Area Sport Fishing Reports
May is one of the more unsettled times for Bristol Bay-area weather. All the snow and most of the ice can be gone by May 15, or we could have a late winter/early spring snowstorm. Typically, though, May is pretty temperate, especially the third and fourth weeks. By the end of May, daytime temperatures are usually in the 45-60° F. range, and nighttime temperatures in the 30-40° F. range. River ice is usually gone by May 15, and lower-elevation lake ice by May 25 or 30. Higher elevation lakes and the mountains hold onto their snow until mid-June, and unusually warm days will see river levels rise because of snow melt.
Dress in layers to allow for both morning and evening cold and midday warmth. Good rain gear is very useful - as much for a wind breaker as to turn away any cold early season rain.
At least this time of year the biting bugs are usually scarce; but it doesn't hurt to bring some repellent - we've seen occasional buggy days on the Naknek even in mid-May.
Guides - please remember to register before you head to the bush for the season.
Look for our Pre-season Management Outlook on our web site, in the Anchorage Sport Fish Information Center, or stop by the Dillingham or King Salmon offices for a copy.
Special Regulations on Selected Streams/Lakes
Many rivers and lakes are closed to all sport fishing until June 8, and some have different limits until June 8. Some rivers are restricted to unbaited, single-hook, artificial lures only, and some are catch-and-release only for rainbow trout. PLEASE CAREFULLY CHECK THE REGULATIONS! The restrictions are in place to protect and conserve rainbow trout.
The first salmon to arrive, the king (or chinook) salmon, usually show by the end of the fourth week of May but angling success is usually pretty slow.
Be sure you have your signed king stamp stuck to the back of your sport fishing license BEFORE fishing for king salmon. Anglers who are not required to buy a license must first have a Harvest Record Card before fishing for king salmon, available at license vendors, or at the ADF&G offices. Anglers who MUST have a Harvest Record Card are children under 16 (resident OR non-resident), anglers with the ADF&G Permanent ID Card (senior license) and anglers with the ADF&G Disabled Veteran's License. All other anglers must record their harvest on the back of their fishing license. You will also need a pen with you to record your king salmon harvest immediately.
This system typically sees the first king salmon catches of the year. Normally, the sport fishery will land about 500 fish by mid-June. High numbers of "jack" salmon (smaller males under 20 inches) are normal for the Naknek River.
In better seasons, the subsistence nets off the beaches near Dillingham or Clark's Point catch kings by mid- to late May. Sport fishing doesn't produce until the kings get into the freshwater of the Nushagak River two to three weeks later. In poor seasons, fishable numbers of kings tend to occur a little later in the season.
There is an annual limit of 4 kings per angler per season of any size in the Nushagak/ Mulchatna River drainage, and other restrictions apply. Check the regulation booklet carefully before going fishing and don't forget to record a harvested king salmon immediately.
The Nushagak River drainage king salmon fisheries are guided by the "Nushagak/Mulchatna Chinook Salmon Management Plan." The plan addresses how the subsistence, commercial, and sport fisheries are operated at various escapement levels. Portions of the plan relevant to the sport fishery appear in the regulation booklet. Anglers are encouraged to be familiar with the plan and to be aware that in-season restrictions are likely when the escapement is low.
May is too early for any sockeye (red), pink, chum, or coho (silver) salmon to return.
Resident Species: Rainbow Trout, Arctic Char/Dolly Varden, Lake Trout, Northern Pike
Reminder: check the regulations before planning your fishing trip. Some rivers do not open to fishing until June 8, some rivers are catch-and-release only, and some have tackle restrictions.
For early-season fishing, try Lake Clark, or one of Lake Clark's inlet streams. Stay upstream of Sixmile Lake, though, to avoid fishing in closed waters. Lake Clark has northern pike, Arctic grayling, and lake trout. Try trolling spoons and spinners in the narrows just above Sixmile Lake for lakers.
The lower Naknek River (up to Rapids Camp ADF&G marker) also presents some early season opportunity for rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, grayling, pike, and an occasional lost lake trout.
Another early season opportunity can be found in the Wood River lakes. As the lakes become ice-free, angling success for Arctic char/Dolly Varden and rainbow trout begins to improve.
Grayling and Arctic char/Dolly Varden are often found feeding on the out-migrating salmon fry. Sparsely-tied alevin patterns, such as Thunder Creeks, and bead-eyed fry patterns work well. Warm days may produce some insect hatches, especially various size stone flies, caddis and midges so go prepared with some nymphs, wets and dries as well.
By late May, the northern pike are spawning and are voracious. If it's legal gear, bring any top-water buzz bait or popper. If lures are not allowed, any large top-water or weedless sinking fly will work. Now's the time to try those exotic-looking mice and duckling imitations! Don't forget steel leaders, and a hook remover will help to avoid those sharp teeth.
Good places to explore for northerns once the ice has melted are the sloughs between Portage Creek and Ekwok, on the Nushagak River and in the Wood River lakes.