Alaska Fishing at Bearclaw Lodge

Alaska fishing opportunities abound at Bearclaw Lodge in Bristol Bay. Located on the shores of Lake Aleknagik, this Bristol Bay lodge offers freshwater fishing in the rivers, lakes and creeks within the productive Wood River system, as well as epic flyouts to the Nushagak River to target king, chum and silver salmon. From fishing resident species like rainbow trout and Arctic grayling on dry flies on the Agulowak River, to multi-day flyouts for king salmon on the Nushagak River, to tributary hikes throughout the system to target char, trout and grayling, this Alaska fishing lodge offers awesome Alaska fishing packages all summer long.

Alaska fishingOur Fisheries

The season kicks off in mid-June with anglers targeting Arctic char, rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, northern pike, as well as king, chum and sockeye salmon. Three of the highlights in this time period are targeting large Arctic char on smolt patterns at the mouth of the Agulowak River, catching sockeye salmon while wade angling on the mainstem Agulowak, and battling mighty king salmon on the Nushagak River. Bearclaw Lodge is able to offer varied Alaska fishing packages because they have multiple locations that offer Bristol Bay fishing; Bearclaw Lodge on Lake Aleknagik and Alaska Kingfishers on the lower Nushagak River, which is primarily a king salmon camp.

One of the interesting and special elements of the Bearclaw Lodge fishing program is the ability to hike and wade fish many different creeks in the system. Some require an arduous hike of up to five miles, while others are easily conquered after a mild one-mile excursion. These trips combine stunning scenery, an ability to see a diversity of fisheries, and the ability to wade and angle to some of Alaska’s most beautiful fish.

By the third week in July, anglers visiting Bearclaw Lodge will be treated to the season’s best dry fly fishing for Arctic grayling and rainbow trout. Last year’s salmon carcasses are gone, smolt have migrated out and are heading to the sea, and this year’s sockeye have not started to drop eggs. This is a special time in Alaska when resident fish are looking up. In addition to dries, including mice, streamers and nymphs are effective.

By the beginning of August, Bearclaw Lodge’s Alaska fishing program continues to include targeting resident fish which include rainbow trout, Dolly Varden char, and Arctic grayling on dries, streamers, nymphs and now beads, and broadens to include silver salmon on the menu. Silvers are acrobatic, hard-fighting salmon, and can be caught using spinners, spoons, jigs and streamers. The season ends for this Bristol Bay fishing lodge as resident fish are mostly caught on bead patterns and silver salmon can still be caught on lures and flies. You can check out our blog to find more up to date fishing reports.

A typical day begins with breakfast at 8 am, departing by 8:30 am, fishing all day and enjoying lunch on the water, and returning back to the lodge by 5:30 pm for appetizers with dinner being served about 6:30 pm.

Learn More About Our Fisheries

On the mainstem Wak, guests can target sockeye salmon. These fish are pound-for-pound the strongest fighting salmon in Alaska. The Wood-Tikchik system hosts annual sockeye returns in excess of a million salmon, with several hundred thousand destined for the Wak. Anglers wade and fish with either fly or conventional gear using sparsely tied flies to catch sockeye (aka red salmon) as they migrate upriver. Succulent fillets and bent rods are often the result. Anglers can also target rainbow trout and Arctic grayling. The 4-mile Wak is jammed full of trout, as well as grayling, presenting anglers with many opportunities to land fish.

Part of Bearclaw’s Alaska fishing package includes an optional flyout to the Agulukpak (Pak) River, located within the heart of the Wood-Tikchik system. This short river of about two miles is home to both rainbow trout and Arctic grayling. Both resident species can be caught on dry flies, nymphs and streamers. 6-weight fly rods and floating line are appropriate. Common and useful dry fly patterns include Royal Coachman, Parachute Adams, Stimulators, in sizes 12 to 18. Popular and effective nymph patterns include zebra midges, Prince nymphs, beadhead nymphs, Hare’s Ear, etc., also in sizes 12 to 18. It’s thrilling when a large rainbow trout explodes on a dry fly or smashes a dead-drifted nymph and races into your backing.

Alaska fishing packages during this time of year at Alaska Kingfishers on the Nushagak River revolves around catching king salmon, also known as Chinook. Gear anglers fish from comfortable river boats, usually four guests per boat, and employ a range of techniques including back trolling plugs or divers and bait (cured roe), dragging (also known as boon dogging) bait, bobber dogging bait, float fishing jigs or bait, and downstream trolling spinners. Anglers who just can’t get enough can also plunk with bait while sitting at the campfire in the evening.  Adult Nushagak Chinook range from 15 to about 30 pounds, with some larger fish landed each year. Guests from Bearclaw Lodge fly over to Alaska Kingfishers and fish two days on the river while spending one night.

Fly anglers who plan on targeting king salmon ought to come prepared with a 10-weight or larger, and be prepared to swing streamers and nymph big egg patterns. It’s wise to come armed with a range of sinking lines, as well as a floating line, so as to be best able to swing flies in a range of depths and current speeds. Water level, color, temperature and the strength of the salmon run effect where fly anglers can catch kings. To really be prepared, a 200 to 500-grain shooting head with interchangeable sink tips would give an angler a range of options and presentation abilities.

For either the gear or fly angler, chum salmon are numerous in the Nushagak River and can be caught on gear or flies. They are aggressive biters, and fight as hard as any salmon that swims. This will be one of the species of salmon to add to your target list when you come to the Nushagak. There’s not too many chums in the Nush that can ignore a pink streamer, spoon or spinner on the swing.

A final component of the Bearclaw Lodge Alaska fishing package is a trip into Lake Nerka – the second lake in this system – for a scenic trip to view and hike a waterfall that comes out of the side of a mountain. Nearby is a small tributary that holds char and grayling. During a normal year, guests who visit this location will be awed by the ice cave that is usually present through mid-July.

From mid-June through mid-September, anglers can target a range of species while drift fishing from a boat in the Wood River.  Mid-June through mid-July anglers are able to target sockeye salmon, rainbow trout, Arctic char and grayling. As mid-July comes around the focus is primarily on rainbow trout and grayling.  From mid-June through the first of August, salmon have not started dropping eggs, so anglers will offer dry flies, nymphs, and streamers to trout, grayling and char. From August through mid-September anglers target rainbow trout, grayling, and Dolly Varden on bead patterns behind spawning salmon.  Silver salmon begin to arrive at the beginning of this period and remain strong throughout. In addition to throwing hardware, including spinners, spoons, and twitching jigs, fly anglers can also present streamers to snappy coho.

SEASONAL FISH FORECAST 

Look below for a historical seasonal perspective when each fish species is present. 

The primary species targeted during this time period are:

  • king salmon
  • chum salmon
  • sockeye salmon
  • rainbow trout
  • Arctic char
  • Arctic grayling
  • Dolly Varden char
  • northern pike
Alaska Fishing
The primary locations available to anglers participating in this Alaska fishing package include:

  • Lake Aleknagik tributaries
  • Agulowak River
  • Agulukpak River
  • Nushagak River
  • Lake Nerka tributaries
  • Wood River

Anglers fishing from Bearclaw, and enjoying all that this Bristol Bay lodge has to offer, can fish for Arctic char using smolt patterns on both fly and conventional gear. This is a unique opportunity to catch these vividly colored piscatorial icons of the north, and some of these specimens can reach large proportions. Angling is done at the mouth of the Agulowak River (locally known as the Wak) where it meets Lake Aleknagik.

This time period offers the best chances of catching rainbow trout and Arctic grayling on dry flies. Imagine a 20-inch, heavily spotted, red-banded native rainbow trout rising to inhale a size 16 Parachute Adams. Often trout and grayling will go airborne and miss the fly; the adrenaline rush from watching it happen is more than worth the price of admission. Arctic grayling are also willing biters on topwater flies, and anglers from around the world will revel in the fish’s oversized dorsal fin and iridescent blue-green scales.

The primary species targeted during this time period are:

  • king salmon
  • rainbow trout
  • Dolly Varden char
  • Arctic grayling
  • northern pike

The primary locations available to anglers participating in this Alaska fishing package include:

  • Lake Aleknagik tributaries
  • Agulowak River
  • Agulukpak River
  • Nushagak River
  • Lake Nerka tributaries
  • Wood River

Here’s the rundown on the Alaska fishing packages offered during this time period from this Bristol Bay fishing lodge:

  • Northern pike can be targeted in the various bays on Lake Aleknagik. Pike are ambush predators and lie in wait to explode on a well placed lure or fly. They will strike topwater, marginally subsurface and deep in the water column so it pays to have a range of lures and flies to satiate their mood.
  • The Agulowak River is in prime condition for topwater angling to trout and grayling. Nymphs, mice patterns and streamers will all work during this time of year, but small dries, usually fished in pairs by tying a dropper off the main fly, is the go-to technique.
  • A flyout to the Agulupak River can produce epic trout fishing on nymphs. Trout are generally bigger on the Pak as compared to the Wak, but can be more difficult to catch and are not as numerous. But the payout is extraordinary when a 23-inch rainbow trout speeds into your backing pinned to a size 18 zebra midge nymph. Don’t forget your dries and streamers too.
  • Bearclaw Lodge anglers can still fly over to the Alaska Kingfishers’ camp on the Nushagak to catch king salmon. While the numbers of kings present are reduced, anglers can still expect to land several of these mighty salmon that entice anglers from around the world. Bristol Bay king salmon fishing should be a bucket list item for any serious angler and a yearly pilgrimage for the ones who get afflicted with king salmon fever.
  • A boat ride from Bearclaw Lodge to Amakuk Bay on Lake Nerka (the 2nd lake after Aleknagik) is another interesting option in the lodge’s Alaska fishing package. This trip rewards the hiking angler with noteworthy scenery like a waterfall coming out of the side of the mountain and an ice cave that is usually present through mid-July, in addition to plying a small tributary for Dolly Varden char and Arctic grayling.

This time period offers a wide range of options. The Wak and Pak are fishing well, and the Nushagak is in the transition period between kings and silvers. Either or both may be available depending on the year. Tributaries of Lake Aleknagik begin to hold fish as salmon filter into the tribs and start to drop eggs. That being the case, resident fish begin to target salmon spawn, so can be targeted with beads or other egg patterns. The diversity in Bearclaw’s Alaska fishing package is one of the interesting things that draws anglers interested in Bristol Bay fishing.

The primary species targeted during this time period are:

  • king salmon
  • silver salmon
  • rainbow trout
  • Dolly Varden char
  • Arctic grayling
  • northern pike

The primary locations available to anglers participating in this Alaska fishing package include:

  • Lake Aleknagik tributaries
  • Agulowak River
  • Agulukpak River
  • Nushagak River
  • Lake Nerka tributaries
  • Wood River

During this time period the Alaska fishing package offered by Bearclaw Lodge includes the following:

  • On Lake Aleknagik, anglers can target northern pike – aka water wolf – on flies and hardware. While pike can sometimes be finicky, success is usually more about finding the fish in reasonable numbers, rather than figuring out what they will eat. Pike lay in wait and then make an explosive sprint to ambush their prey. Don’t be surprised if the strike is startling, especially topwater, as the pike explodes on the bait. It never gets dull.
  • During this time period, other opportunities open on Lake Aleknagik. Bearclaw Lodge targets three tributaries that combine a hike with wade angling. Tributary 1 is a 5-mile hike that is difficult because of the distance. The reward is bead fishing to rainbow trout. Tributary 2 offers a 2 to 3-mile hike on gravel. Beads are still the lure of choice and the quarry present includes rainbows, dollies and grayling. Tributary 3 presents a manageable 1 to 2-mile hike culminating in bead fishing for Dolly Varden char and rainbow trout.
  • Anglers on the Wak continue to dominate the trout and char, both drift fishing and wade angling. The primary flies used include dries, streamers and nymphs. Don’t be surprised if a big ‘bow smashes a mouse pattern, and include a few in your fly box. The Morrish mouse is a solid performer.
  • Lucky flyout anglers to the Pak can expect to land trout and grayling on dries, streamers and nymphs. It pays to have all three options with you as this short river system is in a constant state of flux and the resident fish’s food sources are varied and changing.
  • Flyout anglers who head to the Nushagak River may still be able to catch Chinook, and will be on the front end of the silver salmon run. Coho can be caught from the bank casting spinners and spoons or swinging and stripping flies, and are also targeted with a variety of lures while drift fishing.
  • Anglers can fish three tributaries on Lake Nerka. The first presents a short 1-mile hike to target rainbows on beads. The second tributary is a small connecting river and offers dry fly and nymph fishing to ’bows and grayling. The last is a scenic journey to view a waterfall that comes out of a mountain. The nearby tributary holds dollies and grayling.

Silver salmon begin to filter into the Wood River, adding that to the destination for Bearclaw Lodge bound anglers. In addition to throwing lures or presenting flies to newly minted coho, lucky anglers will also get to fish for rainbow trout, grayling and dollies. Nushagak silvers are going strong as well. Pike remain willing to eat anything cast in their direction, while resident species are enjoying an aquatic smorgasbord so that dries, nymphs, streamers, mice and beads will all get their attention. Lake Aleknagik and Lake Nerka tributaries are all fishing well, while the Wak and Pak rainbows and grayling are getting fatter by the day.

The primary species targeted during this time period are:

  • silver salmon
  • rainbow trout
  • Dolly Varden char
  • Arctic grayling
  • northern pike

The primary locations available to anglers participating in this Alaska fishing package include:

  • Lake Aleknagik tributaries
  • Agulowak River
  • Agulukpak River
  • Nushagak River
  • Lake Nerka tributaries
  • Wood River

Trout, char and grayling grow heavier through the season as they digest the food needed to add fat to their reserves for the long winter ahead. This time of year, resident fish will really begin to key in on salmon spawn, but won’t resist something that looks like an easy meal. That said, be prepared for the transition, but still expect the chance to land a trout on a streamer, nymph and dry. Coho salmon will be in prime shape, and will put up a battle on either lure or fly. The usual assortment of streamers is effective, and in a range of colors to include pink, chartreuse, black, purple and orange. In Alaska, when in doubt, tie on an ESL (egg sucking leech). Spinners like the Blue Fox Vibrax, Mepps Aglia, Kodiak Custom Silicone Skirt, and Panther Martin Salmon and Steelhead Hammered, and spoons like the Eppinger Dardevle, Blue Fox Pixee, and Acme Kastmaster will all draw strikes from aggressive silvers.

  • Both gear and fly fishing remain productive for pike in bays around Lake Aleknagik.
  • On the Wood River, drift fishing for silvers, rainbows, grayling and char is in full swing. Anglers visiting this Bristol Bay lodge are attended by guides who understand a range of techniques and will give you choices as well as recommend the best options. Dry fly, streamer, nymph and bead presentations are all at play. Conventional anglers can throw spinners, spoons, twitching jigs and beads to elicit strikes.
  • Trout and grayling on the Wak are opportunistic, so anglers will continue to throw streamers, nymphs and dries. Sockeye should be starting to drop eggs, so bead fishing will begin to turn on.
  • Flyouts to the Agulukpak River will be productive for rainbow trout and Arctic grayling, and the preferred technique will be tossing dries, streamers and nymphs on fly rods.
  • Flyouts to the Nushagak River revolve around silver salmon. Anglers visiting Alaska Kingfishers for the day will drift fish from a boat with gear or either gear or fly fish from the bank. Streamers can be swung and stripped to encourage coho to strike. Spinners, spoons, and twitching jigs can be cast and retrieved for good results in hooking silver salmon.
  • Bearclaw Lodge targets six tributaries at this time of year.
    • Tributary 1: features a long hike of about 5 miles, with rainbows and Dolly Varden char the reward, typically targeted with beads on either a fly or spinning rod.
    • Tributary 2: offers a 2 to 3-mile hike to bead fish for trout, dollies and grayling.
    • Tributary 3: includes a mild hike of 1 to 2 miles, culminating in bead fishing for ‘bows and Dolly Varden.
    • Tributary 4: requires a short 1-mile hike, to target rainbows with beads.
    • Tributary 5: is located on Lake Nerka, where anglers target rainbows and grayling in a small connecting river using dries and nymphs.
    • Tributary 6: combines a scenic hike to a waterfall with a nearby tributary that holds char and grayling.

There’s a varied and interesting array of species on the menu during the last two weeks of August. Tributaries that drain into Lake Aleknagik can hold silver salmon, rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, Arctic char and Dolly Varden char. The Wood River is productive; anglers can target silvers, grayling, trout and char. Both the Pak and the Wak continue to fish well, while anglers bound for the Nushagak should experience respectable silver fishing and not many other anglers. Guests of Bearclaw Lodge who want to experience a tributary hike during this time of year can travel to Amakuk Bay in Second Lake, and take a scenic hike to a waterfall followed up with a fishing excursion to target char and grayling in a nearby tributary.

The primary species targeted during this time period are:Alaska fishing_big Arctic Char

  • silver salmon
  • rainbow trout
  • Dolly Varden char
  • Arctic grayling
  • Arctic char
  • northern pike

The primary locations available to anglers participating in this Alaska fishing package include:

  • Lake Aleknagik tributaries
  • Agulowak River
  • Agulukpak River
  • Nushagak River
  • Lake Nerka tributaries
  • Wood River

Guests who are fishing at this Bristol Bay lodge during the last two weeks of August will typically experience the following:

  • Northern pike are usually hungry and willing to take a well-placed fly or lure. They can be found in various bays on Lake Aleknagik.
  • Five species of fish can be targeted at various tributary mouths on Lake Aleknagik including silvers, trout, grayling and both Arctic and Dolly Varden char. Gear and fly anglers will both be able to target this exceptional list of species.
  • Anglers traveling to the Wood River will drift fish from a boat and target silvers on lures or flies, target rainbows and grayling with flies and Dolly Varden using beads.
  • Fishermen on the Agulowak River drift or wade fish for grayling and trout using beads.
  • Flyout anglers to the Agulupak River can expect to bead fish for rainbows, grayling and Arctic char.
  • Anglers who desire a tributary hike and scenic trip can go out to Amakuk Bay on Lake Nerka. They can travel to a waterfall and then go to a nearby tributary to fish for char and grayling.
  • Nushagak flyout fishermen will be targeting silver salmon with either gear or flies and from either the boat or the bank.

Fishing Gear

Bearclaw Lodge provides all the rods and tackle needed to catch all the fish mentioned above. For those who want to bring their own equipment, here’s a breakdown of rods, reels and line:

  • Resident species including rainbow trout, Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden char, can be caught on medium-weight rods. For spinning and baitcasting setups, 6 to 12-pound class rods with matching spinning reels and 10-pound-test mainline will suffice. For fly anglers, 4 to 6-weight rods with floating line, and 10-pound-test leader will be effective. Bring lighter tippet for dry fly and nymph fishing, down to 4x.
  • Sockeye salmon fight very hard for a 4 to 8-pound salmon, and are usually targeted with 10 to 20-pound-class conventional rods and 6 to 8-weight fly rods. 20-pound-test mainline and leader is the norm.
  • Chinook and chum anglers can stick to 15 to 30-pound-class conventional rods and 10-weight and above fly rods. 30-pound mainline and leader will get you in the game. Reels should be large, have smooth solid drags, and be able to handle the abuse that big salmon dole out.