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Spring - April/May PDF Print E-mail

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The ice is starting to melt on many lakes with the lengthening days of April, and this ice-out period can bring some of the year's best still water angling. After 6 months of frigid conditions, the lake denizens are eager to eat and often pursue offerings with reckless abandon. Pike, grayling, rainbow and lake trout, and Dolly Varden are available in many lakes, and these early season fish can often be tempted with leeches like Litebrite Zonkers , minnow flies like Strung-Out Thunder Creeks , and more traditional nymphs such as the Stillwater Stimulator .

May is the start of the downstream migration of the salmon fry, and where these abundant swimmers go, predators follow. Dolly Varden, lake trout, and rainbow trout often key in on lake outlet streams during the fry migration, and these locations provide an excellent fishing opportunity. Use minnow and fry-type flies such as the Alaskan Sockeye Fry , Clouser Deep Minnows , and Rainbow Minnows. 

In the coastal regions, such as Southeast and Kodiak, these fish follow the salmon fry to the ocean. Salmon fry are the principal springtime food source for Dolly Varden and they feed with often reckless abandon during this season. There are many all-purpose minnow patterns (think Stinger Clouser Minnows , Epoxy Mini Minnows and Salmon Fry ) that are surefire producers for Dollies feeding on salmon fry. As the fry reach the saltwater, they tend to mass along the shoreline, lingering in the shallows to avoid predation.  As the Dollies come into the skinny water looking for an easy meal, the estuary and saltwater beach fishing really heats up.

PLEASE CHECK YOUR REGULATIONS. ADF&G regulates opening and closing dates very tightly. Many systems have closed areas and prohibited species, especially during the Rainbow trout spawning season (May 1 - June 11). HELP PROTECT THE RESOURCE BY KNOWING THE LAW.

Spring also means steelhead in Southeast Alaska. Many salmon streams in the region get a small run of steelhead numbering perhaps 50 to 200 fish. With runs this small you have to time it just right to be there when the fish come in. Some of the larger runs occur on Price of Wales Island (POW) with runs numbering over 500 fish. The grand daddy of them all is the Situk River near the town of Yakutat. In recent years the run has numbered over 8000 steelhead! Flies such as the Pick Yer Pocket, the Karluk Shrimp, and the old standby Frank's Fly are good choices for these spring fighters.


NOTE: With a few exceptions, Alaska has no salmon runs in fresh water in April or May. If salmon fishing is in your plans, June, July, and August are the prime months.
Early Summer - June PDF Print E-mail


The start of the summer season is heralded by the return of the sockeye salmon. Reds, so named for the brilliant crimson coloring of their spawning phase, are sometimes recalcitrant biters, and will often frustrate the angler faced with so many unwilling dance partners. Have no fear, just persevere...sockeye are often attracted to small offerings, and flies such as the Sockeye Lantern , Red Hot , Sockeye Fly , and similar patterns in small sizes will sometimes "crack the code" and result in hookups.

The long summer days of June also bring the first runs of king salmon to the rivers. The legendary kings of the Kenai River can reach 90+ Lbs, and many 50-60 lb fish are caught every year. Many other regions have king runs as well, and these fish are the pinnacle of the heavyweight sport fishing experience in Alaska. Articulated Hareball Leeches , Fat Alberts , and Guide Intruders are good choices when pursuing kings.

Dollies and cutthroat are readily available in June with good fishing to be had on saltwater beaches, especially near the mouths of salmon streams. As with the springtime fishing, minnow flies like the Stinger Clouser and Rainbow Minnow are the patterns to have on hand.

Dolly Varden and rainbow trout are also available in the rivers of the Kenai Peninsula, Interior and Bristol Bay. These fish will still chase minnow patterns and can also be caught on sculpin patterns such as Sculpzilla , Bandit Leech and the Dolly Llama .

Summer - July PDF Print E-mail


July is the prime month for king salmon in much of the state and with each passing day the run builds until its peak. The sockeye run continues to build as well. The run that started in June as ones and twos, now builds to hundreds, followed by thousands of fish streaming upriver.

And where the sockeye run, the rainbows are never far behind. As the reds get closer to their spawning grounds the rainbow trout begin to intermingle with them, eagerly awaiting the egg-drop that usually happens in July through early August. These early trout can be had with a wide variety of flies, so be sure to have some traditional trout nymphs and dries like the Stimulator and Flashback Pheasant Tail, as well as a good selection of beads in early colors. For more information on bead fishing check out our Bead 101 article . Streamers and Leeches can also work well during this time, so be sure to have some Exasperator Sculpins, JR's Streamers, and AFG Articulated String Leeches. Don't be surprised if you happen to run across grayling or char when fishing for rainbows, as they follow the sockeye as well.

In Southeast Alaska and Kodiak, July marks the beginning of the pink salmon and chum salmon runs. Building from a trickle early in the month, by late July the streams are full of salmon. The Dolly Varden are also in the streams vacuuming up any stray eggs. Pinks and Chums are some of the most opportunistic spawners of all the salmon. This is a nice way of saying they will spawn in just about any freshwater they can find. They are generally found in rivers throughout Southeast Alaska.

Remember those Dolly Varden that were chasing salmon fry off the beaches all spring? After the fry swam off into the deep Pacific Ocean the Dollies had to find a new meal plan. Right on cue the salmon came in and started laying their eggs. Any stray eggs in the creek are vacuumed up by these voracious predators. Fishing a salmon egg imitation just downstream of spawning salmon will lead to instant action. Try using an Unreal Egg, a Gorman Beadhead Egg, or a Glo-bug in these situations, or for hard-to-move fish, a "live" bead.

Summer - August PDF Print E-mail


August provides final opportunities for king salmon as the last of these big bruisers enter their spawning rivers on their one-way journey. As with early summer, patterns such as the Stinger Prawn and Guide Intruder are good choices. The sockeye have all turned bright red and are now paired up for their spawning acts. At this point in their life-cycle, these fish are no longer an angling prize and should be allowed to spawn in peace.

However, the rainbow trout that congregate around the sockeye during this time should be considered fair game. In Bristol Bay, the Kenai, and the Interior, August signals the beginning of the trophy rainbow trout season. The sockeye spawning season is a "match the hatch" situation, and in this case the hatch is sockeye eggs. Be sure to carry a wide selection of beads in many colors and sizes as well as some Glo-bugs and Unreal Eggs as the fish can get exceptionally picky during this time.

August in Kodiak can be called the Month of the Humpy. In late July these small salmon begin massing in the estuaries of their spawning streams, and by August their run is in full swing, providing the fly angler with great opportunities to catch fish until their arms are sore. Pinks are ready and willing biters on patterns such as the Humpy Hooker and the Hareball Leech , providing the best chance for the novice fly angler to experience what the fun is all about. In Southeast, August means the continuation of the pink and chum run and peak stream fishing for Dolly Varden.

Late August is also the beginning of the coho run in many parts of the state. These hard-fighting salmon are sometimes tough to target due to the inordinate amount of pink salmon in every stream, but as the humpies die off the silvers are more accessible. Go-to patterns for coho include the Clouser Minnow, the Starlite Leech, and the venerable Flash Fly.

Fall - September/October PDF Print E-mail


As the spawning season progresses into September, the early sockeye start to die and the rainbow trout can often be seen tearing at their carcasses, rolling about to rip off long strips of flesh. As the die-off continues, flesh flies in ginger, off-white, and two-toned with pinkinsh or orangy hues are often the key to success. Try Bandit Leeches, Egg Sucking Flesh Flies, and AFG Rubber Leg Articulated Flesh Fly. As with early season, there will be some dollies or char mixed in among the spawners as well, so be prepared for a little variety.

The first coho of the year begin to show up in August, and by September the run is in full swing. Many anglers say silvers are their favorite salmon. Their size, acrobatic fighting style, and willingness to take a fly make them an ideal fish to chase on a fly rod. Coho are responsive to many different groups of flies and the angler-in-the-know will have a wide selection, including top water patterns like Popper Wogs, streamers such as the Chartreuse/White Clouser and Pink Half-n-Half, and dead-drift flies such as Hareball Leeches and Coho Kryptonite.

By October, much of the fishing is over for the year as the salmon have mostly died off following the spawn. The first snows of the year begin to fall in October, and by the second week, temperatures rarely exceed 40° during the day. The one shining light of the late September-early October period, however, is the trophy rainbow trout season.  This is mostly focused in Bristol Bay and the Kenai. The late season represents the last opportunity for the trout to forage for the long winter, and they feed ravenously on the decaying flesh of the spawned-out salmon carcasses. Large articulated flesh flies and "dead" beads are the go-to combinations for rainbows during the late season. Bandit Leeches, Lady Flesh, and the String o Flesh can get you into the trout of a lifetime!

October is the Month of the Steelhead in the Kodiak archipelago and the Kenai Peninsula. As mentioned earlier, these sea-going rainbow trout are primarily fall-run in these two regions. Most systems hold moderate runs of fish, often numbering 200 adults or fewer.  However, some rivers receive runs numbering in the thousands of fish. Most notable for its exceptional fishery is the Karluk River on Kodiak Island, which hosts Alaska's second largest run of steelhead behind the mighty Situk of Southeast. With a recent ten-year average count of 8,000 returning adults this jewel is certainly among the world's top steelhead-producing systems. Fall-run fish can be caught on a large selection of flies, but some of our favorites include the Thunder MOAL, the Sandy Kandy, and the Fish Taco. Be sure to have a wide selection of Glo-bugs and beads on hand as well, as these fall rockets often have a taste for eggs.


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