By Kent Danjanovich, Senior Editor Sportsman’s News
An Alaskan adventure is more than just fishing. Some of the most beautiful sites and settings in the world can be seen throughout Alaska and everyone should take the time to visit this land at least once in their lifetime. Now, although Alaska has many great attractions and adventures throughout, the reason that I take the trek North is for the fishin’. Nowhere else in the world can you have the opportunity to not only catch big numbers of fish, but just plain “big fish” are maybe more appropriately the two key words.
One of those “big fish” that is always at the top of my list is the biggest of all salmon species, the Pacific Chinook or king salmon. Hundreds of thousands of king salmon make their way back to their birth waters each year to continue the cycle of life. Many rivers throughout Alaska boast great numbers of fish and some host runs of bigger fish than others, but one river that in my estimation doesn’t get the notoriety it deserves for both is the Togiak, nestled some 400 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Now, one of the biggest reasons that this area doesn’t get as much exposure is that there are only two permanent camps and a few fly-in day camps on the whole river. This is amazing to me, as the Togiak River boasts some of the best runs of king and silver salmon in Alaska. It is a smaller river and a little more remote, but in my estimation, well worth the effort to pay it a visit.
My destination of choice is the Togiak River Lodge, owned and operated by Larry Lund. All of the comforts of home can be had during your stay, literally just a few steps away from one of the best salmon rivers in the world. First, let’s first talk a little bit about the accommodations.
The Togiak River Lodge is the only permanent structure lodge on the river. It consists of the main lodge building, six guest cabins, along with staff lodging, freezer and processing facilities and boat house. The lodge can host up to 20 fishermen at a time, with lengths of stay from three to seven days. Although packages are available, if you book far enough in advance, you can really set your own package and take in as much fishing excitement as you think you can handle. And I do mean excitement!
Meals are served morning, noon and night with a wide variety of dishes, including fresh catch of the day appetizers and succulent fillets throughout the week. Believe me, you won’t go away hungry and the kitchen staff will dazzle you with homemade breads and desserts to die for as well.
Now let’s talk about the fishin’. Mid-June through July are the months for reel bustin’ kings. Larry and his great staff of guides will have you on fish non-stop, while incorporating many different techniques designed to keep the action fast no matter of the tides or weather conditions. A few fishermen bring their own equipment, but each guide’s boat is well stocked with up-to-date rods and reels and well used, fish catchin’ lures that will get the job done. Back-trolling, back-bouncing, hovering, down river spinner trolling and the use of floats are all part of their arsenal and your guides will also have a bag or two of special “roe” seasoned and colored to catch the noses and eyes of all of those silver bullets making their way up the river.
Our first evening on the river found our guide Ryan taking us a couple of miles upstream from the lodge to one of his favorite spots. We anchored at the end of a sandy ridge, with a slow moving side eddy on our left and the main channel of the Togiak on our right. Ryan set up our rods and rigged them with bright colored floats and a big glob of roe. We flipped our lines into the slow current and free-spooled our reels, lifting them periodically to release a steady flow of line, while letting the current do the rest. Soon a tap, tap of our floats turned into a violent takedown and a quick few reels caught us up to our prey and a big hook set started the battle we were looking for. I had hooked into my first Togiak River king salmon and the fight was on. Run after run had my reel singing and soon Ryan dipped the net under a 25 pounder, one of a half dozen that I landed that first evening.
Our next morning found us downing a big helping of bacon and eggs and then heading down river toward Togiak Bay. The lodge sits just six or seven miles from the bay and tidal fluctuations definitely influence the fish movements upriver. We would be catching the incoming “cromers” fresh from the bay all morning, with Nick Norbeck, our very competent guide seemingly with the net in the water all morning long. Doubles and triples were the words for the day and you have never seen three more excited fishermen bobbing and weaving around the boat. We reluctantly headed back to the lodge for lunch, but not before Nick stopped us for one quick try on one of his favorite runs, resulting in two big ones, a 30+ pound hen for Doug Jenkins and a bruiser for me as well, a big male tipping the scales at nearly 40 pounds.
The morning had produced over 30 fish for our boat and that afternoon and evening resulted in just as many. And you know what, the next two days would find us running up and down the river hitting run after run, incorporating every technique imaginable and resulting in uncountable numbers of 15 to 40 pound kings, with a few chums and reds thrown in for good measure. But amazingly, we would only see an average of five to ten boats a day on the river and really never having to share a spot with another boat. It was like having your own fishing paradise all to yourself. Unbelievable!
Our last morning found us saying goodbye to our new friends and loading our gear into the floatplane. Larry Lund and his Togiak River Lodge had lived up to their reputation and we welcomed them as our newest Platinum Approved Outfitter. You can bet it won’t be long before we head back to southwest Alaska and another fantastic stay with Larry and his staff. And if you want to experience the best king salmon fishing I have ever seen in all of Alaska, give him a call today to book your next Alaskan fishing adventure. I hear that the silver run is also to die for and I just might have to find a slot in my schedule for next summer. Larry Lund’s Togiak River Lodge…October – May 503-357-7315 or June – September 907-493-5464 and visit them on the web at www.togiaklodge.com.