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The Spectacular Kanektok Fishery

The Kanektok (aka the Chosen River) is a fly fisherman’s dream. The river is the perfect size and provides outstanding spawning grounds for all five species of Alaskan Pacific salmon. Located in southwestern Alaska near the village of Quinhagak, our camp is perfectly situated within the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.  Encompassing over 4 million acres, it is home to some of the most prolific salmon runs in the world and hosts a wide variety of fish, bird and mammal species.  From rolling tundra to the highest mountain peaks, and from the rugged coastlines to crystal clear rivers, the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for all things wild.  A magical place by any account, its ability to support wildlife and sustain natural populations of WILD fish truly set it apart.  In the clear waters of the Kanektok, anglers will find king, coho, sockeye, chum and pink salmon, as well as trophy-sized native rainbow trout, arctic char, grayling, and dolly varden. The Kanektok and its tributaries and braids give anglers access to some of the best sport fishing in the world. We are extremely lucky to be here on this river and are excited to share this very special area with you. 

The Kanektok river fishing season is dictated by the king and silver salmon fishery and has excellent trout fishing. The kings run June 15th – July 25th while the silver salmon run July 23rd until Sept 10th. The king salmon escapement goal is 3,500 - 8,000 per season. The silver salmon escapement goal is 50,000 per season. During the month of July the Kanektok receives a run of 50,000 – 200,000 chum salmon and on even years receives a run of over 100,000 pink salmon. The river also has a run of 50,000 - 200,000 sockeye salmon in mid July. The rivers’ rainbow trout are most prevalent in the braided section of the river. There are trophy rainbows available with some close to 30 inches. The dolly vardens are sea run with over 20,000 - 35,000 passing the fish weir last year. The river also has a good grayling population.

Togiak National Wildlife Refuge Links

Togiak Homepage: http://togiak.fws.gov/
Togiak Conservation Page: http://alaska.fws.gov/nwr/planning/pdf/togiak/Togiak_Decision_Summary.pdf
Togiak Fish Page: http://togiak.fws.gov/fishspp.htm
Togiak Mammal Page: http://togiak.fws.gov/mammals_spp.htm
Togiak Bird Page: http://togiak.fws.gov/birds_spp.htm

King Salmon

The Kanektok is a very special river in terms of king fishing.  It is unique amongst other Alaskan rivers in that not only does it provide the opportunity to catch chrome bright fish close to the ocean, but they are in water that makes them very accessible with a fly rod, (swinging technique in particular).  In other drainages, the size of the river is usually too big or too muddy to effectively pursue king fishing and the fish themselves tend to turn red faster.

King salmon are an incredibly powerful and impressive fish.  When you land one of these beauties, it is truly a magical moment – so much so, that despite your burning arms, you’ll want to get right back out there and try for another!

We are strictly catch and release for all king salmon, the gene pool for the adult king salmon is extremely precious and we want to protect future generations any way we can!


Silver Salmon

What a blast silvers are!  Ranging in average weight from 8-12 pounds, they also come in huge numbers.  Unique to this river too, there are SO MANY of them that you can catch chrome bright fish for the entire 5-week season – they just keep coming and coming… 

Incredible fighters, silvers, like chum salmon are also very top water oriented.  They are aggressive, strong and acrobatic fish.  They can be caught from shore or from a boat, in sloughs and off gravel bars.  You can catch them by stripping weighted flies, or by using poppers, wogs, gurglers and even dead drifting into the swing.  There is excellent sight casting opportunities, and they will often take the fly just at rod’s length after having chased it for 20-30 feet.  When they want it, they want it! 

Chum Salmon

Chum salmon are AWESOME and there is certainly no shortage of them in this river. Available for most of the season, they can be caught anywhere from tidewater to 15 miles up river and still be very fresh and chrome bright.  They are an excellent game fish and are fantastic fighters, often making long runs and contorting themselves into master aerial acrobats.  And one thing is certain - once these fish are hooked they do not give up!  For their size, they are very strong. 

Averaging 10-14 pounds, chum are perfect for both single-hand and spey-rod techniques.  As with king salmon, they will take flies on the swing, but they are also VERY top water oriented.  This can be a blast using pink wogs, poppers and even mouse patterns.  They will also take flies being stripped through the water such as streamers and leeches.      

In August, the spawning chum provide a feast of eggs for the ever hungry dollies, grayling and rainbow trout.

Rainbow Trout

The rainbow trout in this river are beautiful and a real pleasure to fish for.  With true ‘leopard’ genetics, they are the MOST stunning rainbows in Alaska – bright red lateral stripes and large, prominent spots across their entire body, even their eyes! 

These rainbows average 18-24” and can be caught in the main river as well as in the plethora of smaller side channels.  You can sight cast for a lot of these fish and they can be caught using a variety of flies and techniques including mouse patterns, leach patterns, egg flies, flesh flies, dry flies and nymphs.   

Dolly Varden & Arctic Char

The Kanektok has no shortage of these eager fish.  Entering the river as a bright silver army, the fish gradually change color as they get closer to spawning.  Now, saying these fish change color is a bit of an understatement.  At first they change just a little – they still have very silvery sides, but develop light pink spots and have a generalized blue sheen.  By the time spawning is at its peak however, the dollies become some of the most beautiful fish on earth.  They have neon bright orange/red bellies that almost seem to glow and sport a fantastic green and blue, sometimes almost turquoise upper body.  This coloration is made even more vivid by the many vibrant orange spots that dapple their body.  In a nutshell, dollies are the ‘tropical fish’ of Alaska.  It is not uncommon for people who catch these magnificent fish to say that they are the most beautiful fish they have ever seen or caught. 

Fishing for dollies is a lot of fun.  They are aggressive, come in huge numbers and can be easily sight casted to.  Averaging 18-24,” larger fish range up to 28.” They can be caught on leaches, dry flies, mice and egg patterns. 


Grayling are year-round residents of the Kanektok and will eagerly take flies all season long.  They might be a smaller fish, but they are beautiful and will aggressively take a variety of flies, especially dries.  Known for their fantastic, fan like dorsal fins, they are a great fish to watch coming up for your fly on the surface.  They can be a lot of fun with a fly rod, particularly a 3-5-weight rod. 

Pink Salmon

Like an army of chrome footballs, pink salmon run up river to spawn every other year – as it so happens, on even years.  Averaging 2-4 pounds, they are a great fish to catch on the 5-weight and you can catch them in unbelievable numbers.  Entering the river shiny as can be, their bodies gradually morph into something akin to an upright pancake with one heck of a hump – hence their nickname, “humpies.”  Physical appearances aside, they will aggressively take flies in much of the same water and techniques as silver salmon – stripping streamers, flies on the swing, in side channels, along gravel bars and in sloughs.  One of the most productive and perhaps the most fun means of catching these guys however, is on the surface using wogs, gurglers, poppers, and even mouse patterns.   Like many of the other species, they are very top water oriented and will aggressively destroy any prey (real or perceived) on the surface.   

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye are the lifeblood of Alaska.  In every drainage they flourish and spawn, their eggs provide many other fish species with food and their bodies provide flesh for some of Alaska’s top predators and scavengers.  Entering the river a bright silver color in June and early July, as August approaches they turn a vivid red with a huge hump and crazy snaggly teeth.  Most of these fish spawn far up river in the upper tributaries. 

Run Timing Of The Fishery

June 15th – July 15th – PEAK time for King Salmon (Kings available until July 25th)

June 20th – Sept 5th - Rainbow Trout

June 20th – July 31st – Chum Salmon

June 25th – July 25th – Sockeye Salmon

July 15th – August 5th – Pink Salmon

July 10th – September 5th – Dolly Varden/Arctic Char

July 24th – September 5th – Silver Salmon

Grayling are available all season long 

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