The 2019 Alaska fishing season on the indomitable Nushagak River is now complete. With the lodge winterized, fated for the cold spell, we realize we miss it already—at home rested and thankful to be with our families, and already charged up with thoughts of next year. It’s not just one thing that made this the best season yet at Nushagak River Adventures Lodge, but a series of instances that crown this moniker.
Back in May our construction crew descended on camp with an enormous load of building materials trucked from across the country, barged from Seattle to Dillingham, followed by a river boat ride 35 miles up the Nushagak to The Lodge. Thanks to the talents and impeccable work ethic of our amazing building team, we erected the new main Lodge in a land speed record, just in time to wow our first guests of 2019. In that first month we also built a new commercial kitchen and completed the two story staff dorm. THANK YOU to my family and friends who shared their talents for our benefit. These tradesmen are so very talented they make what’s hard seem easy. I am especially grateful to my brother-in-law and friend—general contractor Stephen White and Jamie Mundy, electrical/plumbing leader, for both of their untiring effort.
Among the many successes we celebrated this season is hosting the most guests the lodge has ever held in a summer—238 salmon-loving souls. And what a great group of clients! Everyone had positive feedback for us, there were lots of fun times and memories. From the circle of trust to an 8-year-old comedian, the appellation “Best Season Yet” continued. It’s guests like our Special Forces heroes we welcome into camp with the Warrior Sportsmen, Inc. group and little fireballs like Trent Lewis who sneezed out his loose tooth then proceeded to catch the most species of fish from our lodge all summer. Even with the best salmon fishing in Alaska, this is what embeds on our memories.
June started and finished just like any other year—perfectly. Several 40+ inch kings were reeled into our captains’ nets. We congratulate these anglers once again: Brady Blum, Scott Huber, Darrell Hendrickson, Todd Orullian, and Jim Aleszka, and welcome them to the 40-Inch Club. In 2020, the 40-Inch Club will continue, but in an effort to foster the gene pool for the big ones, the release of these river monsters is now the gating requirement to gain access to the distinguished Club. It is our mission to make sure the Nushagak River remains the best salmon fishing in Alaska.
July was not its normal splendor. It was the hottest summer on record in Alaska with added complications from NO RAIN causing uncharacteristic salmon behavior. Can you imagine, no rain from June 5 thru Aug 28? Our experienced guides held their own, however, as we proceeded to catch and release Chinook and began to target other species. The river’s water level dropped to an unimaginable low. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order banning possession of any king salmon (including Jacks), mandated “no use of bait”, and established a king salmon catch and release policy that would last through July 31st.
Thankfully we were able to purchase and distribute 1000 pounds of sockeye salmon to our clients over the month of July once the no retention came into play. Luckily, the coho (silver salmon) came to our rescue just in time on July 28th. Prior to this, we resorted to an unconventional treat for guests to fish for Northern pike and chum salmon. Chum (also known as dog salmon) are generally caught by jigging or twitching a baitless hook with feathers in front of the school as they pass through the thin water near the river’s shorelines. There’s always something to catch in Alaska! To all of our guests, THANK YOU for being troopers during Mother Nature’s fury.
Later in August is when the big push of silvers came through. We caught our share of big ones this year and filled fish boxes, then we quickly turned to the final building tasks for the year.
After all clients departed, we tore down the old kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry facility. In its place, we built a new bathhouse with ample storage space, larger laundry, and freezer area. Before our 2020 clients arrive, we will finish the interior so that it is turnkey. It’s official, we’ve turned a fishing camp into a 5-Star Alaska fishing lodge. It’s really mind blowing to conceive of the changes we’ve made since we started in May of 2017. Take a look at what the camp used to look like before we tore it down to build the lodge.
Finally, a thank you to my great staff—partners with management, partners with each other. They awakened each day with one purpose—happy guests. Our superb kitchen staff Executive Chef Chris Lee and Chef Jenn Laube, and our handy camp staff Korey Siltman and Hunter Sater provided what I can only describe as excellent customer service and support. They were very appreciated by our guests, send their thanks back to you in spades, and look forward to serving your needs soon. Make sure you try some of Chef Chris’s fantastic recipes.
For us it’s not just another fishing season, it was the best season yet. Not for the incredible fishing, while always good, but for all we accomplished and the people we were fortunate to share it with.
Don’t just take our word for it…check out our 2019 Season Recap Video. We’d love it if you’d share!