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Thread: Naknek 2010 River Trip

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    Default Naknek 2010 River Trip

    On the way home from the Kenai, we decided to take a detour to Bristol Bay to fish the famed Naknek River. I have been looking forward to this leg of trip, because the Naknek is the only major trout river in AK that I have never fished. We fished from 20-22 September 2010 with guide John Kluck who is an independent guide living in King Salmon. Unfortunately, while late September is considered prime time on the Naknek, fishing was very slow, very few fish were hooked, and we didn't land any large fish. In addition, I was quite shocked at the number of annoying bugs still flying about in late Sept, and would have to rate the Naknek as one of the buggiest places I have ever fished! Dang, I sure would hate to see the bugs here in June & July! Since the Naknek is primarily a swinging river, we fished large articulated flies, both leeches and flesh, on 15' sink tips on both spey and switch rods. Surprisingly, while there was a ton of flesh in the river, black leech patterns outfished flesh patterns by a large margin. Since I'm also known as "bead-y Bob" we also dead drifted flesh and beads a few times, but the fish were so widely scattered it was very inefficient to fish this way and spent very little time dead drifting. For such a remote river, there is an awful lot of boat and angler traffic, and since swinging is the norm, most of the good runs always had anglers fishing them. A lot of times, people would park on the "honey holes" all day, so at times the days were quite frustrating finding unoccupied runs. Fortunately, John put in 11 hour guide days, and we fished late into the evening, so we were able to get into most of the good runs. I'm just glad we had a stellar trip on the Kenai prior to coming here so I wasn't too disappointed in the fishing on the 2010 Alaskan Adventure! Given the fact that the Kenai is way less expensive to fish, I'd have to give the nod to the Kenai as the best trout river in Alaska!
    For a slideshow of the Naknek leg of the trip, click on the link below
    http://ani...2y0PdUUXw?autostart=true

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    I'm not sure any river with a major airport within a half mile, a road parallelling it and several boat ramps is considered remote, no matter how far you get from Anchorage. The guide traffic has increased dramatically on the Naknek within the last 10 years, it's just too easy to fly out from Anchorage, rent a boat and room, or get a guide etc. There are full amenities right on the river, I'd say it's kinda a mini Kenai and will only get to be more populated as time goes on. THere are even guides that have specialized in fishing the last few weeks before the spawning closure. THat said it can be great fishing with some really nice fish. It sounds that both the Naknek and Kvichak both are down this year on size and counts of rainbows....especially the hogs, but that's how it goes out here, a few year classes come on strong and as they aren't really all that long lived, they eventually peter out until the next one comes along. In a few years you might go back and catch so many 30inch fish that you take a bottle of river water home with you so as to never be far from heaven....sounds like fishing and a sample size of ONE.

    That said, the Kenai is a very impressive rainbow fishery, and has some very gorgeous stretches and that blue water is amazing, just a few too many people for me to get too fired up.

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    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    The bugs in June are indeed pretty heinous... Not bad at all in July though.

    Alagnak had similarly crappy fishing this year, last year's heat wave probably killed a lot of fish (70 water temp = unhappy trout)
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Great video! Thanks for sharing!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    The bugs in June are indeed pretty heinous... Not bad at all in July though.

    Alagnak had similarly crappy fishing this year, last year's heat wave probably killed a lot of fish (70 water temp = unhappy trout)
    The way bugs work generally out here (and probably the same in similar lattitudes )is June=mosquitoes, July=black flies and half mosquitoes, August=no see ums, half the blackflies and the first half of whitesox, Sept=mass amounts of whitesox.

    Late Moose season was the first decent weather Bristol Bay has seen all summer, I'm no entomologist but the whitesox were the absolute worst I've seen out here, all the way into late Sept. once the sun came up. Could be all the water available, or them just making up for lost time with the cool wet summer, I dunno, but they were brutal. Otherwise, the bugs were pretty kind out here this summer, plenty of mosquitoes at first but once the daily highs were under 55 for the better part of the summer (and often in the 40's) there were few bugs around (not that you would want to stand outside very long in the deluge that was the summer. Also, in the fall we get some pretty impressive hatches of gnats that some bite,some don't, but they all like to hang in your eyes and ears. I broke out my headnet for the first time in 5 years this year.

    Not sure the Alagnak fishing was really a product of warm water, rainbows don't have big brains but they do have a huge survival instinct, to which I doubt they'd stick around and die in warm water when there are plenty of temperature refuges within any given river system, especially one as large as the Alagnak. Salmon....that I'd believe, they have a different driver and no expectation of survival, resident fishes however will find a way.

    It's easy to look at a point source idea for declines in a fish population but just like blaming bycatch for all the king woes, it's only part of the puzzle, and likely more about population dynamics and cycles. Rarely would last year's conditions spell this year's population status, it's more likely that it goes back to the conditions that spawning and rearing encountered 3-6 years ago. It's hard to knock down adult resident fish, juvies on the other hand are pretty sensitive.

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    Good reply, sounds like you keep pretty good track of what is going on your local rivers. Biologist maybe? Was it just the east side rivers that had sub-par rainbow fishing this year or do you think it is it a wider trend reaching across western AK?

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    Not sure it can be an east vs west thing. Although the Kvichak, Naknek, and Alagnak were not so hot this year, there's good reports from Lower Talarik that the big ones are around again (been pretty hit or miss for the past 7-8 years compared to the days that made it so famous.) and it's only 20-30 miles from the Kvichak. Same story for the Copper and Newhalen, they were good this year too.

    Even here in Dillingham, the Agulowak had an amazing year, I caught more twenty inch plus rainbows there than I ever have and even a few up to 24. The next one up (Agulukpak) is more known for big fish, but my annual run for swinging flesh in mid Sept. (a post moose season cooldown run, and a sixty mile boatride...one way) was fair at best with only one nice fish (25 at best) and a scattering of 18-22 inch fish.....should have been lots more fish in the 22-27 inch range, last year it was 3 to 4 fish per hour with nothing under 20 and several over 26. (however, the grayling fishing was fantastic...a real treat on dries). I haven't heard any grumbles from those who fish the west side (Togiak,Goodnews, Arolik, Kanektok) which usually means it's pretty good. (saw a good report on this site late this summer on the Togiak). By and large it was a decent season out here (barring the weather), just slow for some of the bigger east side rivers.

    What it comes down to is that rainbows have a max age for the most part of ten years in this area (Bristol Bay)...most live less. So they grow fast, they start to spawn....and that starts to increase mortality dramatically and slow their growth. So when you see or hear of a year when it's gangbusters for bif fish, it's unlikely it will continue for long. However if someone complains of shaking dinks off every 4 casts....put up money for a trip there in a few years and reap the benefits of a strong year class. What drives the year class stuff is tough, it can be as direct as temperature or predation, or as convoluted as stuff related to their density and limited food supplies or hiding habitat (i.e. too many little ones for what the area can support). But, there is probably little we can change, compared to other areas that have WAAAAAY more use and harvest and SEVERE habitat issues....Bristol Bay is rather pristine and these fluctuations have probably happened forever.

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    did you really say no large fish were landed? i dont believe that for a second... every one of those fish were trophies to most people... gettin kinda greedy if you cant say those are large bows.. imo

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    My experience is on the Kvichak River and the last ten years specifically. The last two years have been slower with numbers of the 28-30 inch age class fish. Now I have limited discussions with other lodges but they seem to share my findings. As far as the last two years, we on the Kvichak have experienced a drastically low in-river sockeye spawning compared to the previous 8 years. I have a theory on this... with the escapement being up for sockeye on the Kvichak River the commercial fishery has been allowed to fish the Kvichak District later in the season. I believe that the in-river spawning run is the later arrivals to the river. That puts these fish making their push into the river later in the season and in the district when the drifting fleet has access to them. They are also late enough to not be counted via the aerial surveys that most likely stopped because the minimum escapement has been met. These fish also don't make it past the tower so they don't show up on those reports. Now I have not visited with ADF&G about this but it is what I have observed personally.

    So with the last two years being very low sockeye spawn in river the bead fishing has been slower and the larger fish being spread out. The last ten years have spoiled us on the Kvichak with very large spawning beds and good numbers of trout.

    I have to agree with what I perceive aktyler's point in the last post. I personally dislike the 30" search. I have seen many fishers disrespect a very nice fish (25+) because they wanted to get it off and get back for the 30. All my fish that swim in the Kvichak are awesome and deserve respect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by George Riddle View Post
    My experience is on the Kvichak River and the last ten years specifically. The last two years have been slower with numbers of the 28-30 inch age class fish. Now I have limited discussions with other lodges but they seem to share my findings. As far as the last two years, we on the Kvichak have experienced a drastically low in-river sockeye spawning compared to the previous 8 years. I have a theory on this... with the escapement being up for sockeye on the Kvichak River the commercial fishery has been allowed to fish the Kvichak District later in the season. I believe that the in-river spawning run is the later arrivals to the river. That puts these fish making their push into the river later in the season and in the district when the drifting fleet has access to them. They are also late enough to not be counted via the aerial surveys that most likely stopped because the minimum escapement has been met. These fish also don't make it past the tower so they don't show up on those reports. Now I have not visited with ADF&G about this but it is what I have observed personally.
    George, I think you are on to something here, it is very likely that river spawners are genetically distinct from trib spawners, and they do not show up in the tower counts. Slim does fly surveys through coho season so they are counted. This is a good idea for further study.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Certainly, big fish is in the eyes of the beholder and those Naknek fish were nothing to sneeze at. However, coming off the Kenai leg of the trip, where around 30 bows over 28" were landed, and comparing to the Naknek where zero were landed, the contrast is pretty stark. And 28" is my personal benchmark for a big fish, since most 28" will go around 10 pounds. And I will gladly take a 25" fish any day of the week! And I do agree with George's theory about late escapement runs getting pounded into extinction, with that resulting in fewer large in-river bows to be found. One of the largest contrasts I have noted between the Kvichak, Naknek, and Kenai, is that the Kenai consistently has a lot of in river spawning salmon, and tons more food available to support big bows than either the Nak or Kweej.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorcalBob View Post
    Certainly, big fish is in the eyes of the beholder and those Naknek fish were nothing to sneeze at. However, coming off the Kenai leg of the trip, where around 30 bows over 28" were landed, and comparing to the Naknek where zero were landed, the contrast is pretty stark. And 28" is my personal benchmark for a big fish, since most 28" will go around 10 pounds. And I will gladly take a 25" fish any day of the week! And I do agree with George's theory about late escapement runs getting pounded into extinction, with that resulting in fewer large in-river bows to be found. One of the largest contrasts I have noted between the Kvichak, Naknek, and Kenai, is that the Kenai consistently has a lot of in river spawning salmon, and tons more food available to support big bows than either the Nak or Kweej.
    Naknek and Kvichak definately fish better in the spring when the lake fish (steelhead if you are in the great lakes ) are around feasting on smolt. Now the tribs, that's a different story.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    There are at least three distinct sockeye genetics as told to me by a past client whose company tags fry from a hatchery. The three distinct characteristics are sockeye that spawn in waters flowing into a lake, those spawn in waters flowing out of a lake and those spawning in lakes themselves. I have talked with guides that fish sockeye beds in flowing water that do not have a lake involved but I have no ideas on that. This is important for hatcheries as when they put the newly hatched fishes into water they need to know how they are genetically programmed to find the nursery.

    Powder Monkey, if Slim is flying surveys for Coho he is a little late for using in-river sockeye info for management of that year's fleet.

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    AKPM, you're third party info is again unwarranted. Swinging 4 inch flesh flies or deaddrifting beads in late Sept or early Oct on either the Kvichak or Naknek is like to be at least as good and likely better (due to more active fish, better overall condition and warmer water temperatures in the fall. It is unlikely that you have fished either season on either river. And a man on the ground such as Mr. Riddle certainly knows much more intimately the nuances of the seasons...but again, we are on the internet.

    Regarding the sockeye genetics, it's not as much a genetic difference between the three life histories of sockeye salmon spawning tactics but adaptations by different populations (although they are certainly genetically distinguishable). Even among lake spawners within the Wood River system near Dillingham, genetics can parse out the different populations even within the same lake. However, you cannot take a grab bag of genetic material from different populations, throw them in the million dollar machine that does genetic markers and pull out what is a lake vs river fish etc. (unless you have a baseline of data from those said populations, and then you would only know the differences because of where you got your original genetic data...so it's actually a chicken or the egg scenario)

    Why such a company would need to know where their brood stock comes from is so that they can match their scenario of return, certainly, but there are big size differences between the life histories you mention and that likely is more important so that they aren't spawning dinky little trib spawners for harvest. The fidelity salmon display in returning to where they were born (or imprinted during their earliest days by holding them in hatchery effluent water) is based more on their memory of their youth coupled with their increased olfactory abilities as they reach maturity than genetics, but this hasn't all been completely worked out to the letter. The reasons that hatcheries worked in the first place is that they found out they could take fish from one place, spawn them in a bucket...incubate them in a hatchery, and then "imprint" them with the smell (water is amazingly unique from place to place) of water from where they wished them to return. If it was most strongly genetic, a fish taken from the frazier river in BC then trucked as eggs and imprinted in the Kasilof will more likely return to the Frazier, however this is not the case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by George Riddle View Post
    There are at least three distinct sockeye genetics as told to me by a past client whose company tags fry from a hatchery. The three distinct characteristics are sockeye that spawn in waters flowing into a lake, those spawn in waters flowing out of a lake and those spawning in lakes themselves. I have talked with guides that fish sockeye beds in flowing water that do not have a lake involved but I have no ideas on that. This is important for hatcheries as when they put the newly hatched fishes into water they need to know how they are genetically programmed to find the nursery.

    Powder Monkey, if Slim is flying surveys for Coho he is a little late for using in-river sockeye info for management of that year's fleet.
    Sockeye in systems without lakes, or that don't utilize lakes generally are called "ocean type" as they go strait to the ocean, they are of special concern to fisheries managers because they cannot withstand as high of an exploitation rate, if there are ocean type and lake type fish in a system the ocean type can be over exploited and the lake type can be booming.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorcalBob View Post
    However, coming off the Kenai leg of the trip, where around 30 bows over 28" were landed...

    Got any pictures? Would love to see them.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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