2011 Nushagak Photo's Below  

 

Nushagak River – June 19 – 23, 2011
Jakes Nushagak Camp – Steelhead University
By Terry Wiest

 

Anticipation was high this year as we ventured on our third annual Steelhead University/Jake’s Nushagak Camp trip.  The kings were starting to trickle in and Alaska Fish and Game announced no commercial opener for Kings or Sockeye until after the escapement had been reached.  This was fantastic after last year’s commercial slaughter in which they caught over 40 thousand kings as “bi-catch” during the sockeye harvest.  We had a dozen fishermen in our group this year and would be joined by another 18 bringing the camp to full capacity.  I would be fishing with my friends Terry Fors and Jefry Norwood which would give us a solid hardcore lineup looking to put our knowledge to test against what has been known as Alaska’s great king salmon run.

 

Day 1 – Yes Virginia, even in Alaska you can find a Skunk!


Day one was unbelievable – and I mean I still can’t believe it.  A big SKUNK!!!  What the heck was this?  I have many adjectives to describe this and I’m sure many were thinking worse, but zilch on the Nushagak?  This was not due to lack of trying or anything to do with our guide (which happened to be #1 guide and camp manager Swanny).  Something not to be proud to be a part of, we handed Swanny his first EVER skunking on the Nush.  We decided to check out the sonar station at Portage Creek which is just a couple miles upriver from Jakes.  Now this explains it – 66 fish came through in the last 24 hours.  OMG – what are we in for?

 

 

Last year was a down year due to the commercial overfishing but there were at least several hundred coming though each day.  Now we're less than 100 a day in a very large river which flows over 280 miles.

 

 

 

Day 2 – Could it be a repeat?


Maybe day two would be better? – well, it was, but barely.  Even with another top guide, Brian, we salvaged to get by without another skunk with 2 fish.  Not much to say here except things have to get better.  They said there’s fish in the Bay (Bristol) but they’re not moving up river for some reason.  Todays sonar count was a pitiful 122 fish.  Again, this is very uncharacteristic for this time of the run and things aren’t feeling very good.

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Captain Fred puts us on a few fish


I finally get to fish with the old man of the river, Captain Fred.  Many call him grumpy or simply old man, I call him my friend.  We had some great stories to swap back and forth which made the time between fish seem to fly by, but old Fred’s a smart cookie and wasn’t about to let us have a bad day.  Finally a respectable day on the Nush but far from fantastic.  The fish seemed very small compared to the last few years, but hey, we were getting fish.  Our daily total for the 3 of us was 26 fish to the boat.  Not bad considering only 981 passed through the sonar station.


Day 4 – Captain Fred becomes Professor Fred – A Legend is made


We were supposed to fish with Eli, the owner of Jakes, but due to a medication reaction Eli was in no shape to take us out.  We would have gladly taken the boat out ourselves but Swanny asked if we mind fishing with Fred again.  Are you kidding? Fred’s great – let’s get this show on the road!

Day 4 started out with an absolute bang – a triple to start the day.  OK, now we could be getting somewhere.  As we came down through the tailout Fred asked if we wanted to pick up and return to the top, “Just another minute Fred, this looks like good water.”  Fred had explained that it was snaggy in the past but that he did notice a new sandbar formed on the side.  I think all that sand created a trench and we hit the slot perfect  - fish on, fish on.  A double and we’re at 5 fish the first drift. 

We’d matched our daily total from the day before in four hours of fishing so on we went in for lunch.  Of course we tried talking Fred into skipping lunch, but he didn’t think Eli would appreciate that.  Come on Fred!  Didn’t work.

After lunch, back to the same drift and it was lights out!  Now we were getting at least one fish a drift and most drifts between 3 and 5 fish.  Doubles were the norm and several triples.  The boats from other camps that were back bouncing just kept shaking their heads in disbelief, we were on fire!

As the 90 fish mark approached we were all aware of how close we were to that legendary 100 fish mark, but also well aware of how little time we had left to achieve this milestone.
 

“Don’t worry Fred, Eli said not to come in until we get 100”.

 “We still have over an hour left Fred, Eli said 7:00 was fine since you got us out late”. 

 


We tried every excuse but Fred just smiled.  We had a 6:00 deadline. 

5:45 and we just finished a drift with a triple putting us at 99!  Are you kidding me?

“Fire ‘er up Fred and let’s hit it”.  Luckily Fred didn’t hesitate and were back up to the top of the hole.

Immediately we got a double – that’s 100 and 101.  Number 102 came just minutes after.

Fred said “OK boys, one last drag through our new snag hole and we have to reel them up”.  Woo Hoo – we end the day with a triple and count that as 105!

That hole is now known as the Double TJ hole (Terry, Terry, Jeff).

More importantly, Steelhead University graduated Fred to the title of Professor!  We’re going to make you a legend Fred.

After getting back to shore, rumors were already flying. Although Fred could barely move we worked him so hard, he was grinning from ear to ear.  Yeah Buddy!

Oh, by the way, 2,238 fish past the sonar today.  We expected much higher numbers with the catch we had, but at least it’s a good number.

Just as a note – we also landed over 70 kings from shore this night and numerous chrome bright chum.  The Nush at its finest.

Day 5 – Another Professor in the Making?

We had hoped to get Professor Fred back for a third day, but that’s not the way Jakes works.  Every day they rotate guides so everyone gets to fish each guide.  With Eli feeling better he’s back in the mix so the normal rotation is on.

We get to fish with School Teacher Ron today.

I’m sure one of the skills Ron teaches is to pay attention to detail.  First thing he asks us in the morning is, where are we going, how fast and how deep?  Now that’s a great guide!  He wanted to follow exactly what the Professor had led us to the day before.  How likely was another 100 fish day – well not likely as most guides that have been up there haven’t been close.  In fact Fred’s record before us was 48 fish, Ron’s is at 85.

We follow the same pattern as we did the day before and let Ron know how we wanted to fish it.  Didn’t take much convincing for him to follow our philosophy as we released 8 fish in the first drift.  That also included a triple in the Double TJ hole.  He had said just like Fred, it’s all snaggy in there.  Well, not any more.  Soon other boats would follow us through the slot and it became the “hot” hole.  Remember, that’s Double TJ folks.

We told Ron we were skipping lunch and staying out until we broke Fred’s record – he, like Fred, just laughed.  Hey, we're serious!  Not going to happen though.

By lunch we had touched the leader on an outstanding 73 fish.  That’s 1 boat, 3 guys fishing for 4 hours – 73 KING SALMON!!!

At lunch we had to tell Fred where we were – sorry Fred.  “Oh, well, at least I had the record for a day” he said.

But don’t count on it too fast.  After lunch our first run we didn’t touch a fish.  What happened?  We were getting so many hookups were almost expected at least one fish per pass by now, each.  Second drift and we did hit 1.  The bite just plain died.

We contemplated moving downstream to find some fresh fish but didn’t want to leave fish to find fish.  At this rate, were we actually leaving fish though?  As it turns out that would have been a bad mistake.  Just about an hour of a fish here and there and then it turned on again.  Seemed like the other boats didn’t have as much confidence in our slot so they took off.  Maybe the reduced pressure was all it took.  We were back in the groove with doubles and triples

 

We gave the school teacher a good workout going from one side of the boat to the other releasing our fish.  At the end of the day – 124 fish brought to the boat.

The School Teacher is now a Professor as well!

Two days in a row we brought over 100 fish to the boat – now that’s legendary and something I never thought I’d see.

Count the fish we boated from shore and were pushing 200 fish in a day.  This is unreal – it’s the truth, but simply unreal.

Where else in the world can you catch this many King Salmon?


Oh, sonar count for the day, 7,473.

 

Details:

Species:

King Salmon – 8 to 30lbs (teener average)
Chum Salmon – 6 to 15lbs (Chrome bright and NASTY fighters)
Sockeye Salmon – 4 – 10lbs (little too early on our trip but a few were banked from shore)

Gear:
Rod – FethaStyx SM-904-2  Homewater Rod
Reel – Daiwa Luna 300
Line – 25lb Maxima Hi-Viz
Bait – Pautzke Fire Cure / Pautzke Borax O Fire
Spinners - #7 Wordens UV Inline Spinners – 50/50 Orange with Blue Dot
                   #7 R&B Lures UV Inline Spinners – Lime Back – Orange/Green with Blue Bat Wing
Hooks – 3/0 Matsua Siwash Hook

 

Jakes Nushagak Camp
Eli Huffman – 1(866) 692-9085 – Toll Free

Terry Wiest
Steelhead University

 

2011 Nushagak Trip Photo's