Rainbow trout Alaska fishing during September and October in the Bristol Bay watershed is nothing short of marvelous. Furthermore, the scenery, spawning sockeye salmon, and gigantic brown bears add to the wonder.
Where the Fish go in Fall
© Cassie Bergman
As the sockeye salmon spawning season approaches it’s second month ( the first spawn starts in early August), the remaining spawning areas are those that come directly from a lake. These lake-headed streams tend to have consistent flows and water temperatures. Whereas the small streams that drain from mountain tops and the tundra vary in water level and temps. As fall approaches, the salmon in these small streams will have completed their spawning, and the rainbow trout and char will begin dropping back to lakes or larger rivers to overwinter. The lake-headed streams on the other hand, will have sockeye spawning deep into October. With consistent water temps, the salmon can reliably deposit their eggs without the fear of dewatering or freeze.
For the fall trout angler, this means focusing on these lake-headed systems where the last of the years food is abundant. Rivers like the Naknek, Kvichak, Kulik, Brooks, and Battle are all late season favorites. Though these systems are all late season sockeye spawning streams, they offer unique challenges and fishing situations.
Our Favorite Fall Fishing Areas
The Naknek and Kvichak River offer excellent trout fishing in September and October. Though the Kvichak does start fishing in mid-August when chum salmon begin to spawn, the majority of the fishing happens in September with the sockeye spawn. The Kvichak drains from Lake Illiamna, Alaska’s largest lake, and flows to the saltwater into Kvichak Bay. Very large rainbows that spend most of their lives in Illiamna drop into the Kvichak to feed. We target these fish by swinging streamers from shore or boat. Additionally, wade fishing shallow bars with egg patterns, and also by drifting through salmon spawning areas. We keep two boats ready to fish on the Kvichak at all times.
The Naknek, like the Kvichak drains from a giant lake, Naknek Lake. Similarly, Naknek trout spend most of their year in the lake and then move into the river in the fall. The Naknek rainbow trout tend to arrive a few weeks later than the Kvichak fish. The Naknek does have a large population of sockeye that spawn in the river, but unlike the Kvichak, the area where they spawn is in very deep water, near the outlet of the lake. In this are we are able to target very large rainbow trout while drifting from a jet boat. Once the trout on the Naknek move into more accessible parts of the river, we target them from shore with streamers and egg patterns. Naknek and Kvichak trout are some the largest we see every season, with fish over 30” hooked regularly.
© Cassie Bergman
Fall fishing for trout in Alaska is legendary. Trout feed on the bountiful food from spawning salmon and grow huge. Time seems to slow down in the fall and the foliage puts on a show of colors. Check our 2023 availability to start planning the fishing adventure of a lifetime.