Area Sport Fishing Reports
October through December Season
Typical early winter weather includes increasingly colder temperatures, often combined with strong winds, foggy periods, and rain and snow. For hardy anglers, particularly in early October, there may be a few days that are truly enjoyable. Night temperatures may dip to 0° F or below by mid-October, and snow and full winter weather should be expected at any time during these months. Anglers should be equipped for cold to very cold weather. Daylight decreases dramatically during these months and fishing trips may be short forays from warm quarters.
In spite of the cold weather, most of the area's big lakes and rivers hold too much heat to freeze quickly. Open water, especially around inlets and outlets, continues to provide some angling opportunity. Later, and as the ice thickens, anglers may enjoy some ice fishing opportunities. However, BE VERY CAREFUL. The new ice, erratic temperatures, and currents make ice unsafe during this time.
Some Regulation Changes
In early October and on the first of November, a number of Bristol Bay area regulations "switch over" to different bag limits and legal tackle. Please check the regulation booklet before heading out to fish.
A note on tackle regulations: beads must be fixed within 2 inches of the fly 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. You must also use some type of fly.
A few silvers may be found in some Bristol Bay drainages through October. In the eastern section, places to look are the upstream reaches of the Egegik, Ugashik, and Naknek drainages. In the western section, try the Togiak River. The silver runs to the Nushagak/Mulchatna drainages are over by mid-September.
Bright pink or orange lures, like size 2 to 4 Tee-Spoons®, Pixees®, Vibrax®, Hot Rods®, Mepps®, polar shrimp patterns, and flash flies all work well on coho salmon. Sometimes chartreuse or yellow-green lures work very well on cohos.
Anglers planning coho salmon fishing trips should note that the bag limit for coho in the Kvichak River and the Lake Iliamna drainage (excluding the Alagnak River drainage) is 2/day.
All other salmon - pink, chum, red, and king - are rarely available after August. King salmon should start running again in late May.
In January or February of the new year, look for our "Pre-season Management Outlook."
Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden/Arctic Char, Grayling
Resident fish dominate the scene in late fall and early winter. Fishing for rainbows, and Arctic char/ Dolly Varden can be good to fabulous until it's too cold to fish. By October, the fish are no longer feeding on salmon eggs or salmon carcasses and they can be hungry for anything that looks like food. Try orange spinners and spoons, dead egg patterns, egg-sucking leeches, flesh flies, other imitations of the salmon lifecycle, and bait (where permitted). Try switching back to insect imitations, both wet and dry, and forage fish imitations like sculpins, muddlers minnows, or silver or bronze spoons, plugs or spinners. Fishing in the mid-morning or warmer afternoon hours may produce the best results this time of year - and its much easier on angler and gear.
Good places to try for rainbow trout are the Naknek River, the Wood River Lakes system, and the Alagnak River. The Kvichak/Iliamna tributaries are excellent prospects if the cold weather doesn't prevent access. The Kvichak River near the community of Igiugig, and the Newhalen River near Iliamna are two of the most accessible fishing opportunities this time of year. Trolling the open waters near the outlets of the larger area lakes can produce nice rainbows. Try Canadian Wonders® or similar spoons. In the central section, rainbows in the Wood River Lakes may be caught well into October, sometimes on dry flies.
There are also some excellent opportunities for Dolly Varden/Arctic Char and Arctic grayling in most of the rainbow trout waters listed above. Sea-run (anadromous) Dolly Varden begin showing in the Togiak rivers by the late August, peak in September, and may occasionally still be found into October.
In most Bristol Bay waters the daily limit for Dollies is 3 fish with a few more restrictive waters such as the Agulowak River (2/day) and Iliamna River (catch-and-release only).
Where they occur in Bristol Bay, this time of year may find a few lake trout near the surface and in near shore waters, providing a special treat for the hardy angler.
Remember the Bristol Bay tackle restrictions regarding the use of beads. Beads must be fixed within 2 inches of the fly 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. You must also use some type of fly.
Anglers are reminded that the Board of Fisheries adopted catch-and-release only regulations for rainbow trout fishing in the Alagnak (Branch) and Nonvianuk Rivers.
There are bag limits for northern pike in Western Alaska - check the regulation booklet carefully. Northern pike are a native species to our waters, and an important subsistence fish. Pike angling is usually pretty slow this time of year, though it can be a popular time for net fishing by some Nushagak River subsistence fishers.
By late November, we have enough ice for ice fishing. Smelt, Arctic char / Dolly Varden, pike, rainbow trout, burbot, and lake trout may be taken through the ice with bait or by jigging lures. BE CAREFUL on the new ice.