By Kent Danjanovich
When the subject of king salmon fishing comes up in most conversations, the usual answer is , “Head for the Kenai River in Alaska”. Now granted, the Kenai is a great fishery and you always have the possibility of hooking into a 70+ pound monster, but the numbers year in and year out don’t match those of other rivers available. If you want to fish a river that boasts the largest average run of king salmon in all of Alaska, you need to head to the “Mighty Nushagak”.The “Nush” as most outfitters and regulars refer to this river, is home not only to the biggest run of king salmon, it also is home to big numbers of coho, sockeye, chum and pink salmon, not to mention oversized rainbows, dolly varden, grayling and northern pike. Many outfitters have moved their tent camps to the banks of the Nushagak to accommodate fishermen from around the world with the chance of hooking into double digit numbers of fish daily from mid-June through the end of July. And, our outfitter of choice on the Nushagak in Bob Kratzer and his Alaska Kingfishers Camp.
Bob and Traci Kratzer have owned and operated Alaska Kingfishers for the past ten years. Bob started out in Alaska with the Mission Lodge in the Wood/Tikchick State Park and worked and managed that facility for 20+ years. Part of their package was daily fly-outs to fish for kings on the Nushagak and eventually the idea to build a tent camp came to life. Bob would soon work out a deal to purchase the tent camp and now has turned it into a first class operation and our choice for Platinum Approved Status on the Nush.
I have fished with a lot of great guides in the last twenty years on many rivers and lakes around the world. Most of them were very proficient in their trade and most could get the job done and serve up a great experience. But I will have to admit, Bob Kratzer, in my estimation is one of the best guides I have ever had the pleasure to wet a line with in all of my travels. His knowledge and dedication to his trade are unsurpassed and can be seen in all aspects of his guiding businesses not only in Alaska, but also in his Pacific Northwest operations as well.
When dealing with varying water conditions along with weather and up and down spawning patterns, the business of putting people on fish can sometimes be a trial. The thing that impresses me most about Bob and his Kingfishers camp is that he is willing to incorporate a wide variety of options in his fishing techniques. If the typical back-troll or back-bouncing techniques aren’t working, downstream trolling , floating with eggs or even casting a fly are in his regular repertoire. Even if the fish aren’t biting, he seems to have a way to get them interested.
Now, he isn’t the type that will boast about his accomplishments, but one number that I did weasel out of him is his best number over the last few years for one boat in one day on the Nushagak …96. Yes, you heard me right. That is 96 kings for one boat of four fishermen in one day of fishing. Just another day on the river for Bob.
The Nushagak in total, is about 280 miles long, with the majority of camps in the Portage Creek area and below. Tidal influence is present about thirty miles upstream from the bay and this stretch of river is the most fished by most of the camps. If you have fished the Kenai River for kings, you have witnessed the masses of boats lined along the river waiting for the big one to hit. Well in comparison, the most boats that I counted during our stay in any one area of the Nushagak was 14 and on many great stretches of water, we were the only boat in sight. This fact alone should give you a little more incentive to book your next Alaskan fishing trip with Alaska Kingfishers.
Alaska Kingfishers only opens for about thirty days during the main run for king salmon, from about June 20th – July 20th. Now this doesn’t mean that kings are the only fish available. Big numbers of chum and red salmon are also present during this time and chum salmon are especially attractive for flyfisher men and women alike. Kingfishers supplies all of the tackle, lures and flies for all forms of fishing on the river and after eight hours of fishing for kings after breakfast, you can also hit the river after dinner for a couple extra hours of non-stop action. With about 20 hours of daylight at this time of year, I guarantee you will not go away without enough time reeling in fish!
Before spending four days with Alaska Kingfishers, I had not really spent much time fishing for chums. Well, this trip opened my eyes to a whole other dimension. Swinging a pink articulating leach pattern with a 7wt. flyrod and floating line produced fish after fish, mostly in the six to 14 pound range. Bright, chrome balls of muscle fresh from the bay and ready to “take” your fly. And along the way, I even managed to land a couple of nice jack kings that also gave me a run for my money. All of the action made it easy to hit my bunk at night for a good night’s sleep.
As for the accommodations, Alaska Kingfishers may be a tent camp, but you would really think you are staying at a lodge. The main tent is spacious for dining and gathering and nine individual wall tents house two guests each, stocked with cots, sleeping bags, pillows and bug nets (we didn’t need them though). All meals are prepared by a great cooking staff and fish packing and freezer facilities are also housed. Shower facilities are better than most cabins that I have stayed in and outhouses are conveniently located near camp.
Breakfast is served at 7:30am followed by a sandwich bar for sack lunches for the river. Your guide will have you back by five or six for hors d’oeuvres and then dinner at 7:00pm. After a scrumptious meal, you can grab your guide and head back out for a little more fishing and a few more fillets for your box that will be vacuum sealed and frozen for your trip home.
The Nushagak River is the place to be and the Alaska Kingfishers camp is the perfect choice for a fishing experience of a lifetime. Give Bob and Traci Kratzer a call today to book your next fishing adventure. They truly have what it takes to fulfill your dreams and can also hook you up for some great fishing in the lower 48 in Washington and Oregon for trout and salmon too. Alaska Kingfishers…800-577-8781 and www.alaskakingfishers.com. Tell them Sportsman’s News sent ya!