Bristol Bay fishing discussions are often full of superlatives. Biggest run of sockeye salmon in the world. Alaska’s largest run of Chinook. Number one destination for trophy rainbows in Alaska; some that look more like steelhead than the rainbows most people think of. An abundance of healthy resident fisheries, including ridiculous amounts of Dolly Varden char, Arctic grayling, and rainbow trout, to a summer-long seasonal procession of all five species of Pacific salmon, Bristol Bay is a fisherman’s paradise.
One of the most notable destinations in the Bristol Bay fishing landscape is the Nushagak River. Beginning in the Alaska Range, the mighty Nush runs 280 miles out to Bristol Bay. It is a superhighway of salmon. Its most precious cargo to anglers in Alaska is the Chinook. Over the last five years, the Nush has averaged about 60,000 kings per year, according to ADF&G. An average adult Chinook on the Nushagak weighs about 15- to 20 pounds, and specimens over 30 pounds are caught each year.
Lodges dot the lower river in the area around Portage, roughly 35 river miles from tidewater. This puts anglers in direct contact with white-hot Chinook, fresh in from the saltwater. What sets Nushagak River Adventures Lodge apart from other lodges on the Nushagak is the quality of our buildings and boat fleet, and the high-end cuisine that our professional chefs prepare for guests. We recently rebuilt the lodge from the bottom up and our boat fleet is among the newest on the river. Our amenities far exceed what most expect from a lodge on the Nushagak.
Bristol Bay fishing continues as reds pour into the Nushagak. Run sizes have fluctuated over the last five years, and a typical run is about one million fish. 2021 was a banner year, with 4,697,299 sockeye measured through the sonar counter near Portage Creek through 7/25/21. Sockeye are fun to catch, great to eat, and a foundational species in the river as the sockeye eggs and flesh feed many different animals throughout the region.
At about the same time, chum salmon are mixed in with the sockeye and Chinook. They are hard fighters with indomitable spirits and are caught throughout the Bristol Bay fishing scene. Being the second largest salmon species, an average mature buck weighs about 15 pounds and will test your gear and angling skill.
As fishermen disperse from the Nushagak, this Bristol Bay fishing mecca quiets down. Most lodges close for the season, and that leaves us with a prime opportunity to target coho salmon without much competition. Silvers are acrobatic, able to be caught with a variety of techniques, generally willing biters and are a great sportfish. An average Nushagak silver weighs 8- to 12 pounds.
The Nushagak is a gem in the Bristol Bay fishing crown. With a steady presence of salmon from June through August, anglers fishing the lower river are treated to a mixed bag of bright, strong, and stubborn fish that fill your days with adrenaline and your 50-pound fish box with firm, red fillets. Nushagak River Adventures Lodge is your best choice for a full-service lodge stay on the Nushagak; come join us in 2022.