ATA Lodge has been having a fantastic season this year. What a comeback after the chaos of Covid last season! We have been so busy with the best guests ever and a lot of great fish being caught!
As June closed the trout fishing remained strong, with so many big trout being caught and released! We have lost count of the trout over 24" with many over 28" and the biggest taping out at 31"inches long!!!
By the 1st of July we were marking Sockeye in the river. Little did we know what was about to transpire! This year saw over 64 million Sockeye Salmon return the watersheds of Bristol Bay. This year's run shattered all existing records, with the most Sockeye Salmon returning to Bristol Bay since records have been maintained! And the Alagnak River got its fair share for sure!!
Sockeye salmon started to flood into the river throughout the month of July. Tip to tail, these salmon came in an unbroken stream for about 3 weeks, non-stop! Clients had no problem catching their limits of Sockeye every day, sometimes in less than an hour's fishing!
There were a lot of big fish being landed everyday. You could literally keep hooking salmon and releasing them after getting a limit all day long until your arms ached. This not only provided a lot of fun for guests, but will mean some great eating for a long time to come for those who chose to take a box of their freshly caught salmon home with them.
We also had some great scenic fly outs to go bear viewing on the rugged Katmai Coast as well as to the famous Brooks Falls. The fly outs to Hallo Bay involve a flight over azure and emerald colored lakes, snow-clad mountains, smoking volcanos, glaciers and expansive river deltas. Once through the pass, you can see Kodiak Island on the horizon and the plane lands on the beach of the Katmai coast. It is one of the most stunning flights you could ever imagine! After landing on the beach, we were able to walk among the costal brown bears that congregate there to dig for clams and eat grass in the sedge meadows. It feels like stepping in to a garden of Eden environment!
On our first day there, we stepped off the plane and right there was a sow with 3 spring cubs. At one point, I looked out across the meadows and counted 23 bears in sight. We moved from one group of bears to the next for the next few hours, taking pictures and enjoying our version of Alaskan paradise!
Its hard to believe that there are still places like this on earth, where everything seems to get along and live in harmony. The above photo of sow and cub was take by guest Daniel Friedman (as is the sow with nursing cubs below).
With the backdrop of the Aleutian Mountains and a big glacier coming down to the meadow feeding the stream that later hosts a run of salmon, everywhere you cast your eyes it is a feast for the senses!
We got to get up close and personal with one mother and cubs, and were entertained by the antics of the young cubs, who finally convinced "mama" to lay down and let them nurse right there in front of us! If you look closely at the next photo in this blog, you will see the "milk mustache" of one of the spring cubs.
The flight back to the lodge, took a different route going up the coast, revealing more stunning vistas. It is almost too much to take in as every view and angle presents scenes few people ever get to experience. The flight home took us over the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes as well, seeing the lava and ash fields that cover the earth in that region, creating an almost lunar landscape with ash as deep as over 100 feet in some places!
Here's another shot by Daniel Friedman and a couple from Isabella Zhou during their different trips to Brooks Falls where the bears stand on the waterfall and catch salmon as they jump over the falls!
Sockeye Salmon fishing continued strong throughout the entire month of July, starting to taper off the last week, but we are still catching fresh Sockeye, even during the first week of August if some effort is put in to target them. Here are a few more pictures of what July Sockeye fishing looks like at ATA Lodge!
The ladies have been doing great this season too, often catching some of the largest fish each week. We have had a lot of ladies here in camp this season. It is always nice to have a mixed group with people coming from all over the world. We always enjoy welcoming return guests back again, but we also like making new friends each season as the ATA Lodge family continues to grow and grow!
One of the great things about having so many Sockeye in the system, is that these salmon provide the main food resource for the bears that come to feast on them. We regularly see over 25 unique bears a day on the river. One day that I went out with Canon EOL wildlife photographer Charles Glatzer, and we counted 52 sightings!
There nothing that I love more than pulling up to one of the many scenic locations on our river, park the boat and tuck it out of the way, and then just listen to the river rushing by. And before long, we get to witness the bears moving up and down the river searching for their next meal of fresh Sockeye Salmon. To see them jumping in to catch them is so much fun. You are pulling for the bears to get their next fish. Some bears are better fishermen than others, but they all manage to catch enough to satisfy their need to add as many calories as they can to survive the next winter.
One day up at the gorge we got to spend a few hours with a group of 4 bears sharing a pool fishing together. It was interesting to sit there under the trees across the river from them and watch their interaction as they caught one fish after another. Some arguments broke out when one bear caught a fish the other's through he should share with them.
As we got deeper into the month of July we started to catch Chum salmon as well. Last year the Chum run was almost non-existent! For the first time in memory, there were hardly any Chums in the river. It was not just on our river, but Alaska wide and even on the east coast of Russia and Asia as well. So we were worried about what this year would look like for the Chums. Happily, we are seeing more Chums this year, but not as many as we have been spoiled with in years past. Typically the Alagnak River has one of the biggest Chum Salmon runs anywhere in the world. There were reports last year that Russia authorized over fishing of the Chum Salmon in the open seas. We are hoping that this hasn't caused long term damage to our Chum run, but only time will tell.
Here are a few photos of the bears that were taken by guests during there stay here at ATA Lodge.
This cute photo of mother and cub as well as the next one of two siblings sparing, were taken by Isabella Zhou. We have been so blessed to have so many wonderful clients come each season, and we are so glad when they share some of the photos that they got while they were here with us!
Kevin Dooley, another renowned wildlife photographer, also brought his group back for their annual week at ATA Lodge again this season. Kevin has long been hoping to get some Moose photos while here, but normally the moose are scarce during July as there are so many bears on the river. But fortune smiled on Kevin this season and he was able to take advantage of a brief opportunity that presented itself, and pull off a few shots of this bull moose before he disappeared back in to the spruce forests!
July is also a great time to go for the big Chinook Salmon, the true "Kings" of the river. King Salmon numbers are far fewer than other species across their entire range. This year the run was good, but was a little later than normal in terms of fish making their way up to our part of the river. We are seeing good numbers in many of the pools now.
Rainbow fishing always slows down in July due to all the salmon that are crowding them out of their normal holding areas. But every week, we have managed to find some great trout, putting smiles on the faces of those lucky anglers who put the time and effort to find them. Trout fishing will pick up again now that the Sockeye run is over and the other salmon in the river will soon start to spawn providing food for our resident fish.
July has been a great month here on the Alagnak River at ATA Lodge. We love to watch this spectacle of nature every season as one after another species of salmon come in and go through the various stages of their reproductive process. We are expecting to see our first Silver Salmon being caught any day now. We've even caught quite of few Pink Salmon, despite this being an odd numbered year. The Pinks tend to mostly come on even numbered years, so it is a nice little "bonus" to get the occasional Pink Salmon when fishing for Chums like in this photo below.
Well, that about wraps up our July Fishing Report. I'll be putting together another in about a months time to give everyone a chance to see how our season rounds out. Until then, I just want to say a big thank you to both our amazing staff and the best clients in the world! Here's a couple group photos from a couple of our weeks this past month.
If you think you'd like to experience an ATA Lodge Alaskan Adventure, don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us for availability on 877 801 2289. Our website provides most essential information about our operation and can be found at www.atalodge.com
Hope to see you at ATA Lodge soon!