At Rainbow Bend Lodges, we’re fortunate to have all five salmon species make their way up the Naknek River. On even numbered years, pink salmon enter the river; all other species make their way into the system every summer.
Statewide, the silver salmon attracts more anglers to Alaska than any other. Their hard-fighting action, aggressive nature, fine table fare and abundance, make them a premier game fish. Silver salmon occupy numerous coastal rivers throughout Alaska, from Point Hope to the Panhandle, and August is prime-time.
From August into September, pursuing silver salmon in the many small streams near Rainbow Bend Lodges is a favorite way experience world-class action. Be it on a remote fly-out, or traveling into tributaries of the Naknek by boat, there’s no shortage of options and opportunity.
Small streams are so shallow in nature they can often be waded in most places, thus they have different holding zones than larger rivers. There may be no big holes to offer migrating fish relief, and deep slots in cut-banks can be few and far between, so fish seek refuge in other places.
In small streams, search for silver salmon congregating behind boulders, stumps, sweepers and elevated gravel bars. Anything that breaks the water flow is capable of holding silver salmon. The outside edges of bends in a stream are also good coho holding zones. Additionally, holes only two-feet deep can keg with silvers, especially in tidally-influenced systems. It doesn’t take much water to hold a pod of silver salmon.
For fly anglers, it’s hard to beat small stream coho action. Silvers will attack a multitude of bright, flashy flies, with size 2 or 4 Egg Sucking Leeches, Flash Flies and Deer Hair Pollywogs being among the most common. Dark colored Woolly Buggers also perform well, as do pink colored patterns.
Running jigs beneath a float is also highly effective. Here, the jig may be less than a foot beneath the surface, so a low-profile approach is important. Downsizing to a 1/16-ounce jig and float to match, can make a big difference. Work the presentation well downstream of your position, so as not to spook fish. This is where a floating mainline comes in handy, as it reduces mending which can spook the salmon in low, clear water.
Drifted bait such as cured eggs, where legal, can be tough to fish in small streams simply because there may not be enough current or depth to move the terminal gear downstream. This is where fishing bait beneath a float can payoff, and it’s a great way to cover water in search of fish. Suspend a closet of cured eggs beneath an 1/8-ounce float, and you’re set. Make sure you know the regulations on fishing bait in every stream you intend to fish; some streams in our area allow bait, others do not.
If tossing spinners it may be necessary to downsize the offering to prevent hangups and achieve a realistic drift. You’ll want to stay with a strong mainline–15- to 17-lb. test–to decrease lost gear and be able to control the fight. Be sure to have a stout rod and a reel with a good drag system, for when these fish are hooked in shallow water, they run like crazy!.
Slack bodies of water like sloughs, back-eddies, even ponds, can
be prime habitats for silver salmon to move through and hold in during early fall. Many coho salmon congregate near shorelines and can be reached on foot. The most challenging part of catching coho in these shallow, slack settings, is presenting an offering without spooking them. Avoid alerting fish with your line, and restrict body movement and making noise.
Casting lures is one of the most effective ways to target silvers holding in shallow, slack water. It’s ideal if you can see where the fish are, then decide where casts should be made. Look to see which way the fish are facing, then cast well ahead of and beyond them. The purpose is to not alert salmon to the lure hitting the water, rather to get them to hammer it as is wiggles past on your retrieve. If the salmon do not react to the lure fluttering by, then make the next cast so it travels closer to the school when retrieved. Lures with pink and chartreuse colors, rubber skirts, sounds and scent chambers, all work well in estuaries.
If looking to fish for silver salmon in Alaska, evaluate the small-stream settings you’ll be fishing. Read the water, then figure out which presentation will work best based on your position. Once you’re familiar with the multiple ways silver salmon can be caught, you’ll understand why these fish attract anglers from around the globe, and why we love pursuing them so much.