Fishing the Alagnak River in Alaska for Pink Salmon aka Humpies

I just returned in late August from my annual hosting trip to the Alagnak River in Alaska.

Pink SalmonThis year, I was able to target the Pink Salmon, which are not available every year. These fish enter the Alagnak River and make their spawning run on the even years and are very dependable.

But in some areas outside Alaska, the runs are every other year, but not on the even years! Before you ask, I do not know why! I am venturing a guess that their species supports such good numbers they need not spawn yearly to add to their enormous population.

When this fish selects a high tide and moves up the river, they arrive in pods. These pods are near the surface, and they charge up the center of the river, making a surface disturbance that can be seen at a great distance. If you are there and target them with a fly such as the Popsicle or Showgirl and they see the presentation, one cannot strip fast enough to take it away from them.

This sounds very appealing to the angler who has spent hours trying to match the hatch or cast flies to close-mouthed trout trying every fly in his selection with no success. Trust me, these salmon can become a nuisance if you are targeting another species in the same area that run slightly deeper in the water column, such as the Sockeyes or Chums! It is impossible to get a fly down through their numbers to the desired fish.

Humpies, as they are commonly called, are not a bad table fish but certainly far well behind the delicious flavor of a firm Chromer Sockeye or a fresh Chinook (King).

I fished a nine-foot, six-weight rod that some might find a bit under powered but not abusive for these fish that average between two and eight pounds, but with most in the four-to-five-pound range.

My terminal tackle was a nine-foot, 10-pound tapered leader with a lightly weighted streamer mentioned by name earlier.

As in many cases, the salmon have one thing on their mind and are not put off by color, size and presentation. They want it out of the way so they can get on to the job ahead … little do they realize that the end result is that they will die and feed many species with the nutrients for a successful regeneration of many species of fish, animals and birds.

Next year, Chinook on a fly … a daunting task, but fun. I have tried it on this river before
with an 18 pounder being my best landed to net. This species is difficult, and the catch numbers will be low; however, knowing you are swinging a deep sinking line that will possibly illicit a strike from a 40 to 50 pounder is exciting! The Alagnak Lodge offers that potential daily.

Written by Harry Robertson