By Kent Danjanovich
The majesty and splendor of south central Alaska is truly something to behold. Lush, green growth seemingly in every direction, snowcapped volcanoes and mountain ranges as a fitting backdrop and animal life galore makes this destination a must see for every traveler and one that will keep you coming back again and again.
When you talk about Alaska, everybody has their favorite area and believe me, every person that you talk to will have very legitimate reasons for why that area is the best. And you know what, I have been around enough that I could easily fall into that category as well. But there is one area of Alaska that just seems to have a little bit more of everything that Alaska has to offer and that is the Kenai Peninsula.
Now I don’t know about you, but the mere sound of the words “Kenai River” brings goose bumps to my skin. Its sheer power and beauty alone makes a trip down its waters worth the time and effort. But add to it the chance of catching a giant king salmon along with every other salmon species available from the Pacific side of the country, along with rainbow trout and Dolly Varden the size of two footballs, end-to-end, well I think you are starting to get the picture.
No other place in the world holds more opportunity to fish some of the most renowned stretches of water be it stream, lake or ocean. The dream of catching a literal fish-of-a-lifetime is the thought of fishermen of every shape, size, age and gender every year as they work their way to the northern most state in the union.
For the past nine years I have had the pleasure of visiting many lodges in Alaska, from five star resorts to remote outpost camps and a little of everything in between. Every one of my experiences has been first class in many ways, but many of them have one or two key aspects that make them special. I have found that one lodge in particular stands out in my mind as one that allows me to take in just a little more variety of what Alaska is all about. This lodge just happens to be located on the banks of the world famous Kenai River and it is fittingly called the Gone Fishin’ Lodge. I have found that during my weeks stay, I and the other guests at the lodge have the opportunity to tailor our trips to have a totally different trip, chasing different and exciting fishing species every day, while being treated by the staff like one of the family.
A quick look at their website (www.gonefishinlodge.com) will give you the first hint of what I mean when I say “variety” is their niche. There are 15 different package options available plus various specials for your review, all including accommodations from Saturday to Saturday and either five or six days of fishing. You can even have them customize a package that includes a glacier and wildlife sightseeing tour to Whittier or to the Kenai Fjords National Park out of Seward to witness the massive glaciers and give yourself an opportunity to see whales, sea lions, porpoise, sea otters and an abundance of outstanding scenery. Even on many of their fishing excursions, you will have the opportunity to see and photograph moose, bald eagles, black and brown bears and many other sites that only Alaska can provide.
Knowing that most travelers have a limited window of opportunity each summer, Gone Fishin’ Lodge can help to put together a trip encompassing just the adventures you’re looking for. If you are looking for the chance to catch a new world record king salmon on the Kenai or Kasilof Rivers, June and July are the months for you. Many kings are caught each year over the 50 pound mark and you just never know when it may be your turn at “The Big One”! If you’re looking to hook into some red (sockeye) salmon then June, July and early to mid-August would be your time frame. If you would like the opportunity of catching big numbers of silver (coho) salmon on both spin cast and fly rods, then July and August are definitely your months. If you would like the opportunity to catch all three species of salmon during your trip, then July is definitely your month! And don’t worry about trying to hit the halibut just right. May through the first of September is prime-time for hooking into a monster on either a trip to Cook Inlet or a multi-species trip to Seward or better yet — A trip to both during your stay!
Now get yourself ready for a floatplane, fly-out trip for sockeye or silver salmon, June through August. There is just something about the sight of a floatplane skimming across the water on its way to a remote destination in the outback of Alaska that makes my skin tingle. When you arrive at your destination, you will be able to use a variety of fishing techniques either from one of their boats or wading the banks of a glacier fed stream while not only fighting reel blazing salmon, but all the while taking in the unbelievable beauty of your surroundings. The Kenai Peninsula has magnificent alpine glaciers, wildflowers and wildlife in literally every direction. Need I say more?
Not far from the Gone Fishin’ Lodge, over in Seward, the lingcod season opens July 1st. Lingcod are prehistoric looking fish, but their white meat is excellent table fare. Lingcod hang out usually in depths of 30-140 feet of water and are taken on salmon rods using jigs. Silver salmon return to Resurrection Bay at Seward in early July through September, with limits of six silvers per person/per day. During this time, halibut fishing is alive and well in Seward also. With all the variety of fish available it gives the Gone Fishin’ Lodge an opportunity to do combination trips of “Lingcod/Silver Salmon”, “Lingcod/Halibut” or “Halibut/Silver Salmon” and on every combo trip you may catch black bass, yellow eye and assorted rockfish. You will be fishing in the midst of pristine glaciers and picturesque scenery. Often you will see wildlife such as whales, porpoise, sea lions and puffins. Seward is truly one of the most beautiful places in Alaska!
Another must-do day trip will take you to the upper Kenai River in search of giant rainbow and Dolly Varden. The season opens each summer on June 11th and the months of June and July can offer some unbelievable action, but the month of August is when it really starts to heat up as thousands of salmon make their way into the system to spawn. As these fish head for their last efforts in this life by dropping and fertilizing millions of eggs for generations to come, the rainbows and dolly’s start to gorge themselves on the eggs, making an upper-river drift boat trip an absolute must during your stay. Turquoise water flows out of glacier fed Kenai Lake and runs seventeen miles into Skilak Lake, the spawning grounds for hundreds of thousands of salmon each year, making this section of the river one of the best sections of water in the world for trout fishing! All fishing is guided and done out of a drift boat or by wading from sandbars. There are no power boats allowed on the upper Kenai River and the Kenai Canyon stretches. Gone Fishin’s guides specialize in light tackle fishing with fly rods or spinning gear for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. This can be a very special trip for those that have not had the pleasure of experiencing the art of fly fishing and your guide will be more than happy to spend a little extra time introducing you to the sport. The strict enforcement of catch and release for trout has made the upper Kenai one of the most prolific trout fisheries in the world and drifting a bead under 12 feet of leader with a couple of split shot can produce fish after fish, with oversized football sized leopard rainbows lurking around almost every bend in the river.
One of the unique things about the Gone Fishin’ Lodge is that they have learned to go with the flow. You will find them always looking for new and exciting changes and improvements that will not only help them improve and succeed, but will make the overall experience of their customers the best it can be.
Again, a visit to their website (www.gonefishinlodge.com) will offer you a full list of possible packages, with one sure to fit your fancy. Over the years, a “Special Sportsman’s News August Trip” has been put together which includes 7-nights lodging and five fishing trips in five different locations and using five different fishing techniques. The trips include a morning or afternoon fishing for silver salmon on the Kenai River, halibut out of Anchor Point in Cook Inlet, a Seward multi-species adventure for halibut, lingcod, salmon, rockfish and snapper, an upper Kenai drift boat trip for sockeye salmon, trophy rainbow trout and Dolly Varden (a fly fisherman’s dream day) and then finishing off the week with a fly-out for salmon, bear viewing and sometimes even glacier fly-overs.
Although I love the August timing for my trip, you really can’t pick a time from May to September that won’t produce a fantastic experience. Every adventure is special and unique in its own way and it is really up to you what activities and adventures you will take in during your week. I know that many of us can never get enough fishing, but one of the things I am going to take in on my next trip is possibly a trip to Whittier for a tour of the massive and impressive glaciers of the area or maybe a day cruise to the Kenai Fjords out of Seward. There is just so much to do in the area that it is really hard to decide just what to include in your visit.
But there is one thing that I know for sure, you don’t want to wait another minute. Get on the phone right now and give Ralph Crystal or Dick Bowen of the Gone Fishin’ Lodge a call to book your trip for 2014. They will guide you through all of the possibilities and set you up for a trip that you will not soon forget. Give them a call today at 877-462-5752. Alaska’s Gone Fishin’ Lodge awaits. I know that I will be visiting them again this summer and who knows, maybe we will end up doing a little fishing together at one of my most favorite venues in the world.