Area Sport Fishing Reports
Bristol Bay

March through April Season

Don't forget: your fishing license expired Dec. 31! A sport fishing license makes a great gift -- 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. Look for new booklets around March to early April.

For perspectives on the upcoming salmon season, regulation changes and other special information, check the Pre-Season Outlook for Bristol Bay on our web site, or contact the Anchorage, Dillingham or King Salmon office.

Also by this time, we usually have a finalized copy 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.

Most lakes stay ice-covered until mid- to late May, and some of the higher lakes don't thaw until mid- or late June. By late April, river ice is usually melting, at least near inlet and outlets, but may start melting as early as mid-March in a warm year. Warm spells and underwater springs may contribute to "overflow" - areas of water or slush on top of ice. Look for discolored ice, and walk and drive where others have gone.

Don't forget good sunglasses and even sun screen for those special bright days. A day on the ice and snow in brilliant sun can cause painful snow blindness and even sunburned faces and ears.

Check regulations carefully! Some waters change to single-hook-only March 1. Much of the eastern section and other selected area waters close to ALL fishing April 10 through June 7 in order to protect spawning rainbow trout. Check regulations carefully for seasons, bag and size limits, single-hook and fly-fishing-only waters.

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

Resident fish continue to present the only sport fishing opportunity. Fishing for rainbows, Dollies, grayling and pike may be fair to fabulous as the season warms up and the ice opens. Typical ice fishing techniques for trout and Dolly Varden include jigging and tip-ups. It is also legal to spear northern pike through the ice.

When waters begin to open, rainbows and Dolly Varden/ Arctic Char feed on freshly-hatched fry, insects and early migrating salmon smolt. Fly patterns imitating small fish, alevins, sculpins, minnows, leeches or egg-sucking leeches (black, brown, or purple) may catch fish. Don't overlook the fluorescent oranges, pinks and greens, which often work very well. Where fishing is allowed in April, small plugs like Fat Raps®, Rapalas®, Bombers®, Wiggle Warts® and the like may work well too - colors from those imitating natural fish to red, all white, or even all black can work. Spoons like Pixees®, Krocodiles®, and Daredevles®, and spinners like Mepps®, and Vibrax® in silver, blue and silver, gold, orange, green, or pink can produce fish. Salmon eggs or other baits work where legal.

The Naknek River and Kvichak River drainages are the best known early-season bets - but other open waters around the Bay can produce some fishing too.

Smelt fishing is much more enjoyable in March as the days lengthen and the temperatures rise. Always be careful of the ice. Try very small silver or green spoons and jigs.

As the ice melts from pike waters, the fish feed voraciously in preparation for spawning. Anglers may find some good pike opportunities after mid- to late April. Note the bag and size limits for Bristol Bay pike. Plugs imitating small fish, large silver or colorful spoons, and steel leaders are the tickets for pike.

In some waters, grayling fishing can be excellent along ice edges. Try standard insect patterns, small (sized 0-2) spinners, and spoons in the standard array of colors.