Tag Archives: yakutat fishing report

Kings have Reached Lower Goal

As of this morning,  the king escapement on the Situk has achieved ADF&G’s lower escapement goal of 450 fish.  They have 466 large kings through the weir so far.  This is a huge relief,  since we have been consistently missing this goal for several years.  ADF&G has had to take drastic (dare we say draconian) steps to make sure the kings reached that goal.  Now that we have reached the minimum goal,  they said they are thinking of some short-term changes,  but wouldn’t specify.  I did ask if that meant opening the Rodeo Hole and that was a no-go.

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Photo by Pat Robbins of http://www.fishitalio.com

Next year’s parent year was the last time we exceeded the escapement goal,  so I’m hopeful we’ll have a bit more flexibility in our fishing regs.  That does NOT mean they will open kings for retention,  but at least we should be able to fish sockeye in the whole river!  Speaking of sockeye…

We are just shy of 62,000 counted fish,  so we’re close to doubling the limit.  I’d expect them to make that decision over the next few days.  It is apparent the Situk’s run was early and not extremely strong…  Odd because out on the Akwe,  the run is a bit above average,  but right on time.  East River is a good fly-out option as well,  since they are seeing an OK run out there too.

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Yes, sockeye feed!

The Situk’s run has just been weird this year.  And the pinks are starting to come in in big numbers,  making sockeye fishing at the lower end more and more challenging.  Few people have been fishing the upper river because there is a predominance of blushed fish up there,  but with the additional closure below and now humpies galore,  it is getting a lot more pressure up higher.

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You don’t hook em here by flossing…

OK,  my annual rant…  Had more than one new visitor come into the shop this season to complain about the other lodge guests badgering them immediately when they got off the plane about how you can only catch sockeye by snagging them…  I guess it is one thing for you to abuse the run and fish illegally because you don’t know what the $#@% you are talking about.  It is yet another for you to rag on people who DON’T want to fish illegally on the Situk.

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Hooked on the INSIDE of the li facing the fisherman, not the outside facing away as would happen with most flossings.

Do sockeye feed?  They don’t grow to 6 1/2 pounds by absorbing their nutrients through their skin (like their hooks).  Sockeye feed on zoo plankton and invertebrates in the ocean.  They don’t generally chase down other little fish like all the other species of salmon.  They don’t hit Pixees and Dolly Llamas,  so they get a reputation for being “uncatchable”.  Bull crap.  You just have to duplicate their regular food source,  which is some small twitching little speck.  Thus small and sparse (for salmon flies).  And you have to totally deaddrift to them.  They food isn’t high enough on the food chain to escape,  so any swift movement (either by stripping or swinging) is a turn-off.

I have no idea why anyone would spend thousands of dollars to fly to Alaska to snag fish.  This time of year,  it is the majority on the river.  My most frustrating time of year,  but also the most rewarding when I do get someone to do it right and they start outfishing everyone around them.  Including spin guys outfishing the fly flossers when they rig it right and get the drift down.

OK,  rant is over.  Thanks.

Sockeye Slowing

A great run this year so far,  but the past week has been significantly slower.  Not as many fish pushing in at the mouth of the Situk.  Still,  37,000 sockeye through the weir compares with only 8,000 fish same time last year…  So slower is relative…

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A nice slightly blushed buck who had been previously snagged in the back by someone downstream

Still not many fish at 9 Mile and above.  Either they are just not pushing up the river,  or they are pushing really fast and getting to the lake inn a hurry.  I’m inclined to go with the first theory,  since flows are a bit below 200 CFS.  Not a whole lot of river to encourage them to head upstream,  but still plenty to make floating relatively easy.

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Chris and Adam (from Yakutat B&B on the Bay-formerly Bayview Lodge) have been out a couple times and Chris finally gave me some photos to populate my infrequent fishing reports..

Heading out to the cabin in a few minutes,  but I’ll post another update from our trip last week next…

The Start of Our Season

Tanis and I head out to the Akwe River tomorrow to open up the cabin and get ready for our commercial fishing season.  As we flew home from Juneau last week,  it was high tide – sun glare in my eyes – wind whipping whitecaps on the river,  so I could not see any fish in the Akwe,  or New Italio.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t fish,  but that I couldn’t see…

The Situk run is still going gangbusters though.  The commercial fishery opened last Sunday there and it definitely took the edge off the number of fish in the lower river.  Sunday was still great,  but by Monday and Tuesday,  the fish were few and far between.  The best fishing right now is in the middle river from the cabins down. Although 33,000 fish have been through the weir as of Monday,  they haven’t made it up to 9 Mile in any great numbers yet.  So that’s 33,000 sockeye between the bridge and the weir…  WOW!

I talked to the fish plant manager yesterday and he said the fish are huge.  As in 10lb sockeye…  He said loading fish boxes was like silver season.  That plays into my delusional fantasy that last year’s dismal run is also coming this year…  Sockeye can be a 4 year or a 5 year fish.  Possibly if conditions were bad last summer,  the 4 year olds could have decided to be 5 year olds…  That’s my hope anyway,  since last year’s Akwe run was horrible.

Last year,  Tanis and I set our nets and immediately caught a nice big king (that I dropped and didn’t land).  That was the only fish we saw for the week!  Not even a dolly for dinner!  I had never had a zero fish week before.  The next two weeks,  we managed to land about 1200lbs of sockeye total with both nets.  Fish and Game shut us down for the season after that.  The Akwe has been having issues in recent years anyway.  The glacier no longer comes into Akwe Lake (it used to hang over a huge cliff and drain into the lake cooling the water).  Now the Akwe is just foreland drainage.  On an overcast day,  the water is 73 degrees F.  The majority of the sockeye just hang out in the New Italio/Akwe confluence hole for weeks and eventually they give up on the deadly Akwe temperature water an go up the Italio at a cozy low-40’s temp.  Sockeye are extremely temperature sensitive,  so they need cooler water.

The past couple years,  we have had warm summers.  In the Situk/Ahrnklin Inlet,  the water along the edge warms more than the deeper center.  The nets are usually along the edge,  so we have seen decent weir counts only because all the fish bypassed the warmer edges of the inlet and swam past the nets.  Not so this past week,  where the commercial guys had a really good opening week.  They also did really well out in the bay.  Lots of fish out there in the ocean moving slowly up the coast.

I’ll have a proper first-hand report from out at the Akwe for the guy renting the Ryman cabin on Tuesday.  In the meantime,  spectacular fishing on the Situk with not a whole lot of people out fishing.

Needing an Update

Yes,  I have been a little busy…  Sorry for the lack of posts…  Especially since we are having a TREMENDOUS sockeye run right now.  Last year,  we had 73 fish total through the weir.  As of two days ago,  we have over 25,000.  And basically no one here.  Is the run really strong,  or just really early…  no way to tell till it happens.  But boy,  the run is really on fire.  The parent year reached 118,000 fish and as of this date had 16,000 fish through.  We’re blowing the lid off that year.

And if you remember,  I predicted we’d see a 10,000 steelhead count…  Um…  it seems to be leveling off at right around 6,000…  In my defense,  we had a good storm right as the bulk of the steelhead were done spawning that flooded the river and made the weir non-fish tight for 4 days.  I’m going to say 4,000 fish escaped when the counters weren’t looking just because I want to be right and I have no other basis to prop up my argument…  It sure felt like a stronger run than that!

In other news…  I have my plane back finally.  It had been sitting in Sitka for the past 10 months,  after receiving a $17,000 annual that I couldn’t pay for till recently.  But she is back and we’re ready to go spend some time at the Italio cabin.  Speaking of which…

This has been a challenging year so far and so we are making a few changes.  My health problems over the past two months have taught me I need a day off occasionally…  We opened the fly shop 10 years ago this season working long hours without many days off for 9 months straight.  This summer,  we are going to be closed Sunday and Monday.  We’ll be back to 7 days a week in mid-August when silver season starts,  but in the meantime,  I’ll closing the doors two days a week to get a break.  Granted,  that probably means I’ll be out commercial fishing the Akwe with the family,  but if it isn’t a physical break,  it is a mental break from the fly shop and things I have to do around here.

It is hard living in your place of business.  You have no escape.  The phone rings 24/7,  customers come and go at all hours of the day and night…  In the past,  we said to just pull up and honk if we were closed and we’d come running downstairs to help.  I just can’t do that anymore…  Sorry.

And maybe I’ll even get a chance to fly fish for some sockeye again!  Haven’t done that in three years,  since I first showed Chris how.

Limiting on Sockeye Already?

Yep.  Two guys came through last night and said they caught their sockeye limit at the lower end.  Happened to stumble into two groups totaling around 100 fish.  This is VERY early.  Lots of jumpers out in the bay.  Here’s hoping we see a good run this year.

Even though the steelhead run is still alive and well,  no one has been out there that I have talked to for the past several days.

And if anyone wants to send me some photos from their trip this year,  I can post some more interesting content…

And the Run Continues…

Light drizzly rain yesterday and today,  not enough to change the flow gage,  but in the right direction!  Slight bump from 140 CFS to 150 this morning.  Still very low,  but floatable.  The overcast is the good news though.  We had a couple sunny days that turned the bite off,  but most people didn’t have any trouble hooking up.  Who am I kidding…  What people?  This place is a ghost town right now!

Three guys left a couple days ago.  They said the last three days of their trip,  they did not see a single other fisherman.  There are a couple guys here while their wives are doing work for either the city or the tribe and they are out fishing somewhere.  Not much else.  The river is devoid of fishermen and there are fish everywhere.  Including fresh ones at the lower end.  The guys said they floated out and the fresh fish were still stacked up below the weir.

Water temp spiked to 58 degrees a few days ago,  but is now back down to 50.  That has put a lot more fish on redds,  but still not the majority.  We have another excellent fishing weekend coming up with rain and overcast throughout,  no one here and a ton of steelhead.  It would be nice to see one more shot of people taking advantage of this run.  I know Yakutat Lodge is completely empty right now,  along with Glacier Bear,  Leonard’s and everyone else.

Reports of sockeye jumping already out in the bay and at least one ball of them came into the Situk.  I hope this bodes well for a good strong run,  especially after last year’s struggle.  Fish and Game will start the season with a king salmon closure again,  till they start to see how many fish are coming back.  My guess is that they will keep it closed to targeting kings this season.  But as always,  it is still open in the bay,  as well as in the Akwe and East Rivers.

Halibut has been hit and miss,  depending on how far people were able to go out.  Once that sunny westerly kicks up,  it is hard to be out there in the wide bay.  A few kings are being caught.  Talked to a commercial fisherman who landed 6 one day and 5 the next.

Transitioning to the salmon part of the season now,  even though we are still within the peak weeks of steelhead on the Situk.

Back to the World of the Living

I’m on the mend and feeling much better.  Thank you for your prayers and concerns…  Been upright for the past three days,  although I have had to take a nap mid-day every day.  At least the projectile vomiting was only for one day.

And as you know,  I have the best wife!  She made me home-made chicken noodle soup,  while covering the fly shop AND fueling planes.  She closed the shop for half of one day,  which was good.  And she lets me live in an old WWII hangar in an Alaskan village and play with planes and fish all the time…

Gorgeous sunny days this week – not good for my head,  or the steelheading.  Not very many visitors through the shop,  which either means no one is here,  or they are avoiding the plague and me…  Or both.  The sun is making it tougher mid-day and the warmth is making a LOT more fish spawn,  but there are a LOT of steelhead that are not yet ready and some nice little batches of fresh ones still coming in!

I believe we had peak season last week,  so running about 2 weeks late.  We are definitely on the backside now,  but as I said,  the fishing is still excellent.  I had some friends here last week (through the worst of my illness) and they landed a lot,  lost even more and had a great time (while avoiding me).  I’ll just attach a bunch of their photos,  so you can gage how the run was last week and continuing to be this week…

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New guy in the group… Mark’s first steelhead of his life!

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OOPS of the week… Pink leech fully embedded in the cheek and a visit to the clinic…

This was one camera from the group and only their first half of the trip…  That should give you a feel for how the fishing was and still is…  Only now all the people are gone and it is just you and the fish…  Still time to come and do this!