2021 Coho Salmon Report

2021 coho salmon report

The 2021 coho salmon report in Yakutat is encouraging. Coho began to arrive in Yakutat Bay in late July and were found in fishable numbers in early August. Saltwater anglers found fish near Kahntaak Island, Ocean Cape and in Monti Bay. Anglers brought fish to hand by trolling spoons, hoochies and herring, all behind a flasher. 

As the month progressed, coho numbers increased in the salt and they also began to enter the Situk River. An “atmospheric river” entered the area in the second week of August, making both ocean and river fishing very difficult. While anglers were able to fish in the ocean on the better weather days during that week, the river was completely blown out. Reaching historic levels, the logjams that are found throughout the river were rearranged and blocked the river in spots, making it necessary for the crew at Yakutat Lodge to head out and cut opening in the logjams to permit boat traffic. Once that was all behind them, Yakutat Lodge guides and clients could begin to target silver salmon again in the Situk.

By mid-August, the 2021 coho salmon report continued to improve as numbers of fish increased in the river and schools of coho were more readily found in the saltwater. That’s a good time to start mooching for silvers and is a very fun and interactive way to land a saltwater coho. Once the river settled back down after the flood, coho began to stream in. The key then was to avoid hooking pinks while targeting fresh coho. 

Looking further into August, the 2021 coho salmon report continued to improve. Ocean-catch-rates were excellent and when water conditions were right in the river, basically when the river wasn’t swelling from rain, then anglers experienced good action. Boat anglers had the benefit of picking fishable spots, while wading anglers were less fortunate in battling high-water conditions. 

By the beginning of September, coho fishing was in high gear in the freshwater. While coho still remained in the saltwater, the Yakutat area 2021 coho fishing report reinforced that the freshwater now had fishable numbers throughout the region. Periodic rains continued to make the river rise, which hindered coho fishing to some degree. But fishing remained good in both the saltwater and in the freshwaters of the region during the beginning of the month.

As September reached it’s culmination, coho could be found throughout the river and the largest specimens of the year were caught. Coho fishing in the saltwater began to substantially decline, so the majority of activity revolving around coho took place in the freshwater in rivers like the Situk and Lost, as well as Tawah Creek. So the 2021 coho fishing report can be summarized as a year of quality fishing, bisected by a serious high-water event. 

Also be sure to check out the 2021 steelhead fishing report.

Situk Steelhead Report 2021

Situk Steelhead Report and Saltwater Update

The Yakutat Lodge Fishing Report April 28th, 2021

2021 Situk River Steelhead Opening
Situk steelhead report

Heavy snow and cold weather really threw a wrench at us this spring. We opened the lodge and then got pounded with 4 feet of snow on top of the 4- to 5 feet already on the ground. Sadly that put the brakes on our Spring run. But, thankfully following a solid rain, we’ve had nothing but beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine which has all but melted the most stubborn layers of ice and snow. The upper stretch from 9 Mile to the Sanctuary is producing solid numbers of dark winter fish so we know the lake has at least iced out at the mouth and fish are freely coming and going from the headwaters. Fresh fish, however, seem to be in a stalemate with the weather. While the warmer weather has increased the surface temperatures during the day, we still are struggling to see nighttime water temps above 37 degrees. That does not bode well for the Situk steelhead report and those fish looking to make their annual trek back to their spawning habitat. Who can blame them? I’d rather be sipping umbrella drinks in a warmer climate myself.

Situk Lake trail is still snowed in so the only access is the death march from 9-Mile Bridge. We’re also still missing what seems to be an entire run of cutthroat trout and our annual spring return of Dolly Varden, another indication that water temp is not quite right yet. With the snow melt, water levels are hovering above 220 CFS and should head right back up into the high 200’s or low 300’s for the next week or so. There is more than enough snow and ice in the mountains to keep up good water levels through June. 

We are starting to see in the past few days a general increase in the amount of fresh fish moving into the river system. I am no wizard at predicting runs, but historically the last week of April and first weeks of May are when the run peaks out. I’m predicting that we are just seeing a late run and as the water temperature continues to rise, we should see an influx of fresh steelhead to the river system in the coming weeks for an improved Situk steelhead report.

The weather over the next several days is expected to be cloudy and bring some rain. It is not enough for a famous Situk blowout, but still enough to melt the remainder of the snow on the banks. Hopefully warmer waters, instead of the dramatic temperature swings we have been seeing, should leave us with a good month of solid Situk steelhead reports. River traffic seems to be thinning out a little but it’s still pretty busy out there, so please remember to practice good river etiquette while floating or walking. 

Yakutat Bay Saltwater Fishery
Situk steelhead report and saltwater

When the Situk steelhead report is less than stellar, or you just need a break from working the water, The Yakutat Lodge’s Happy Hooker Charter Fleet is raring to go and has been for the past couple weeks. Bottom fishing has been very consistent, and many clients are leaving from their steelhead trips with a bonus box of big fat halibut and king Salmon fillets. It is the best of both worlds. While sunshine makes for tough fishing for steelhead, fish at 80 to 150 feet off the bottom of the ocean cannot tell the difference. It’s still early in the season, but the halibut bite has been very productive with multiple fish landed this week in the 80 to 120-pound range. King salmon have also been very productive either trolling or drifting jigs over kelp beds. It is tough to beat an ocean-fresh king slamming a jig and trying to run away with it. While the herring spawn is now in full swing, we should be seeing a continuous and solid catch rate. Non-resident limits are still one king per day with a two-fish annual limit. Charter halibut retention remains closed on Wednesdays and daily limits are two (one fish any size and one fish 32 inches or less) with no annual limits this year. Black rock fish are plentiful and fat this year, but demersal slope rockfish (yelloweye, china, quillbacks, tigers and copper) remain closed for the 2021 sportfishing season.

There is nothing better than a combination trip that includes freshwater and saltwater opportunities. We still have a few last minute reservations available so give us a shout at 1-800-925-8828 or email fish@yakutatlodge.com.

Alaska salmon fishing: Sockeye and Saltwater

Alaska salmon fishingAlaska salmon fishing in Yakutat is simply awesome. For much of the season, anglers have their choice to catch salmon in the Situk River, as well as in the saltwater of Yakutat Bay. The first salmon species that we target in the Situk is sockeye. Also known as red salmon, they are considered by many to be pound for pound the strongest of all five Pacific salmon species. For many people, the deep-red, lean fillets are their favorite over the other Pacific salmon species. Alaska salmon fishing is just plain fun, and when you can also enjoy delicious meals throughout the year, then it’s no wonder why sockeye fishing on the Situk River is so popular.

Our expert guides have figured out a rigging that works perfectly in the Situk and will allow you to hook and fight lots of sockeye. If you haven’t fished for sockeye yet, be prepared for some amazing aerial displays, high-speed maneuvers, and line-sizzling runs. They can be hard to land when you are first learning to fish for them, and on the Situk you’ll get lots of practice and have lots of success.

You can partner your Alaska salmon fishing experience with a trip into the saltwater to fish for halibut, lingcod and rockfish. These white-meat species are all delicious to eat and exhilarating to catch. When a 50-pound halibut inhales your bait and bends the rod into the handle, you’ll get a feel for the power of these flatfish. When you hook into a lingcod and wage battle against this toothy predator, you’ll not only be amazed at their strength, but also their bucket mouth full of sharp teeth. When we find a school of black rockfish and everyone is hooked up simultaneously, the big smiles all around the boat tell the story. Back at home, you’ll be grinning while you eat rockfish tacos.

The possibilities for Alaska salmon fishing in the saltwater are also strong. In many years, we are able to troll for kings during this period. King salmon fishing in Yakutat has been good for the last several years, and many fine kings have made their way into the fish box. Alaska salmon fishing in the Situk and in the saltwater, add in a trip for bottomfish to target multiple species, and then come back and enjoy our good food and accommodations. Book your plane ticket to Yakutat and come get in on this amazing action!

Please check out our Packages Page for more information

Tips on Traveling to Alaska

Tips on traveling to alaska during covid.

Traveling to Alaska is currently more challenging than it used to be, but it is still achievable. 2020 was an odd year. At first, at-home quarantining was the norm, so lodges were not able to open on time. As the world learned more about the pandemic, lodges were able to develop plans to keep guests and staff safe, and eventually, we were able to open. As the season progressed, it became obvious that traveling to Alaska was possible and with the proper precautions, could be done safely. Here are some tips for you to consider when planning your trip to Yakutat Lodge this year, as well as things to consider while traveling to Alaska and back home again. For the most up-to-date information on current travel restrictions, visit https://covid19.alaska.gov/travelers/.

The first hurdle for clients at Yakutat Lodge in 2020 was getting a COVID test and results back in time. Visitors are required to take a COVID test within 72 hours (or less) of entering Alaska and optimally should have negative results in hand before flying. At first, your family doctor could administer the test, and in many cases, results could be obtained in time. As the year progressed, test supplies were in high demand, and family practitioners no longer had tests to administer. One of our repeat clients pointed out that in his area of SW Washington, Walgreens had a location where a drive-up test could be scheduled about a week in advance and the results were available within a few hours. So our first suggestion is to look for a similar resource in your area. It’s important to locate a testing center where you feel confident that you will get the results back in time. Another resource to consider is an at-home test.

The state of Alaska recommends the following companies for at-home test kits:

https://www.pixel.labcorp.com

https://www.everlywell.com/products/covid-19-test/

https://www.vaulthealth.com/covid

https://www.picturegenetics.com/covid19

https://thecovidconsultants.com/#pcr

https://www.immunitirx.com

https://www.azovahealth.com/covid_testing_for_patients.html

*Check with these companies to see who can deliver results within the timeframe required.

Part of traveling to Alaska involves establishing a Quarantine Plan. Some travelers will choose to take tests and travel to Alaska without the results. If you do this and a positive test is returned, then you will need to quarantine yourself for 14 days at your expense. So think about where you will do that. Others traveling to Alaska are tested at the airport for $250. These clients must quarantine until the results are returned. Currently, the state of Alaska is offering tests at most airports, including ours, and they use the PCR swab test, so results can take up to 72 hours and travelers must quarantine until they get results.

Practicing social distancing and wearing masks are two ways to reduce exposure and the spread of COVID. Keep six feet apart from others that aren’t part of your circle.

Now more than ever it’s important to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, try your best not to touch your face unless you have just washed your hands or used hand sanitizer. Bring a travel-size hand sanitizer bottle with you wherever you go.
Keep your social circle small. As much as you want to meet others also traveling to Alaska when you come to our lodge, it’s for the best that you restrict the majority of your interaction to those in your group.

Anglers traveling to Alaska are required to fill out the Travel Declaration here https://www.alaska.covidsecureapp.com/. This is also the place where you upload your negative test results. It’s quick and easy to fill this out and will speed up getting clearance into Alaska once you have landed. Bring a paper copy as a backup when traveling to Alaska just to be safe.

2021 is sure to be a great year at Yakutat Lodge. Using the tips outlined above will make traveling to Alaska a little easier. And let’s face it, when you have a bent rod in your hands, a strong fish on the line, and a big smile on your face, then the hurdles of traveling to Alaska will seem a lot smaller.

Rockfish: A Black Bass Bonanza

Rockfish: A Black Bass Bonanza
angler holding black rockfish

 

We’d already had an epic day on the water catching big halibut and wrestling with several stout, toothy lingcod. In search of silvers, we drifted in Yakutat Bay deploying metal jigs and cut-plug herring to entice some salty coho.

 

In the distance we spotted some bird activity, followed by several salmon jumping clear of the water. Quickly we retrieved our lines and raced to the spot. As soon as the iron hit the water, the rod bent. A few seconds later a black rockfish broke the surface, followed by several others. On the next drop, another black rockfish ate the bait and then all hell broke loose.

 

At least 50 of them came to the surface in a shower of spray. Action was non stop as the anglers aboard the Happy Hooker brought keeper black bass over the rail. The largest weighed five pounds. On one drop, a large black rockfish ate the jig, while another laid on top of it, trying to eat the jig from its mouth. It was a wide open black bass bite.We sent an underwater camera down and got a look at the massive school of black rockfish. What an amazing experience!

 

Black rockfish are a very common species of pelagic fish in Alaska. They are fun to catch on light tackle, are very good to eat and are widespread across the Greatland’s saltwater. Currently in Yakutat, non-pelagic rockfish must be released, so our healthy population of pelagic black rockfish allows us to target these fish when you go out on the saltwater while staying at Yakutat Lodge.

 

Now is a great time of year to visit Yakutat Lodge. You can fish for halibut, lingcod, black rockfish and silver salmon in Yakutat Bay, or head to the Situk River to fish for silvers and Dolly Varden char. We’ve got room for you, come out and experience what makes Yakutat Lodge one of the best lodges in the state of Alaska.

Alaska Lingcod Candy

alaska lingcod in yakutat

Alaska lingcod are an extraordinary sportfish. They attack bait and lures aggressively, they are both fearfully ugly and strangely handsome at the same moment, and they produce a snowy white fillet that rivals only halibut among the tastiest in the sea. Hook into a 30 pounder on a salmon rod and you’ll wonder who’s gonna win the ensuing tug-of-war.

Certain fish species are legal to use in southeast Alaska’s saltwaters for live bait. To quote from the southeast Alaska regulations, “Unless provided for in this section, fish taken under sport fishing regulations may not be used as bait, except:
– Herring, chum salmon, pink salmon, and whitefish may be used as bait, and:
– Species for which bag limits, seasons, or other regulatory methods and means are not provided in sport fishing regulations, as well as:
– The head, tail, fins, closely trimmed skeleton, and viscera of legally taken sport fish, may be used as bait.Live herring and other species for which no seasonal or harvest limits are specified in sport fishing regulations may be used as live bait, except that live fish may not be used as bait for sport fishing in fresh water.”

alaska lingcod candy

Based on these criteria, greenling are legal to use as live bait in the saltwater when fishing for Alaska lingcod. In a two-day window in the middle of August, we recently brought at least ten lingcod to the surface using a greenling as bait. It was AMAZING! None of the lingcod were actually hooked, each came as a hitchhiker attached to one of their favorite meals.

Drifting over the rock piles in Yakutat Bay, our goal was to first hook a greenling. Once we brought one over the rail, rigged it up and sent it down, the action nearly instantaneous. The trick for the angler was to maintain bottom and get the greenling a few turns off the bottom to avoid snagging in the very grabby structure. Once there, gently jigging the greenling brought on the attack. Several times several lingcod came to the surface together. Often, a lingcod would let go halfway up, only to come right back and clamp on.

On one of the drops, a particularly big fish grabbed the bait. We thought Brian was fighting a giant Alaska lingcod. After an epic ten-minute battle, a 60-pound-plus halibut emerged from the cloudy depths, clamped down on the greenling. Like all the lingcod, that fish never felt the sting of the hook, as the greenling candy was enough to keep them latched on tight.

There’s something particularly natural being part of the big fish eating the little fish food chain.
Head out to Yakutat Lodge now and catch giant halibut, snarly lingcod, black rockfish and coho. Silvers are being caught in the Situk River and in Yakutat Bay. There’s plenty of room and great fishing to be had.

Fall Fishing Report 2020

Fall Fishing Report

As of 8/15/20, fishing at Yakutat Lodge continues to heat up. Halibut, lingcod and rockfish are abundant in Yakutat Bay and over the last week we boated many excellent fish. Halibut are biting jigs and bait fished just off sandy bottoms. Drifts over rock piles are yielding solid lingcod and black rockfish. The key to success is line management and fishing near the bottom, but keeping the jig off the bottom so as to avoid snagging up.


Coho fishing in the saltwater has been spotty so far, so we expect that fishery to pick up through the month. Once silvers are found in catchable numbers, then mooching for coho in the salt can yield lots of action, and big piles of succulent coho fillets.

Pinks are thick in the Situk River and make for great action. They are in prime chrome shape, love to eat pink lures and can be caught in large numbers. There are some big pinks in the river right now. This makes for a fantastic family fishery and is worth noting in this fall fishing report.

Coho are beginning to enter the river and limits are being caught on each trip, with the volume of coho increasing as you drift downriver. Spinners with grub tails, twitching jigs, and Dolly Llama fly patterns are producing quality fish. Fishing for coho on the river will continue to rapidly escalate.
Dolly Varden char are abundant and can be targeted behind schools of salmon. A bead dead-drifted to a group of dollies will usually elicit a bite. It’s a lot of fun to pick out an individual Dolly and try to catch it. Good polarized sunglasses with amber / copper lenses are a solid choice and critical to helping you pick out fish to target.


A trip to Yakutat Lodge this time of year allows you to capture a bounty of bottomfish and salmon, and experience both the river and the ocean. The fall fishing report will remain good until the end of September, come out and enjoy fall with us! To learn about steelhead fishing this spring or how the season has been the rest of this summer check out our blog.

Jigging for Halibut: The Jig Life

Jigging for Halibut: The Jig Life
By Marcus Weiner

jigging for halibut

Jigging for halibut is one of my favorite things to do. I’m that guy on the halibut boat that rarely puts his rod down, except when traveling from spot to spot, or when taking fish pictures. Yo-ho-ho, it’s the jig life for me. 

Most anglers have the sense to bait a circle hook, drop it to the bottom, reel up a few turns and put it in the rod holder. They enjoy the fruits of interesting conversation, spotting marine mammals, enjoying the epic scenery and enjoying a relaxing day on the water. Some even take a nap and wait for a bent rod before waking.

Not me.

There’s something utterly satisfying in thumping a jig off the bottom of the ocean. I can envision the sound wave traveling far and drawing halibut from distance. Often, especially with big, lead-head jigs with magnum grub tails, I’ll add a chunk of herring and disperse some scent. Slather the jig in sauce, and my choice is Pro Cure’s Butt Juice Super Gel, drop that bad boy to the bottom, and begin to call in the flatfish. 

Once the work of bringing them to the scent has ended and there are ‘butts under the boat, then the jig really shows off.  Magnum grub tails ripple in the current and truly look alive. Try fishing one once the tail has been bitten off and you won’t scratch a fish. Add a fresh tail and hold on tight. On the upstroke or downstroke, halibut often display apex predator tendencies with the intent of eating that live critter that just happens to be your jig. 

Having the rod in your hands, working your lure to make it look alive, feeling the bite, missing and nailing some, fighting fish of all sizes and occasionally losing them when the hook wallows a hole or you momentarily lose tension, is all part of the jig addiction. And in my experience, jig rods in the hands of focused jiggers will usually catch more fish than bait rods. 

jigging for halibut rod and jig

I just spent five days jigging for bottomfish at Yakutat Lodge and got home 13 hours ago. I brought a Santiam two-piece halibut travel rod, Okuma Metalloid 5 reel spooled with 300 yards of KastKing KastPro 80-pound-test braided line, a box of jigs including 8-ounce Ahi USA Live Deception and 10-ounce Kodiak Custom Bottomfish Jigs, some Eagle Claw Trokar Pro V Octopus 8/0 hooks, split rings, Sampo swivels, split ring pliers, KastKing braid scissors and Pro-Cure Super Gels (Octopus, Saltwater Formula, Butt Juice and Herring). I mixed in a 12-ounce leadhead jig with green, motor oil or glow grub tails, and the game was on!

Jigging for Halibut with Kodiak Custom Bottomfish Jigs were the star of the show. I landed the biggest fish of the trip, scaling around 90 pounds, on a 10-ounce with a white and blue hootchie skirt. The next day, this same jig was on my rod, sitting in the rod holder a few cranks off the bottom while I was taking pictures of a big, bruiser lingcod that Brian landed. The motion of the boat moved the jig, my rod buckled over with the force of a big halibut, and Kraig had his hands full for the next 15 minutes until the rowdy brute broke the line. That might have been the biggest fish of the trip. 

The most memorable was the last. Brian had brought a solid 35-pounder to the surface and was taking underwater pictures of it with his Osmo Pocket in a waterproof case. Instead of reeling in and clearing the deck, I kept jigging. Two minutes later the rod bent and a 70-pounder emerged from the depths on a 10-ounce Kodiak Custom Bottomfish Jig with a pink hootchie skirt. We ended the trip with a great fish and underwater pics of the two halibut together. 

If you like to jigging for halibut and want to catch some lingcod, rockfish and salmon, pack your bags and head to Yakutat Lodge. The season is ramping up to an epic conclusion as silvers begin to flood into Yakutat Bay and add to the bounty of bottomfish waiting for jiggers to stick. Come out in mid August and you’ll find me in my usual spot, one of the back corners on the stern, bouncing bottom and living the jig life. 

2020 Yakutat Fishing Report

2020 Yakutat fishing reportYakutat Lodge Fishing Report: July 4th, 2020

Hi all, we’re excited to bring you an updated 2020 Yakutat fishing report for the Situk River and Yakutat Bay. It’s been a hell of a summer so far with some challenges and hurdles that we are overcoming, but damn, the fishing has been good lately! Guests are hooking into big ocean-fresh king salmon and wild sockeye. The sockeye had us worried there for a bit, but just like steelhead season, we had a really slow start that kept on building. The sockeye were about two weeks late to show, but are now here in big numbers. The last count showed just over 17,000 sockeye and 300+ large kings with more behind them. The lower river is seeing some pressure from sport fishermen but the upper and middle have little to no pressure and with sockeye distributed throughout the entire system, it is making for easy pickings for our clients who are floating or enjoying a nice hike above 9-mile bridge. The fish this year so far have been on the smaller size but as the days go by the average size coming over the weir is increasing and hopefully by our next 2020 Yakutat fishing report we will start seeing those 6- to 9-pounders we are used to in really big numbers. Kings remain closed on the Situk however this year we are seeing more big fish than we have seen in several years by this time, and ADF&G is optimistic they will reach the short end of escapement this year. Dolly Varden and rainbow trout remain a bit on the elusive side this season so far, but if you’re willing to put in the work and effort, several can be brought to hand on a daily basis.

Water levels are finally beginning to drop as the mountain runoff begins to slow with the summer weather. It was a wetter June than we have been used to seeing in the past couple of years and river levels have remained in the low 200s for most of the month which makes for a nice easy row but as mentioned before, the river is slowly dropping down to our average summer flows. Sockeye daily limits remain at three for the time being but, if we continue the trend of numbers we’re seeing we may be in for bag-limit increases.

Now onto the salt 2020 Yakutat fishing report.

Yakutat is known worldwide for the Situk River, but many people do not know that Yakutat Bay hosts one of the finest saltwater fisheries in Alaska. We have been running two boats almost daily for the past few weeks, and with Captains Larry and Jeff at the helm you can be guaranteed a fantastic day. Halibut fishing has been very good and clients have been finishing up with the ‘butts in the early mornings, giving them plenty of time to focus on the other species such as king salmon, lingcod and black rockfish. King salmon fishing has been absolutely incredible in the bay this year. Guests are typically bringing home a few every day and with the insane amount of feed available in the bay this year, they are coming across the dock nice and fat. The lings have been pretty chompy lately. One of our groups brought back a limit of 50-inch-plus lings just yesterday! As we advance further into the summer we can only expect things to get better by the day.

As a reminder, all guests arriving from out of state are still required to arrive with proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel. Reports from our clients who have joined us so far this year have said that the travel end was pretty seamless and finding testing sites is getting easier by the day. The state of Alaska has a website—COVID19.ALASKA.GOV—that can answer all your questions about travel in detail as well as an interactive map showing all the testing sites located near you. If you’re looking for a break from the craziness in the world, remember we’re just a short flight out of Seattle away and we would love to have you come join in the fun with us this summer.

Kraig Holdren

Steelhead Fishing Report: Once in a Lifetime

steelhead fishing report

Written by Kraig Holdren

The steelhead fishing report for the Situk River has thousands of anglers traveling from all over the world to have an opportunity to get their hand at those numbers. Every guide has wondered what it would be like to have their own steelhead stream to themselves. Don’t get me wrong, as guides we love what we do. We love to teach and share our passions with others, but in reality, we would all rather be just fishing. 

Steelhead Fishing Report situk river alaska

As we all know, the pandemic caused by the coronavirus has affected us all in many different ways. For us in Yakutat it was a hell of a crushing blow. Steelhead fishing on the Situk is world renowned, and anglers from all over the state, country and world visit Yakutat each year to take advantage of its crystal-clear waters and rich run of native steelhead. Due to the fear of spreading the virus the State of Alaska quickly instituted a travel ban which not only affected our out-of-state clients but also our in-state anglers as well. That, coupled with The City of Yakutat’s mandatory quarantine, pretty much made it impossible for anyone anywhere to fish here, except a few local fishermen who made the best of a shitty situation. I wanted to write this article as a way of answering that same question that I think every guide and client has asked: “What would it be like to have the Situk River all to yourself?” Well, let me tell you…It was good. 

As a full-time resident of Yakutat, I get to take many liberties that others do not–opportunitiesthat some may never be presented or in which others may not be interested. One of those opportunities is year-round access to the Situk River, however, this year was different. 

Yakutat’s winter was a doozy. The past several years the winters have been mild. Maybe a couple weeks a year the roads got snowed in but for the most part I’ve been able to fish almost year-round. Not this year. From about December 15th until the early days of February it snowed…and snowed and snowed some more. There were not accurate counts because of power outages and other bush problems, but I’d say we got between seven and nine feet of snow in about eight weeks. That’s a lot. There were days towards the end when I was buried up past the doors of the plow truck and cursing Mother Nature. However, I was excited about the one thing–lots of snow brings lots of runoff which means perfect water conditions all steelhead season on the Situk. 

I typically would travel to the 9-mile bridge about every other day by snow machine to check my trap line and look for fish. On February 14th, I was pulling my line as the snow had overcome my sets and I was tired of post-holing for empty traps. Standing on the bridge I could see that all-too-familiar shadow—a glimpse of a steelhead! I raced home, grabbed a float rod rigged with a peach-colored jig, bungeed it to my sled and raced back to the river. 

Steelhead Fishing Report river guide expert

It was 25 degrees out and I was standing in knee-deep snow on top of a berm that is usually a thick rat’s nest of willow and alder. After adjusting my bobber knot, I let fly. The bobber drifted about two feet and disappeared. I was so shocked, I just stood there in wonderment; then up comes the bobber and down goes my self-image. After a few choice words of wisdom to myself and the cow moose on the adjacent bank, who I’m pretty sure was laughing at me for my mistake, I made another cast. The jig hit the water and the float disappeared again! This time I did not hesitate. If it was a lesser fish I think I would have pulled the jig through his skull, I set so hard. Boom! First fish of the season–a nice, chrome hen, nothing of notable size but a damn fine specimen. I didn’t get to fish much over the following 10 days or so due to work (I was getting ready to open the lodge). 

Anyone who has fished the Situk has seen the impressive log jams of ancient hemlock, spruce and cottonwood piled high like a giant version of pick-up sticks. This winter being as snow-laden as it was, I decided to get an early start on clearing the river. I talked to a couple of the other local guides and we planned to meet in the middle, me from the top down them from the bottom up. It takes a lot of work to cut holes in the logjams in that river, and this year was no different. At one point I cut over 10 trees in a ½-mile stretch of river, and the mountain of snow and ice buildup on top of them made it more work than usual…about three weeks, actually. During that time, I would cut, then fish my way back up river. 

During those three weeks I and a few of the other guys who were helping me out would see a fish here, a fish there, and they were all bitey but none were what I consider “fresh” or “spring” fish. Rather, they were the fall/winter run. It was not until we had cut our way down below the halfway point that we started catching the shiny ones. At this point I still had every intention of opening our doors April 1st and was so excited for our clients to show. The water temperatures were low, the water levels were very, very low as it had not warmed up enough yet for the snow to begin melting, but the fishing…The fishing was productive. 

Then along comes Mr. Corona and throws a ratchet in my gearbox. Travel bans and shutdowns forced us to extend our opening to May 1st. We were devastated to have to reach out to our clients and give them the bad news. At that point I and two of our guides who were now stuck in Yakutat had nothing better to do but fish. And fish we did. 

The first two weeks were indescribable. We always tell our clients that at the peak of the run the Situk will have about 500 fish per mile. Depending on water conditions, weather and thousands of other guide excuses, some days are incredible and some aren’t. Pressure has a lot to do with that which you can sometimes find on the steelhead fishing report. In a clear-water stream like the Situk the fish can see you just as well as you can see them and just like any steelhead, when you catch enough in one spot, they stop biting. With normal pressure on the Situk, you will average one or two hook-ups per mile; on a great day it could be many more. During those first two weeks, it was many, many more. Access to the river was still tough; trail fishing was out of the question due to snow and we were many times bulldogged by moose who were trapped in the river corridor. The poor critters really had nowhere to go, and many were pregnant cows. Due to the moose situation, we really only got to fish small sections at a time, but it didn’t matter. In fact, for the first few days we only fished from the takeout to about a mile above the weir. Some days we would go higher; others not so much. 

Weather was still barely getting above freezing and the water levels were painfully low. 12-pound fluorocarbon and 1/8-ounce jigs from Get M Dry or BnR worms were killing it. Doubles, triples and more–it was insane fishing! Make a cast…catch a fish. It was so good on some holes it seemed like it would never end. The fish were aggressive, powerful and plentiful. 

One day in particular stands out above the others. We were at a hole called Renny’s. It was early morning, cold, and the weather called for sun all day. Water levels were hovering around 85 or 90 cfs, which looks good on the steelhead fishing report. When we got on the beach, I fired in the first cast. BOOM! Fish on, fish gone. Then three casts and three fish. Then it was seven casts, seven fish and on and on and on. After seven back-to-back doubles, two triples and several more missed opportunities, we had spent two hours in one spot and had chances at over 40 fish and landed 20. I have never been a numbers guy, but that day will be burned into my memory forever and that was just one of the spots we fished that day. 

As the days got longer, and the temps warmed up the snow began to melt. The water levels were slowly on the rise and staying there (In fact, it’s May 14th as I am writing this, and the levels have not changed much). The water level reached the mid-300’s which is pretty much as perfect as it gets, and the water temperatures were perfect. Fish began pouring in the Situk, and we were taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Some days we fished 1 mile, somedays 10 miles and a couple times the whole 14. Some days were better than others. 

As the month dragged on so did the pandemic and we quickly realized that we would not be having a steelhead season here at The Yakutat Lodge. As we hesitantly decided to continue our closure into June, we continued our fish capades. 

During the final week of April and first weeks of May we slowed our approach. The steelhead fishing report recorded that the spawn started earlier than I had expected. During a normal season, every day we’d drift over a fish, that fish would run away and hide, then come back out to his chosen spot or redd and continue its business. Then along would come another boat and another and another each time the fish would swim off. Not this year. Undisturbed, I think these fish do their business and go when they have the ability to do so. It is now May 14th and the run has stalled. There are very few fresh fish in the river, and many are actually spawning or have completed spawning and have returned to the ocean to rebuild and repair the damages that spawning causes them. The snow is all but gone here at sea level. The moose have moved back to the shaded meadows and the bears are starting to prowl, hoping for a healthy run of salmon after such a harsh winter. The king salmon fishing is picking up in the bay and we are slowly gearing up to open June 18th in time for our annual sockeye run. 

I hope this article report has shed some light on the age-old question of “What if…?”