SAFARI Camp Season Summary, 2014
Alaska Fishing and Season Summary, 2014, Alaska Wilderness SAFARI
Overall, fishing was good to very good in late July and August for salmon and dollies. September was very good for dollies and somewhat lighter than normal for salmon. In the bay, halibut fishing was slower than usual but we found big numbers of black rockfish.
The chum salmon run seemed typical in timing and numbers. Good numbers were caught this year on the tidal flat right in front of camp, and like 2013, we noticed many larger than average chums landed. (Man, they can put a good bend in a fly rod.)
Although we typically get a strong run every year on the Pacific side of the Alaska Peninsula, the pink salmon run was lighter than normal. (Our prediction is for a BIG run in 2015). Still, good numbers were caught in the end of July and throughout August.
After an improved silver salmon run in 2013, we had high hopes for this season but the silver fishing was off a bit. The upside is good numbers did actually show up in Nakalilok Bay, but the “off” part was that the bite was lighter than it should of been. Like 2013 when we had extra healthy river flows, the silvers often bypassed the tidal flat and moved straight into the river. We caught silvers this season, just not in the numbers one might expect, especially on the days when we’d fish over large schools of them. Do we have an explanation on the lighter bite? No, not really, other than we did have more sun than usual in September which can often create a temperamental salmon bite.
Dolly Varden fishing was excellent, as usual, with large numbers of average-sized fish in our home river system. The distribution of dollies was mostly uniform throughout the river (from the lower to the upper stretches), which boded well for those who wanted a shorter walk AND for those who wanted the long hike to waters more untouched. The best dolly fishing was generally in the middle and upper river in September, as healthy flows pushed fish further up the drainage.
Halibut fishing in the bay was challenging in 2014. We even spoke with area Alaska Fish & Game biologist and they confirmed a “light” year for halibut on the Pacific side. Why? Who knows for sure. The biologists offered no explanation at time (in early August). On our end, occurrences of small bait fish schools, normally present in huge numbers in our bay, were noticeably absent this year in July and August.
The bay did come alive with bait fish activity in September, which seemed to bring in small schools of cod and spiny dogfish sharks. We caught some of each, along with a few other saltwater species.
Weather permitting, we caught black rockfish in HUGE numbers on every outing around kelp beds growing on underwater humps. These were areas of the bay we explored in greater detail in 2013, and that definitely paid off this fishing season.
Oh yeah… we caught 1 dungeness crab this year. Obviously, more to come on that…
The Nakalilok Bay wildlife highlights of 2014 included a record number of moose sightings and a large number of coastal brown bear sows with cubs – we observed 6 to 7 different sets of mother/cub families.
We noticed a clear increase in wolf traffic from the amount of tracks observed throughout the season but only spotted 1 wolf. A few single caribou were seen at sea level, and a few small herds seen in higher elevations.
Whale sightings were on the lighter side of normal in July through August, but surprisingly more common than usual in September (which is typically rather quiet). Multiple species of sea birds were seen throughout the season, as usual, and we were treated to some common loon sightings again this year. Migrating ducks and geese definitely started passing through earlier than normal. Good numbers of emperor geese were observed mid to late September.
Overall the weather leaned towards better than usual this season, in terms of number of good fishing and travel days. Of course we experienced some of the usual Alaska Peninsula weather – rain and wind “nicely” dispersed throughout August and September, and had one nasty low pressure system in mid September that brought heavy rain and wind. We definitely lucked out in late September with exceptionally nice weather during the last week of fishing and while we broke camp down after the last guests departed.
We started off the season with unusually low river and creek flows, due to an early and warm spring in Alaska. However, river flows stayed healthy throughout the season, thanks to regular light rain showers. We ended the 2014 Alaska fishing season with very healthy river flows due to the mid September low pressure system, and that’s a plus for future generations of salmon and dollies, and…. the coastal brown bears.
Check out the 2014 SAFARI camp photo gallery for some great images from a great season of fishing and adventure on the Alaska Peninsula!