but anglers who are planning fishing trips to the Bristol Bay area will also find it useful.

The department makes no endorsement of any business. The information in the Commercial Services Provider list is given to us in response to a department questionnaire. The list usually finalized for the season in April /May.

Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden/Arctic Char, Grayling, Smelt, Northern Pike

Resident fish continue to present the main sport fishing opportunity in winter. Fishing for rainbows, Dollies, grayling can be fair to very good where open water can be found, or through the ice. Typical ice fishing techniques for trout, Dolly , smelt and pike include jigging and tip-ups. In the darkest and coldest days, success can be minimal, but if a warm spell comes, or in late February as the days grow longer, angler success can be good. For the bigger species, salmon eggs, herring, or big colorful spoons in shades of bright green, red-and-white, or silver are popular. Standby lures include Daredevles®, Krocodiles®, Pixees®, Swedish Pimples® and similar - check with local tackle shops for their recommendations. It is also legal to spear northern pike through the ice. For smelt, use very small lures for jigging. Check regulations carefully for single-hook and fly-fishing-only waters.

The ice can be very thick - 4 feet or more in places and a power auger is a real blessing. But hand crank augers and hand chisels can be a great way to get some winter aerobic exercise - just don't overheat and risk getting chilled.

Ice thickness can vary with the weather, especially on the rivers, so always be very careful. Only a few degrees change in the weather can mean several inches difference in ice thickness, especially on the bigger rivers, and especially as the end of winter approaches. What was safe at zero F. or -10° F. may not be safe at +15° F.

If you are smelting - which is often done on tidal ice - know the tide schedules and be familiar with your fishing spot.

In some winters, or during warm spells, anglers may find open waters in the Bristol Bay area. If it's possible to access these waters safely they may offer some traditional rod and reel angling opportunity. Spoons, spinners, plugs and bait (where legal) are used. Some of the eastern Bristol Bay rivers are the most common opportunities, especially in late February. As usual, be sure to check the regulations before you head out to fish.