By Kent Danjanovich
Over the past eight plus years that we have been doing Sportsman’s News, there has been one topic or you can even classify it as really a destination, that seems to be on the minds of almost everyone that we come in contact with. Whether you are talking about a hunting or a fishing adventure of a lifetime, Alaska seems to be the focal point of the conversation. And you know what, I know first-hand why that is the case! Alaska is truly the last frontier and even though many locations throughout the state have come to be known by many a traveler, the vastness of its never ending ruggedness and beauty seems to have that mystical power that has you always wanting for more.
Just like any other destination in the world, people visit Alaska for many different reasons. The spectrum of adventures is almost endless and there is truly something for everyone’s taste buds. But there is one thing that catches the attention of more visitors than maybe all of the other attractions combined, a sportfish that is of utmost importance to almost everything that it comes in contact with and that thing is salmon. Now all five species of Pacific salmon are important to the overall picture, but the one that really gets the top billing is the Chinook or “KING” of them all.
Each year, millions of salmon of every species make their way back to the “system” that they were born in. Their cycles are determined by their species as well , but one thing is for sure, when salmon return to the river that they were born in to spawn, it will be the last trip they take in this lifetime. The circle of life seems harsh at times and that circle in the case of salmon has to be one of the ultimate ones, but also one that is important to not only their own species, but to life and its environment as a whole, right on down to us little old fishermen.
There are many great king salmon rivers throughout the state of Alaska including the Kenai, Deshka, Susitna, Copper, Anvik and Yukon Rivers just to name a few of the best. But the river that annually holds the largest return run of king salmon in all of Alaska is the Nushagak, located in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska. With many of the great king rivers experiencing below average numbers; numbers that are mysteriously on a downward spiral, the Nushagak’s numbers have kept a little more balanced, with the run the last three years steadily working its way back to that magical 100,000+ number that used to be the norm. Yes, that is why the best camps along the Nushagak can boast of 50 to 100 kings per day/per boat numbers and in our estimation, the “Best “ of those camps is Alaska Kingfishers.
Alaska Kingfishers doesn’t have the luxury of being able to offer its guest a beautiful 5-Star resort, since all of the land along the Nushagak River is owned by the native nation. Almost all of the camps along the “Nush” are tent camps and must be put up and taken down every season. Kingfishers crew starts that process about the 10th of June every year to be ready for their first guests on the 20th. The fishing is fast and furious for the next 30 days as not only are there around 100,000 kings coming into the river, but also over 400,000 chum and nearly 500,000 sockeyes entering as well , making the fishing, maybe the term should be ‘Catching’ unbelievable to say the least! So when it comes right down to it, the fishing is so good that it is worth only being open for six separate, 5-day packages each summer from June 20th to July 20th, accommodating about 100 guests total during the heart of the best king salmon run in Alaska.
The week of July 5th found myself and fellow Pro-Staffer, Colby Labrum arriving in Dillingham on our way to the Alaska Kingfishers camp. After a nights stay at the Bristol Inn, we found ourselves boarding a floatplane with Tikchik Airventures for the short flight to the camp. The staff met us at the dock and quickly had our bags headed for our tent. It didn’t take us long to change into our Caddis Systems waders, wading shoes and rain jackets and then meet with all of the other guests in the main tent for a little orientation and a quick lunch. We then grabbed some goodies for the next six hours we would be spending on the river and after meeting our guide for the day, we headed to our boat, a very fishable 22” sled with a big black mercury 90 as well as a 9-mhp troller to get us anywhere we needed to go on the river.
This afternoon was the first of four days of unbelievable fishing, with an average of over 50 kings per day making their way to the side of our boat. Kingfishers’ group of experienced guides employed many effective techniques including back-bouncing and dragging eggs, bobber fishing, pulling plugs and even down river trolling of spinners. We were able to share our time with a number of different guests during the week, adding to the overall experience of our stay. There is just nothing better than spending time on the water with new and old friends, watching the reactions on their faces as they enjoy the lifetime sport of fishing, not to mention all the while soaking in the wonderful surroundings of one of the most special places in all the world. Oh and by the way, after dinner every night, we headed back out for a little more king fishing as well as some of the best chum salmon fishing you can imagine. Colby and I experienced non-stop action with our Redington fly rods while other guests sported spinning gear with bobbers and weighted pink jigs. Both techniques did the trick and a good nights’ sleep was assured when we made it back to our bunks at dusk.
Most of you will never really know what goes into making your great outdoor adventure a true success. Lodge owners and guides put in endless hours of work to ensure that you have the experience of a lifetime. And then add in the wilderness surroundings of a remote tent camp and well, just compound those time and energies by 100. But there is one more thing that I would like to share with you before I close. I guarantee that you will not find a more knowledgeable or accommodating owner/guide anywhere in Alaska than Rob Fuentes. With many years experience on the waters of Alaska, especially in the Bristol Bay and Nushagak River areas, you will be in the best of hands and if there are fish to be caught, I guarantee he will have you right in the middle of them. With the limited number of spots available each year and a big line of returning guests every year, you had better give them a call right now and hope that they still have a couple of spots open for you and your buddies. “THE NUSH IS BACK” and is definitely the place to be if you are looking for the best king salmon fishing in the world and Alaska Kingfishers will provide you with the best of everything. You can check them out on our website or at www.alaskakingfishers.com or give them a call at 907-843-1605.