Here at Saltery Lake Lodge, we're blessed with an absolute plethora of fishing environments. We have big rivers chalk-full of salmon, small creeks teeming with dolly varden, a lake that's accessible out of our front door, and an ocean full of sharks, whales, and giant squids (though you may not catch them, they're there). Make sure to read about each of the waters that you'll have the opportunity to fish.
Species: Sockeye, Pink, Chum and Coho Salmon, Steelhead, Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden
Spilling from Saltery Lake down a windy two miles into Ugak Bay, Saltery Creek is where you will be doing the majority of your fishing.
Saltery Creek may only be two miles long, but they are a diverse two miles, providing a wide range of unique fishing conditions. Close to the lake, the creek is slow and glassy, with long flats punctuated with deep, broad holes that commonly hold hundreds of fish.
The uppermost part of the creek rounds a couple of corners and starts picking up speed, tumbling over a long, flat stretch of gravel we refer to as “the Straightaway.” This area is our favorite for catching Sockeye, which can be found there in large concentrations, partially due to a fish-counting weir maintained at the top of the run by the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game.
The Straightaway ends at “Bedsprings,” the largest hole in the river, known for holding so many salmon that you could almost walk across the surface of the water. Below Bedsprings, Saltery Creek makes a windy crawl through about a mile of narrower water, a stretch we call “The Woods.” Downed trees and logjams form a series of pools that are the perfect size for one to two anglers. Rainbow Trout are abundant here, and can be caught by dead-drifting beads and flesh flies. It is also a great place for sight fishing to Coho.
The creek broadens out as it approaches its end; its lower stretches offer similar water to The Woods, but with more room for a back-cast. Chum salmon may pepper the schools of Sockeye, Pinks and Coho that are holding in pockets of slow water. Rainbows are scarce, but Dollies are not.
Species: Pink, Chum and Coho salmon, Steelhead, Dolly Varden
Rough Creek is Saltery Creek’s older, wilder sibling. Running for about eight miles, the majority of the river is inaccessible without a great deal of hiking. We primarily fish the lowest mile of the river, which tends to change radically from season to season due to winter rainstorms.
Rough Creek has a feral character, and is subtly very different than Saltery Creek. It feel like undiscovered territory, and unlike Saltery, the panoramic views of the bay and the surrounding mountains are unobstructed by trees. Though Rough Creek sees sizeable runs of Chum and Pink salmon, we mainly visit Rough in search of Coho salmon. The fish are plentiful and it is not unusual to catch fish over fifteen pounds.
The Coho travel high up into a narrow canyon which can be accessed by taking a raft across Saltery Lake and hiking about a mile along the old, dry riverbed of Saltery Creek. Anglers who make the trip will encounter a very different river than they see close to the ocean. Crystal-clear water charges through boulders and cliffs, past dramatic waterfalls and into deep pools. Along with the Coho, anglers can catch Dolly Varden in their full spawning regalia.
Species: Sockeye, Pink and Coho salmon, Steelhead, Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic Char
Saltery Lake is a large, natural lake that is fed by two creeks (Lake Creek and Bear Creek), and will be the first thing you see when you wake up every morning. Less than a stone’s throw from camp, the lake is not only picturesque, it is also a great place to fish.
The first fish to arrive in the lake are the Sockeye, who become much more aggressive towards flies and lures as soon as they have finished their run up the river. While they are metamorphosing into their spawning form, the Sockeye congregate at the mouth of Lake Creek, where they form a giant, red mass. By the end of July, the lake will be full of Dolly Varden, which can be caught hand-over-fist both from our dock and from the shore. The Dollies are accompanied by Pink Salmon, which patrol the shoreline in small pods and will ferociously bite any fly or lure put in their path.
Beginning around the middle of September, Coho salmon will stage in the lake in huge numbers. These Coho can be caught either by wading or by fishing with a guide from our raft. Saltery Lake is also home to a non-anadromous (non-sea-running) population of Arctic Char. Char are caught both from the dock as well as from the gravel bar at the outlet of Lake Creek into the lake, which is a short walk from camp.
Saltery Lake is an equally great spot for both daytime and after-dinner fishing. The scenery of snow-capped mountains and echoing loon calls don’t hurt either.
Species: Sockeye Salmon, Dolly Varden
Snaking through over ten miles of backcountry, Lake Creek is the primary tributary of Saltery Lake. Even moreso than the other rivers we fish, Lake Creek is unpredictable. Lake Creek remains mostly devoid of fish until the middle of August, with the majority of the Sockeye Salmon that spawn in the creek (and, more importantly, their coterie of Dolly Varden) still staging in the lake. But when the Sockeye make their run, our guests have an opportunity to experience the best light-tackle fishing available in the entire drainage. Where Sockeye go, Dollies follow close behind, waiting eagerly to snatch up any stray eggs dropped by female salmon or swept out of nests by the current. Anglers dead-drifting beads under an indicator can usually expect to catch fifty or more Dollies in any given session, with a handful of 20+ inchers spicing up the standard assortment of 12-16″ fish. And at this time, Dolly Varden assume truly gorgeous and unique color schemes, with patchworks of black, purple, green, blue, pink and bright orange.
Lake Creek is a sometimes overlooked asset, but it will reward the curious with a bounty of picture-perfect fish.
Species: Chum and Coho Salmon, Dolly Varden
Hearst Creek is a relatively small stream that winds languidly through dense Alder forest until it meets the beach at Ugak Bay. Its lowest reaches are used as a spawning ground by Chum salmon, but for the most part, we go to Hearst to target Coho. It can be a tricky river to fish, as water conditions have to coincide with the timing of the Coho run to make for good catching. But when the elements conspire, a trip to Hearst can be like something out of a magazine. Because of the narrow water, the Coho are easy targets for sight-fishing, and anglers have many opportunities to watch as trophy salmon chase their fly or lure all the way to the bank. And it is here that Saltery fishing feels truly wild; when you are surrounded by silence, water and trees, with no sign of humanity, it is easy to forget that you have a meal and a hot shower waiting for you.
Hearst Creek is typically fishable from the first or second week of September through October.
Species: Sockeye, Pink, Chum, Coho and Chinook Salmon, Starry Flounder, Greenling, Sculpin, Halibut, SHARK
Anglers targeting fish in this area are entirely beholden to the tides, and both high- and low-tide hold their own appeals. High tides can usher in huge pods of salmon, who despite their panic at making a first charge into fresh water will usually bite aggressively. Fish caught fresh out of the salt are at their strongest and tastiest; sometimes it feels like they fight twice as hard as similar fish caught farther upstream.
Low and middle tides are more hit-and-miss as far as catching goes, but the catches are stranger. Anglers walking the beach may be able to spot “breezing” schools of salmon, swimming very close to shore and causing visual disturbances in the water’s surface. These breezing schools can be targeted by casting from the beach, or by wading out chest-deep and casting back towards shore to intercept them. We mostly catch Pink and Coho salmon in this way, but it is plausible that you could catch one of Ugak Bay’s abundant Chinook as well.
Starry Flounder are always present in the shallow flats just off the beach, but are most effectively targeted during extreme low tides, when it also becomes possible to catch a number of miscellaneous saltwater fish such as Greenlings, rockfish and a bizarre-looking Sculpin called an Irish Lord. Starry Flounder are superb table fare, and will bite artificial as well as live baits.
While the fishing can be unpredictable, the scenery is always, without exception, breathtaking. The mountainscapes visible from the beach always seem to offer a unique view depending upon the infinitely variable combinations of light, cloud and shadow.