SAFARI Camp Season Summary, 2019
2019 delivered the best silver salmon run we’ve seen in a decade, in size and numbers! The pink salmon numbers were solid but not out of control (like 2017 and 2015). The chum salmon run was lighter than average and early. But the Dolly Varden fishing was excellent throughout the river. The bay fishing for halibut was good.
The silvers really WOWed us this season. Our home waters fished extremely well, on the tidal flat and throughout the river. And at our usual helicopter fly-out rivers, we pounded silvers during the heli-fishing days in late August and throughout September. Thankfully, after seeing the lowest river levels in 2 decades this past August, September brought much needed rain. And not too much of it, but the right amount to bring river levels up and water temperatures down. Then silvers really charged up our drainages in numbers we haven’t seen in awhile. And the average size was definitely larger than the last few seasons.
The chum salmon fishing seemed lighter this season. But that’s because the run started early and the camp started late. By the time we were really in fishing mode, most of the chums had already pushed well up the river and were in spawning mode. We still caught fresh chums in late August and early September, just not as many as normal.
Pink salmon runs are stronger in odd years compared to even years in this region of Alaska. The run this year was just right – we caught plenty, but we weren’t overrun with pinks like in 2017 and 2015.
(Reminder: all salmon runs vary from year to year and decade to decade in fish numbers, fish size, and run timing.)
The Dolly Varden fishing was excellent overall, like most typical seasons. Some late season fishermen found blow-your-mind Dolly fishing way up our home river valley (but you have to be willing to take a LONG hike). Streamers were killer, as usual, along with egg imitations.
Bear activity was on the lighter end of normal on the flat and up the river valley. And that was a real nice change compared to 2018 (when the bears were unusually thick up the river valley). Usually the bears do a very accommodating job of avoiding the area immediately around our camp, but this season we did see more than average bear activity near camp. Why? Who knows? But the uptick in activity kept us all on our toes even more than normal.
Wolf sightings have been less common in the last decade, but this season we had multiple close-up (50 to 100 yards) wolf encounters on our heli-fishing days, along with hearing wolf howls multiple times. It was pretty awesome! After a sighting-less 2018, we had a few caribou sightings near camp and on our fly-outs. And we spotted several moose this season from the ground and air.
Like last season, whale sightings were lighter directly within our bay system, but higher than average in waters 6 to 10 miles offshore. While halibut fishing we witnessed multiple days with multiple simultaneous pods scattered on the horizon. As a big bonus, we had a school of salmon sharks, probably 12 to 15 animals, hang out on the far side of the bay for a few days in mid August.
Multiple species of sea birds were seen throughout the season from the boat, as usual, but horned puffins were extra thick again this year. Migrating geese and duck sightings were heavier than average, and like last season, the sightings started earlier than normal.
The weather was sunny and warm throughout August. September brought slightly-better-than-typical weather patterns. This season it followed a pattern of 1 to 2 wet days, followed by 4 or 5 nicer days. Not too shabby, really. We’ve definitely seen much worse Septembers over the years. AKA, we avoided any real big, multi-day fall storm systems this season. We (and the fish) were very thankful for the “just right amount” of rain.
The 2019 SAFARI camp photo gallery is read to view.
(By the way, Happy Holidays to all. Or, as we say it on the Alaska Peninsula, “Ho, Ho, HO BEAR!”)