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2023 Alaska Trip to Naknek River

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I met Jim and Phyliss Johnson in 1985 when I visited their fishing resort on the Pere Marquette River in central Michigan.  We became good friends.  They sold their place on the PM in 2005 and bought Naknek River Camp in 2006.  Bill Babler and myself went up and helped guide that first year and I've been going to almost every year since.

Paul Crews and I arrived in King Salmon on Saturday, July 15.  It was a typical summer day--temps in the 60's and rainy.  The weather didn't change will Wednesday when the sun came out and it warmed up into the 70's.  Sunday we hit the river for some sockeye salmon.

Sockeye and king salmon start entering the river typically the last week in June but the main run starts the first week of July.  Naknek is known for its big sockeye run and big rainbows.  It gets a fair number of kings and silvers and chums and a lot of pinks on even years.  We were lucky to still see good numbers of sockeye still running upriver and were able to get our limit of 5 each on Sunday and Monday.

Tuesday we boated to Brooks Camp, a 35 mile trek across Naknek Lake.  We walked to the bear viewing platform (about a mile hike) and joined people from all over the world to view a bunch of brown bears in their natural environment.  Sockeyes were schooled up below the falls but hadn't started jumping yet but we did see a few get caught by bears on the falls.

We boated on to Margot Creek, another 15 minute ride.  It's a good size creek that flows into the lake from the south that's usually full of rainbows and dollies.  We caught some dollies, mainly on jigs.  Beautiful place!!!

Wednesday we tried some king salmon fishing, boating up Big Creek, a creek where salmon run up into to spawn.  We didn't have any luck so we headed back to the main river and drifted huge beads and did some good.  Only caught one decent king and quite a few "jacks" which are small, 1-2 year old kings that come back to the river to spawn prematurely.

Thursday through Sunday we fished for rainbows, throwing my marabou jigs, 6-6" medium light spinning rods and #4-pound line, working several boulder fields in the river where the rainbow hold and ambush passing schools of smolt (baby salmon migrating from the lake to the ocean through the river).  Best colors - black and sculpin.  They have both sculpin and black leaches in the river.

Here's a video I put together -


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Man, I want to go back before I get too old to do it.  Its a wonderful place, all of it.

"Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously."

Hunter S. Thompson

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