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…?”

 

Alaska Fishing Trip to Yakutat in June

alaska fishing trips to yakutat

Alaska fishing trip planned for June each year at Yakutat Lodge begets a saltwater fisherman’s paradise. The days are long, weather is about as good as it gets, it’s one of the driest months of the year in this southeast Alaska rainforest, and saltwater fishing is heating up. The steelhead have come and gone in the Situk River, king salmon are milling around Yakutat Bay, halibut can be found in numbers and bottom fishing for rockfish and lingcod is heating up. Your Alaska fishing trip at this time of the year puts you on a trajectory to experience hard-fighting saltwater fish, in protected and calm water, within 10 miles of the boat launch from Yakutat Lodge on the Bay. As the month continues, sockeye salmon begin to arrive in the Situk River, and anglers who want to float the Situk, or walk-in for DIY angling, will have their shot to fight chrome missiles who’s strength outpaces their size. All this can be had when you plan your Alaska fishing trip to Yakutat Lodge in June.

A normal day on the saltwater gives you the chance to catch multiple species of fish. If you are looking for bottomfish, then our experienced captions will take you to known hot-spots, anchor the boat and set you up to either jig lures or soak bait for bottom-dwelling halibut. These fish average from 30- to 40 pounds, with some eclipsing the 100-pound mark, are very strong, aggressive and will put any angler to the test. If you prefer to work a metal jig, then bouncing that jig off the bottom will serve to attract halibut and cause them to attack. At Yakutat Lodge, we are equipped to allow you to either jig or soak bait, and both will yield fish. Halibut are among the best-tasting fish in the Pacific Ocean, and in most cases, one of the rewards of your Alaska fishing trip is a box of tasty fillets to bring home to enjoy throughout the year.

Rockfish are another type of fish targeted by anglers at Yakutat Lodge. There are over 30 species of rockfish that swim in Alaska’s waters, and several species are caught in Yakutat Bay. They can be broken into two families – pelagic (mid-water) and non-pelagic (bottom-dwelling). At Yakutat Lodge we target pelagic rockfish, and have a healthy population of black rockfish that are above-average in size. These delicious-tasting fish are found in large schools and provide great action on light tackle. Exotic and colorful non-pelagic species like quillback and China are also fairly common.

Lingcod are a fearsomely ugly, incredibly toothy predator that can be found near rock pinnacles in Yakutat Bay. These fish can reach impressive sizes, and have been known to latch onto a rockfish being brought to the surface. They will attack a jig and fight hard; the reward is an amazing picture of a strange-looking apex predator and a nice pile of delicious white-meat fillets.

King salmon can be found swimming in the protected waters surrounding Yakutat and are most commonly caught by trolling herring, anchovies, or spoons, behind flashers, while using downriggers. They are an amazing species, the state fish of Alaska, and often on the bucket list of Alaskan anglers. If king salmon are in the area, your knowledgeable captains can target traditionally productive areas and give you a chance to fish for the largest Pacific salmon species while on your Alaska fishing trip.

As the month comes close to an end, sockeye salmon begin to arrive in fishable numbers on the Situk River. Action heats up into July, but if the sockeye have pushed into the Situk in June, then the river guides of Yakutat Lodge can add sockeye angling to your Alaska fishing trip agenda. Sockeye are prized for their incredible fighting ability—often referred to as the pound-for-pound strongest salmon—as well as their deep-red, firm and succulent fillets. 

Planning Alaska fishing trip to Yakutat Lodge in June is a great choice. From multiple species in the saltwater, to long days, good weather and the chance to intercept the first sockeye salmon of the year, we’ve got you covered at Yakutat Lodge. Our captains and guides will get you on the fish, and our fish processing team will fillet your catch, vacuum pack it and box it for your flight home. Come to Yakutat Lodge in June for your Alaska fishing trip and leave for home with great memories, photos and great-tasting fish to enjoy until you come back again.

Alaska Halibut Fishing in Yakutat

Alaska halibut fishing rallies anglers from all over the world in pursuit to bring home the moist, flakey texture of halibut that are abundant in Alaskan waters.

Why Alaska Halibut?

Pacific halibut are among the largest fish swimming in Alaska and are the largest member of the flatfish family. An average halibut is about 25 pounds, and the Alaska state record is 459 pounds. So these fish get BIG! Halibut are a firm, white-meat fish, and are among the highest-quality table fare of all the fish species. They are strong, fun to catch, and produce a lot of edible meat. On average, about 2/3 of a halibut is boneless fillets, making for lots of meals to be enjoyed all year long.

Halibut migrate from deep water in the winter, into shallower water in the late spring, where they stay until late fall growing larger. They feed on herring, salmon, octopus, cod, and probably just about anything they can fit in their mouth. It’s during this time period that anglers target the species. In many coastal communities around Alaska, halibut are targeted in 100- to 400 feet of water. Tides are generally large in Alaska, so that many charters and private sportfishermen are most productive as the tide weakens. They find that the two hours on either side of slack tide is generally the time to catch them.

Halibut are highly olfactory based, so setting up on anchor and putting out a scent trail is always a good way to ring the dinner bell. It’s not unusual to wait for a few hours without activity until the halibut finds your bait, and then experience steady action. Other times it seems that the ocean floor is littered with hard-pulling flatties, and the bites happen as soon as the bait or jig gets near the bottom.

Fishing Methods

Two methods are generally employed to catch halibut: bait, weight and wait for a bite or jig. It’s our general experience that scent brings the fish to the boat and jigs entice them to bite. It’s also generally accepted that pounding a jig on the bottom sends off a sound wave that also brings halibut in to investigate.

Since Alaska halibut can reach huge proportions, anglers generally use stout rods, big reels and strong lines. When fishing bait—which is usually herring, salmon parts that are legal to use like heads, cod, and octopus—many anglers use large circle hooks and heavy weights to hold the bait on or near the bottom. It’s not uncommon to see 16/0 circle hooks and 16- to 20 ounces of lead employed when fishing for these oversized predators. When fishing jigs, 12- to 24-ounce jigs, either lead head with grubs or long, thin slabs of metal, are the most commonly used lures. Both techniques require stout rods and strong reels. Halibut are apex predators and will chase and smash a jig with ferocity.

Yakutat Bay

Yakutat offers a premium location to fish for halibut and the charter captains at Yakutat Lodge know how to put you on the fish. Fishing is done within 15 miles off the dock, which makes for a very short boat ride to the fish. This is usually not the case in most ports around Alaska.

Alaska halibut fishing is done in Yakutat Bay, which is normally a fairly calm body of water, making it very well-suited for novice ocean anglers and those that are prone to seasickness. Halibut can normally be found in 80- to 150 feet of water which makes fishing and bait checks a manageable task. Many locations around Alaska demand feature deeper water fishing spots, which can be difficult and tiring to fish for these oversized bottom dwellers. 

The Yakutat Lodge | Fishing Alaska | Yakutat AKYakutat Lodge also knows how to help you catch other types of bottomfish when out on the saltwater. Yakutat Bay holds lingcod, which are aggressive, predatory fish that are awesomely ugly and marvelously delicious. It also holds several species of pelagic rockfish, and catches of large, black rockfish are common. These additional species provide added action and excellent table fare.

 

Added Bonus

A tertiary bonus to fishing in Yakutat Bay is the chance at catching a king salmon. King salmon roam the waters around Yakutat, and while not a guarantee, when they are present they can often be caught. The largest salmon species in Alaska, king salmon are on many angler’s bucket-species list, and are both rewarding to catch and excellent to eat. While bottom fishing is typically done on anchor or while drifting, fishing for king salmon is most typically done while trolling.

Come to Yakutat Lodge and experience Alaska halibut fishing for yourself! Enjoy the variety and bounty of our near shore saltwater fisheries. You won’t have to endure a long boat ride, big seas, strong tides or deep water. Rather you can catch limits of delicious fish that pull hard and are amazing to catch. We will provide all the tackle and bait, teach you how to catch these varied species, fillet the fish and pack them up for you to take home and enjoy for the rest of the year. See you here!

How to Fish for Steelhead

 

Steelhead fishing on the Situk River is nothing short of adrenaline-drenched chaos. These sea-run rainbow trout are near the pinnacle of sportfish in Alaska, and once hooked, you will soon understand why. Their Olympian-like athleticism, strength, agility and endurance will leave even the most seasoned with an ear-to-ear grin. There are a wide range of techniques and lures that anglers use, and it pays to have a variety of presentations in your tool kit so that you can be prepared to find the hot offering. Learn the best methods of how to fish for steelhead on the Situk.

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Yakutat Tern Festival

Join us for the 11th Annual Yakutat Tern Festival

May 28, 2020 – May 31, 2020

What is the Yakutat Tern Festival?

The Yakutat Tern Festival is a celebration of the natural and cultural resources of Yakutat, Alaska. The festival is family friendly and offers activities for birders as well as non-birders, including field trips, seminars, keynote speaker, kid’s activities, a race, cultural rich art, evening banquets and other programs. Register early to get a discount!

 

  • Registration in advance is $40.
  • Registration during the festival is $50.

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Shows & Expos We’re Attending in 2020

January 16-19, 2020 | Sacramento, CA

International Sportsmen’s Expo
View more details here
Cal Expo
1600 Exposition Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95815

January 22-26, 2020 | Puyallup, WA

Washington Sportsmen’s Show
View more details here
Washington State Fair Event Center
110 9th Ave SW
Puyallup, WA 98371

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Steelhead on the Situk

Yakutat steelhead

Yakutat Steelhead on the Situk River

Steelhead trout are among the very top of the gamefish list for many coldwater anglers. They aggressively attack fly and lure alike and fight with amazing athleticism and power. They grow to substantial sizes — a 15-pound steelhead in the Situk River is not uncommon; the Alaska state record was caught in 1970 and was an amazing 42 pounds, 3 ounces. 

Like Pacific salmon, steelhead are anadromous. They are born in freshwater and head to the ocean to grow, spending most of their lives in the ocean, and returning in either the spring to spawn and return back to the salt chuck, or coming back in the fall to overwinter, spawn and head back to the sea. In general, they live about three years in freshwater before migrating to the sea, and then spend an average of another two years in the saltwater before heading back to the river of their birth to spawn. Some steelhead return to spawn multiple times within their life. 

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Yakutat Lodge Fishing Report | September 13, 2019

Fresh water:

Silver salmon are pouring into the Situk,Lost,and Tawah creek by the hundreds on every incoming tide. The fresh water guides are having a good time exploring new options and different styles of getting these awesome fish. There are still Pinks and Sockeye Salmon entering the system, so the Situk itself is completely full of all species of Salmon.
Fishing in the old mans hole has been extremely productive for those that are 60 yrs. of age and over. Upstream of the old mans hole is full of fish, and there are also a good number of fisherman. We are looking at rain coming in next week, and with a possibility of a rise in the water levels, this will spread out the fisherman and the fish, creating even more opportunities for fisherman to explore.

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Yakutat Lodge Fishing Report | September 3, 2019

Silver Salmon are on the move up the river and are in the bay. We have not received the rains we were hoping for this last week, so river levels still very low.
Guides are being innovative and venturing out to new locations, to give clients the best possibilities to catch fish. Even though the river level is low, the fishing continues to be really good. Lost river and Tawah creek are producing fish, but they are also feeling the effects of no rain. Ankau bridge is seeing good numbers of Silver Salmon passing by at every incoming tide. Also the Ankau lagoons are producing some real nice fish, which can be reached in one of our skiffs.
Ocean conditions have been good lately with all the sunshine and no wind. Halibut, black rock fish, ling cod and now Silvers Salmon fishing has been real good. Average halibut retained is around 50 to 60pounds, which are the tastiest ones to eat.
Forecast is for rain, but we are crossing our fingers this time it really shows up……..