Week two brought back a returning group of King Salmon fisherman from New Mexico and Texas. For the last few years they have been coming a week earlier, but decided to take advantage of an opportunity that arouse in our schedule and shift to this third week in June in hopes of hitting the King Salmon even better than normal.
This schedule change sounded good on paper, but with two incredible days of salmon fishing the week prior we were all a bit nervous. Day one was like waking up from a bad dream, only to realize you it was not a dream and happening right before your eyes. Slow, slow fishing. Turned out there was a big commercial opener the night before in the bay, slowing things down. Day two, still slow. We even had a scouting party of anglers go to the Togiak River for Kings. They came back with a couple of larger fish in the upper thirty pound class, but otherwise very slow. Panic creeps in over the lodge. Not that we show it, but we were all feeling the pressure to provide the kind of fishing Bristol Bay is famous for and our reputation to deliver it.
Had they missed the run? Was it still slow from the blockage of the nets from two nights ago??
Day three of their trip dawned with nasty weather and down spirits. Four anglers opted to stay in and play cards by the fireplace. Sounded like a good call. We broke up the rest of the gang by sending a group up to the Agulawak River for Sockeye Salmon [which were now pouring by the dock in huge waves] and had another group go trout fishing. The remainder of the lodge went back down to the Nushagak River with little expectations and kind of feeling like they had drawn the short straw for the day — wrong!
The waves of porpoising Sockeye Salmon passing the dock in the morning should have been our indication that fish were in. The bluster weather the night before and still dark skies with wind in the morning should have also been a clue that fish were literally being blown in from the bay at near record levels. .
The boys on the ‘Wak had more Sockeyes landed by noon than they could handle and the trout fisherman enjoyed some good catches of Arctic Char, Arctic Grayling and some Rainbow Trout. It was the Nushagak group that floated across the dock with a spring in there step and broad smiles on their faces. Over 6,500 fresh King Salmon entered the river that day and it became a game of how many could you land in one day? Twenty to forty fish hooked per rod was the norm. Fishing was so good one of our pilots called in on the satellite phone at lunch time to report on the fishing… “there are two boats floating by camp with fish on, doubles on. Wait, now they have a triples!” It was just enough info to pull the boys away from the fire and card game to brave the weather.
The next two days the Nushagak River continued to provide some of the best fishing these boys had EVER seen. Truly spectacular fishing. Thursday brought us a high pressure system and another big commercial ‘opener’ and slowed things back down to real world levels.