Alaska's Aleutian Mountain Lakes Offer Fly-Out Fun!
By Larry Larsen
The weather was nasty. A very low cloud ceiling, heavy fog and light rain had caused those anglers on our
float plane to be a little worried about how productive our fishing might be. After our short
flight over Cook Inlet to our destination, Big River Lake, we landed safely, boarded our waiting boats with our guide and headed off after the silver
salmon we envisioned.
In a shroud of fog and light mist, we pulled up
to a small tributary where a huge school of salmon could be seen in the clear waters. They basked in 4 to 6 feet of water below a small runoff from the steep bank. A mixture of
some 60 or 70 sockeye and silver salmon swam around the clump of pink eggs that I cast in front of them seemingly paying no attention to the attractive offering. Then one
fish darted for the fare, grabbed it and took off. The others scattered
and I noticed a large red streak bulling its way away from the area pulling drag.
The 10-pound sockeye wasn't our focus but the fight was thrilling. I
finally turned the fish and it came rocketing back between our boat and the bank but something was amiss. About 15 feet behind the sockeye was a much smaller silver salmon
trying to keep up. I again turned the front fish and worked it closer to the boat.
"The silver's hooked up," laughed my guide Ty Wyatt. "The big sockeye is
just caught in the line!"
This was a fun "Chinese fire drill" of sorts with both fish trying to go their
own way. It was an exciting battle that I had almost concluded when the sockeye finally rolled over at the surface off
the gunwale and swam away unencumbered. I landed the small, 15-inch long silver as the rains
continued to fall.
My wife and I were fishing Big River Lake,
about 60 miles northwest of Homer at the base of Mount Redoubt in the Lake Clark National Park & Preserve. The 10,500 foot mountain and others nearby, all in the Aleutian Range,
definitely control the weather around the lake. All of the mountains in the range are volcanic and beautiful but we couldn't see that awesome scenery in the rain and fog.
"Two glacial rivers come together in a glacial
moraine that formed this shallow lake," our guide explained, "and the silvers come back here to the little tributaries to spawn. We're going to fish where the tributaries come into the lake."
Wyatt has been guiding for outfitter George Hein at his Alaska River Adventures out of Cooper Landing on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula for over 9
years. The guide has spent 16 summers in the state, splitting his early years working in fishery research for both the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
He notes that he prefers being a guide because it is more fun!
We fished with salmon eggs both on the bottom
and under a float, some spinners and even some crankbaits as we searched for the fish. We cast
the fare from the anchored boat toward shore and caught another 3 sockeyes ranging from about 6 to 10
pounds each. The silver salmon bite that had been good just two days before had evaporated. It was a case, I'm sure of "should have been there two days ago.
"Silvers tend to be in rivers and seek out the slack waters, so to catch them in a lake is unique at least for
Alaska," Ty said. "Our silver salmon fishing here is usually better on days when it's overcast and rainy. We caught over 30 two days ago on this fly-out trip."
"Coho salmon or silvers are the third biggest salmon, sockeye are the fourth biggest, and pink salmon are fifth biggest," he continued. "Chums are the second
biggest and kings are the biggest. In fact, 8 of the 10 world record Kings were caught in the Kenai. The largest silver caught here
is 20 pounds and the state record is 26. They spend about 18 months in the ocean and that is pretty big for a fish that lives in the ocean that long. Then they come in to spawn and die."
"Sockeyes, chums and kings have a more variable life history," says Ty. "Sockeye spend 3 to 5 years in the
ocean, and 1 to 2 years in freshwater. The bigger salmon are typically males, and when you see all the fish together spawning, the males are the ones fighting each other."
The beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains finally shown through when the rain stopped but we were
boarding the float plane to head back unfortunately. The trip was enjoyable and one we'd like to repeat again. For more information, contact Alaska River Adventures at 1-866-836-9027, visit www.AlaskaRiverAdventures.com or email info@AlaskaRiverAdventures.com.