by Michael Bales, Head Guide at Alaska Rainbow Lodge

Starting about June 15th –July 10th over 100,000 King Salmon will swim up the Nushagak River to spawn.

These Kings are typically three salts, meaning they come in to spawn after three years at sea. We’ve caught Kings up to 50 pounds on this river. Last year, an 11-year-old boy from our lodge caught a 46-pounder with a spinning rod.

The Nushagak is about a twenty-five minute flight due west from the Alaska Rainbow Lodge. You’ll land on the river about 10 miles upstream from Nushagak Bay. Our guide, Caleb Lockyer, will be there to meet you. Last year, Caleb camped out 24 nights on the banks of the Nushagak, and he knows where to fish—exactly where to fish.

Alaskan King Salmon

For instance, the Nushagak River tide will rise as much as 10 feet, twice a day. Some days as many as 10,000 Kings will rush in on the incoming tide. They are like freight trains crashing in and headed upstream. We fish just in front of them in the calm water. When the tide comes through, we’ll jump in the boats and quickly move upstream to do it again. This happens throughout the day. When the tide goes out, we fish the slack waters behind the tide line.


Most Kings are caught back trolling from our boats, but here are three ways we fish:

  • Use conventional spinning tackle, casting plugs from the drift boats.
  • Use a single-handed 8-weight fly rod and cast large florescent patterns.
  • Use a two-handed Spey rod, casting from the banks.

Alaskan King Salmon

Spey fishing is becoming quite popular with our guests on this river. The Spey rod allows you to cover massive amounts of water efficiently and methodically. Our guests have said that catching a king on the Nushagak with a Spey rod is addictive and life changing. They talk about a mystical connection between the Pacific salt-water fish and the fisherman that can only take place with a Spey rod.

You really have to experience it to understand.

How many Kings can we catch in a day? It varies. Some days, our guests will catch three or four: some days, as many as 10. But here’s something to consider: a 30- to 45-pound pound King Salmon on a fly, spinning or Spey rod is the one fish you will talk about forever. Just ask our 11-year-old friend.

On your next July trip to the Alaska Rainbow Lodge, tell me you want to chase those Kings for at least one day. We will make it happen.