The Nushagak River flows near Bristol Bay in the southwest portion of Alaska. The region is remote, rugged, wild and requires a bush flight to get to. Each year, the Nushagak sees a king salmon, also known as Chinook, run of over 100,000 fish. Fishing the Nushagak is a wild experience, often done while sharing the river with grizzly bear feeding on the salmon. Certain types of tackle, technique and gear yield favorable results when fishing for the kings.
The guides at the Nushagak River Adventure Lodge report landing sizable kings with a bouncing egg or trolling plug. Attached to a leader line and a midweight sinker, they bounce along the bottom of the river, attracting the kings. The guides also say they achieve success using casting spinners. Average size for kings caught on these methods come in between 20 and 40 pounds, according to the Nushagak River Adventure Lodge guides.
Reels and Rod
Using a solid spin-casting reel is the recommended choice, according to guides at Nushagak River Fishing. Due to the size of the kings, fishing with a reel designed to handle the drag caused by the fight, such as spin-casting reels, allows the fish to draw enough line out and then be reeled in efficiently when hooked and tiring. Guides at the King Salmon Adventures Lodge use G. Loomis Rods with Berkeley Trilene line. Use a line rated to at least 20-pound test.
When fly-fishing for kings on the Nushagak, be sure to have a 9-foot rod at minimum, and weight rated a minimum of six, but best at seven or eight. The guides and staff at the Nushagak Fishing Camp take clients out each season for guided fly-fishing and report that fights with kings often last 15 to 20 minutes and your tackle needs to be up to the challenge. Fly selection should be based on what insects are in bloom during your time on the river. Blow flies, black leeches and flies tied to imitate small smolt and fry typically yield positive results, according to the guides at the Fishing Camp.
Because you are sharing the river with large grizzly bears fishing for the same king salmon, it is important you bring bear spray and be equipped with the know-how to use it. Also, bring proper rain gear, rubber boots and waders, and a map with compass and GPS. You are in wild and remote territory. Be sure to have emergency gear to ensure you live to fish another day.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.