There are almost no words to describe the heart-pounding excitement of a 40-Inch king salmon on the business end of your fishing line. It’s a feeling that eludes most and keeps even the most seasoned anglers coming back for more.
Chuck Riegel is an international angler and the founder of our lodge’s 40-Inch Club. A certified Master Angler in the Ontario providence of Canada for walleye, large and small mouth bass, Chuck is also a conservationist. He loves fishing kings at our lodge on the Nushagak River in Alaska’s Bristol bay as part of his regular angling repertoire. It’s the big toads, Chinook over 40-inches, that keep him chomping at the bit.
Chuck visualized the idea for the 40-Inch Club after seeking membership in that exclusive Master Angler Club. Friend and neighbor of lodge owner Pete von Jess, the two batted the idea back and forth until it evolved into a 40-Inch mark for entrance into our lodge club. Each member is awarded a special pin and recognized for their achievement at the lodge, on our social media, and website.
And so the 40-Inch Club began during the king salmon season of 2019. The very first club member pin was awarded in the first 5-day period of the season from June 17-22. 12 year old, Brady Blum, a Washington state native, hooked into the 40 1/4-inch blackmouthed salmon, set the hook, and held on for the ride of a lifetime. Beaming with pride onlookers included his father Jason Blum, uncle Eric Thorburn, and grandfather David Thorburn. Our longtime guide, Ron Logan from Portland Oregon, who helped Brady to this big king, shared that David also landed a 42-Inch king but released it since he had already tagged one. Brady caught a dozen fish or more before tagging this beauty. A successful outdoorsman at his young age, Brady has already been dubbed the “Kid Reporter” for Fish Alaska magazine when his first article was published in March of 2018.
The second member of the 40-Inch Club was awarded also in our first 5-day king session. Scott Huber follows in his Dad Bud’s footsteps as a king salmon fishing enthusiast and is privileged to fish The Nush with his Dad on annual trips. Bud, who is in his 80’s, as well as Scott have fished internationally, but The Nushagak has a special place in each of their hearts. Scott was guided on this big fish occasion by our seasoned pro guide Brent Seamans.
During our second 5-day king session from June 22-27 three more 40-inch club members were declared. The next hog was also facilitated by our top guide Brent Seamans when he put Darrell Hendrickson on his 40-inch king of a lifetime. Ben Totel, Matt Reekers, Brent Seamans and Darrell Hendrickson were college roommates. They routinely gather for a reunion, and in 2019 they decided on a reunion at NRAL. Darrell’s 40+ Inch king was enjoyed by all four of these close friends.
The fourth pin was awarded to Todd Orullian of Salt Lake City, Utah for the 42-inch king he landed with aid from master guide Ted Gibson. Todd arrived this June with his sons Brandon, Luke, and Jared to the best fishing they’ve experienced on the Nushagak River. Todd is a regular of Nushagak River Adventures Lodge and an inaugural member of the 40 INCH CLUB. But it wasn’t his mammoth king that made his dream actualized this season, it was bringing his youngest boy for the first time and having all three sons on his annual quest to The Greatland. Todd knows it’s an honor to land any sized king salmon—much less one over 40 inches. Each family member had the privilege of landing large kings, and incredible, lasting memories were made.
Jim Aleszka was the fifth member of the 40-Inch Club, and the third member to be made by guide Brent Seamans. Lifelong fishing buddies Bill Schuerch, Russ Steenberg, Reid Oliver, together with Jim were on their Annual Retreat to Nushagak River Adventures Lodge. These men have witnessed our camp to lodge transformation first-hand as we’ve gutted and renovated our entire facility since purchased three years ago. This year’s Annual Retreat for these fishing buddies was marked with all four of them catching big kings and with Jim joining the 40-Inch Club.
Shortly into July we made the decision to change the 40-Inch Club parameters making the release of a 40+ inch king now mandatory to enter the club. This decision serves as a conservation effort towards the ecology, future genetics, and health of the river.
Always for sentiment and memorabilia, we had a plague created this fall with the first five member names engraved on it. While Chuck Riegel’s name isn’t on there…YET… there is always next summer.
Interested in becoming a 40-Inch Club member? The first step is booking your stay at the lodge. Chat with us about available 2021 dates. Very few king spaces are available next season. Fill out our request more information link to inquire about availability.