May 3rd, 2017
Understanding how the season progresses in Alaska is paramount in terms of choosing a time of the year which matches your angling desires. Each month, and to a degree each week, can offer different scenarios, especially when looking to intercept migrating salmon or targeting trophy rainbow trout with a particular technique. Below you will see a general overview of what each month offers which will help anglers narrow their focus when planning their ideal trip to Alaska.
This is the opening month. Days are at their longest and the array of effective angling techniques are the most diverse. Anglers wishing to target rainbow trout are not yet relegated to the indicator/bead rigs. The trout have come off a long winter and typically are very eager to start feeding. Many times they congregate in defined areas looking for food items such as salmon fry and smolt, mice and hatches of insects. I like to consider June an anglers time. You can fish streamers, dries, and mice and you can also enjoy some great spey fishing, primarily for rainbows. It may not be the best for a mixed use family trip but it can be some of the most exciting fishing of the season. June sees fewer travelers and a feeling of solitude is easier to attain. The bears are not yet stalking salmon in the rivers, so if you are a bit more cautious and do not wish to fish around furry friends, June may be a good fit. Along with the diverse trout opportunities, the king salmon arrive in June. While the run timing can be tight, there are several weeks that are considered prime and targeting these giants is one of the most unique opportunities in Alaska.
A June king salmon grabs the swung fly on the mighty Nushagak river while visiting Igiugig Lodge.
July is the month that offers the greatest species diversity. King salmon are still arriving in most systems, large numbers of fly friendly chum salmon follow and the most prolific salmon of all, the sockeyes are swimming towards their natal streams to spawn. You may even intercept an early silver salmon at the end of July in certain areas. If you have thoughts on taking fish home, a fresh July sockeye is hard to beat. Along with the most diverse salmon offerings of any month, the rainbow trout fishing continues and Dolly Varden begin to appear in good numbers. While not every river will see great trout fishing at this time, there are certain systems that can offer fantastic opportunities and some true trophies. For rainbow trout dry fly anglers, July is often the best month of the season. July also offers the most consistent and comfortable weather of any month. For families looking at a combination of great fishing with bear viewing, beach combing and great scenic flights, July is a great fit.
A truly gorgeous rainbow trout from a July visit to Rapids Camp Lodge.
August is the beginning of the “egg drop”. Sockeye salmon will begin their spawn and the rainbow trout will be waiting. Witnessing just how quickly the switch flips can be enlightening. By the end of the first week of August, the sockeyes will be spawning in most of the rivers in the greater Bristol Bay region and rainbow trout catch rates will sore. By mid month, most all rivers are seeing lots of eggs, bears, and peak numbers of feeding trout. While the technique at this time is very much an indicator/bead game, the sight fishing, colorful salmon, and abundant bears create an overall atmosphere of excitement that many consider hard to beat. August also marks the arrival of the silver salmon, the most fly friendly and eager of all the salmon species. Silvers are very much chasers and will even rise to the surface to take a popping or waking fly. Fishing for silvers can be a real numbers game with multiple encounters and sore arms a definite possibility. The weather continues to be great, but expect a bit less daylight and a bit more chill to the air by the end of the month.
An August silver salmon from the Kanektok River while spending quality time at Alaska West.
September shines for folks interested in trophy rainbow trout. The bright salmon are mostly gone, sans a few silvers in various systems. The focus is solely on finding the biggest and baddest rainbow trout of the season. The rainbows at this time are fat and super-charged, filled with energy from weeks of gobbling protein-rich salmon eggs. This is the last month for anglers, and to some degree trout, to take advantage of the plethora of food in the river systems before the big freeze. Along with the resident river rainbows, large chrome-bright, lake-run rainbow trout show in up in a few special systems. These lake-run rainbows are much like steelhead and can be targeted with spey rods and traditional down and across swung-fly tactics. The summer tourist crowds diminish and the overall feel is back to serious fishing. The days do get shorter quickly and by the end of September, night creeps in fast and frost may greet you in the AM. September ends the AK season in grand fashion with more 30-inch rainbow trout caught in this month than any other.
A September rainbow gets the tape and a happy angler joins the 30 inch club at Igiugig Lodge.
Note that this is a quick overview of the season in Alaska. While things can vary slightly from region to region, it is a good guideline for those looking to travel and fish in AK. If you would like to discuss some of your thoughts and desires about a trip to Alaska, give David a call at 800.552.2729 or email at any time.