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World Class King Salmon Fishing on the Nushagak River

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The Nushagak River in Southwest Alaska has one of the most prolific King Salmon runs in the state. The numbers of King Salmon that run up this river system to spawn are measured to be at over 100,000 fish almost annually, with some years capping out at a whopping 165,000 kings! This total makes the river system the strongest king salmon run in the world. The Nushagak River is one of the largest rivers that flow into Bristol Bay. From it's origins way up in the Alaska Range, it flows southwest for some 280 miles to Nushagak Bay, which then turns into Bristol Bay. Along its path, there are several tributaries and lakes that these salmon navigate to where they will spawn.

When do the King Salmon run on the Nushagak River?

The King Salmon run starts in mid June and runs through mid July. The peak tides of this run will have several thousand King Salmon passing through the tidewater section fresh from the salt, chrome bright, and very aggressive to hit both flies and lures. This river has some tides that will have more than 7,000 kings pass the sonar on one tide, surpassing some rivers total run of king salmon for the year! This huge amount of king salmon is what attracts so many anglers to this incredible fishery for some of if not the best success ratios on king salmon anywhere.

Trophy King Salmon
Trophy King Salmon caught with Angler's Alibi

Fishing the Nushagak River for Trophy King Salmon

The methods used to catch these Nushagak River King Salmon include trolling spinner baits, drifting egg patterns, and swinging flies over shallow areas and gravel bars where the kings are traveling up the river or holding for a brief period of time. The Nushagak Kings will average close to 20 pounds a piece so will provide quite a thrill not matter what method is used to harvest or release these kings.

The weather during this short season is usually pretty fair with highs in the low 70's and lows in the upper 40's. You must always pack for layering and be prepared for cold wet days with waterproof rain jackets and pants. For the fly anglers, please wear breathable waders and have a light and heavy fleece under pant to adjust to cold and warm days. A layering system with synthetic shirts or wool blends are best.

King Salmon Flies

My favorite fly patterns for these tidewater kings are patterns imitating herring and squid. The number one color we go to is by far Chartreuse or bright green. This color with blue or black and even purple is a deadly combination to kings just entering the river fresh from the ocean. We will also use pink and orange combinations imitating squid that have a solid history of crushing kings. The one thing all these patterns will have is a trailing hook since the salmon tend to bite flies a little light sometimes so a trailing hook tends to do a much better job of hooking the kings. The intruder style flies and string leech patterns are the ticket for kings.

About the Author: John Perry

Owner: Angler's Alibi Lodge - Alaska

John Perry, originally from Michigan, began his guiding career in Colorado in the early 90's. It was here that he met fellow guide and now lodge manager/head guide TR Rafferty. TR left Colorado to guide in Bristol Bay Alaska, and came back with a summer worth of pictures and stories that that John could not imagine living. Two summers later after teaching fly fishing classes and guiding all over Colorado for trout, a guiding job opened up for John to come up and guide at a new small lodge called Angler's Alibi. It is here that John met the original owner Karl Storath. John worked for Karl through the year 2000. After life had it's changes with marriage and the need for a more year round career, John left Alaska but told Karl that he would love the opportunity to buy it when he was ready to retire. In 2007, John came back to Angler's and the change of leadership began as well. Today John is the owner of Angler's Alibi, and lives in Colorado in the off-season raising 2 boys Grey and River Perry with his wife Holly.

To learn more about Angler's Alibi Lodge visit or email John at

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