Area Sport Fishing Reports
August through September Season
Early fall in Bristol Bay often starts with mild weather, but don't be fooled. Count on stormy periods with rain, wind, and cool temperatures, especially near the end of August. Nighttime temperatures drop to 32 degrees F. or below by mid-September. By late September, ice forms on smaller still waters. The chilly nighttime temperatures are offset by the fine, sunny days, and early fall anglers often agree that there's no better time to be in Bristol Bay. Be sure to come prepared with top-quality raingear and seam-sealed tents. Also, storms or extended rainy periods may cause river levels to change rapidly.
Until we have several hard frosts, bugs continue to be especially ferocious. Fine-meshed head nets and mesh bug jackets are good items to bring. Bug repellent is almost mandatory, in August especially. Check the screens on your tent, too.
Anglers, when visiting any Alaskan small village, please respect the private property and community regulations and traditions. The respect you show goes a long way to making friends and assuring your return is welcome. Especially be careful around subsistence nets. If your hook gets tangled and broken off, it creates a serious hazard to the owner.
Bears are plentiful along salmon streams in August and early September. Avoid confrontations by keeping a clean camp. Don't clean your fish in camp, and throw carcasses well into the stream. It is wise to camp in open areas whenever possible and avoid camping on bear trails. Don't store food in your sleeping areas, and try to set up the cooking area away from sleeping areas. Make plenty of noise traveling through brushy areas and stay alert. The department has a pamphlet called “Bear Facts” that is helpful for bear country visitors.
Anglers are encouraged to contact the Dillingham regulation recorder at 907-842-REGS (907 842-7347) to stay apprised of any emergency order restrictions in effect for the sport fisheries.
Silver (coho) salmon are the “salmon of the month” in Bristol Bay, for both August and September.
The first silvers usually appear in the first week of August, in the Naknek and Nushagak/Wood rivers. Other systems that may provide early success include the Alagnak and Egegik rivers. By the end of the second week of August, the Naknek, Nushagak/Wood, and Alagnak runs are close to peak. From mid-August to early September, silver fishing peaks in the Togiak and Ugashik rivers. The Egegik and Alagnak rivers may get a second pulse of fish around the end of the third week of August. After that, a few silvers may be found in various Bristol Bay waters until mid-September, though usually in declining numbers.
Silver salmon runs are notoriously erratic, and anglers planning trips should regularly call the ADF&G Bristol Bay regulation hotline, (907) 842-7347. Management of the Nushagak /Mulchatna drainage silver salmon fishery is governed under the “Nushagak River Coho Salmon Management Plan,” 5 AAC 06.368.
Bright pink or orange lures, like sizes 2 to 4 Tee-Spoons™, Pixees™, Vibrax™, Hot Rods™, and Mepps™ all work well for silvers. Fly anglers cast polar shrimp patterns and flash flies, size 2, 4, or 6. Sometimes chartreuse or yellow-green colors work very well, too.
Anglers planning silvers salmon fishing trips should note that the bag limit for silvers in the Kvichak River and the Lake Iliamna drainage (excluding the Alagnak River drainage) is 2/day to protect these small stocks.
A few chum salmon continue to be available through the end of the first week of August. Best places to try are the Naknek, Alagnak and Togiak rivers. Chum are a great fish, particularly on a fly rod. Use your #7- or #8-weight rod, some strong sized 2 to 4 dark purple and hot pink or salmon marabou flies, and have a great time. Spoons like pink Pixees™ and orange Vibrax™ work well for the spin anglers.
The sockeye (red) salmon runs are usually past peak by the first of August but a few late, bright fish may be available in some waters.
In even-numbered years, pink (humpy) salmon often provide some angling opportunities during late July and the first week of August in many Bristol Bay drainages. The pink runs are usually past peak by mid-August.
By July 31, sport fishing for king salmon is closed by regulation in all Bristol Bay waters. Most of the Nushagak / Mulchatna drainage closes July 25.
The ADF&G Office in Dillingham can provide a summary of the fishing season by the end of October. In January or February of the new year, look for our “Pre-season Management Outlook.” Both items are posted on our web site.
Mid-August to mid-September is the premier season for Bristol Bay rainbow trout. The Bristol Bay rainbow lifecycle is very dependent on spawning salmon, because rainbows fatten up in order to survive winter on the loose eggs and flesh of dying salmon. Precise timing of the peak varies considerably among the different waters. Fishing success is often best as the spawning declines and easy food becomes less available.
Dedicated rainbow anglers from around the world come to Bristol Bay seeking the challenge of enticing these big, fat and feisty rainbows - fish at their physical peak - to strike a fly. If you are fishing catch-and-release, please use single hooks, pinch the barbs, and release the fish without removing them from the water. Also, we recommend using stronger gear. A slightly heavier line test minimizes playing time and allows a quick release. These techniques make it much easier to release fish unharmed and available to spawn in spring. Please help us protect this wonderful resource.
Good places to try are the Naknek River, the Wood River Lakes system, most rivers in the Kvichak River drainage, and the Alagnak River. In early August (or anytime before salmon spawning gets going), rainbows may still take dry flies. The Wood River Lakes and the upper Nushagak River are good places to look for this type of action.
Flies and lures that imitate insects, leeches, salmon eggs, or salmon flesh are your best bets, with fluorescent orange the top color choice for lure anglers. This time of year, fly anglers rely on Glo Bugs, Iliamna Pinkies, the all-purpose purple egg sucking leech, flesh flies and similar patterns in sizes 6 to 1. Fishing in the early morning and late evening hours will generally produce the best results this time of year.
A note on tackle regulations: In all Bristol Bay waters, beads must be fixed to the line within 2 inches of the fly, hook, or lure, or be free-sliding on the line/leader. Also, in fly-fishing-only waters, a bead on the line followed by a bare hook is not legal gear. The hook must be some type of fly. This regulation was adopted to reduce injuries to the fish.
Anglers are reminded that the Board of Fisheries adopted catch-and-release only regulations for rainbow trout fishing in flowing waters of the Alagnak (Branch) and Nonvianuk river drainages. In the Naknek River, the section from Rapids Camp upstream to the lake outlet (Trefon's Cabin), gear is restricted to unbaited, single-hook artificial lures with hook gaps of 1/2 inch or less from March 1 through July 31.
Arctic Char/ Dolly Varden, Arctic Grayling
There are excellent opportunities for Dollies and grayling in southwest Alaska. These fish congregate near salmon spawning areas where they feed on drifting salmon eggs and flesh. In most Bristol Bay waters the daily limit for Dollies is 3 fish, although there are a few more restrictive waters, such as the Agulowak River (2/day) and Iliamna River (catch-and-release only).
Sea-run (anadromous) Dolly Varden begin showing in the Togiak River by the second week of August. Look for these runs to peak in mid- to late September.
Spending an afternoon catching grayling or Dollies on light tackle can make an excellent fishing trip. Use small (size 0-3) silver and/or orange spinners and spoons, egg imitations, or salmon eggs where allowed. Grayling and some rainbows and Dollies may go for dry flies, or traditional wet flies such as bead-headed nymphs and leech imitations.
Like the rainbow trout fishery, char success may be more difficult during the peak of sockeye salmon spawning. When food is so abundant the fish get picky. It may take more skill and patience to outwit full fish.
There are bag limits for pike in Western Alaska - check the regulation booklet carefully. Northern pike are a native species to these waters, and an important subsistence fish. Pike inhabit the lakes and the many side sloughs and slow waters of area rivers. Pike move to deeper waters and become less active in the fall, so fishing can be slow from August until ice-up.