I don't know about yall, but me,TJ, and Sarah are starting to get pretty excited. We got salmon season right around the corner in June and July. We've been down here in Texas catching them Bass and Stripers. There ain't nothing wrong with bass fishing or fishing for stripers, but we are sure ready for 45lb king salmon, and hooking into a dozen sockeye salmon. This article is full of a little info on what's new going into the Alaska 2019 salmon season.
Two Boats, 3 guides
This year we will be expanding to two boats and three guides. The three guides going into 2019 will be Evan, Sarah, and TJ. All three of us bring a different strength to guiding. This will give us the ability to link your group with the guide that will provide the experience your looking for.
Sarah Sledge (Sockeye Slayer)
Sarah Sledge is Evan's sister and has grown up hunting and fishing her entire life. Sarah will be specializing in all women trips. Sarah has fun teaching ladies how to fish, and seeing their face the first time they hook a sockeye salmon. Sarah says, "I understand how it is being a girl in a male dominant activity. But that's alright cause I usually come back with more fish than any of the boys." Sarah is a hell of a sockeye salmon fisher, and will be sure to put you on the fish. She runs the upper section of the Kasilof river. Putting in at Tustumena Lake and fishing down to the Kasilof bridge. Sarah's river run is known for its glacier colored water, beautiful nature, and solid wildlife.
TJ Ryan (Head Guide)
TJ Ryan is the head guide for 1 reason. He is one of the best fisherman there is. Doesn't matter if its bass on Lake Fork, Reds of the coast, or king salmon in Alaska. One half of being a fishing guide is fishing skills. The second half of being a fishing guide is creating an experience for the customer and dedication. TJ is excellent at tailoring the trips to the customer and developing a great experience. Let me give you an example, If the group told TJ, "we are here to catch one really big king salmon (+50lbs)". He would tailor the trip that morning for that one goal. And even if it takes extra hours on the water he is going to do all he can to provide that experience to you. Tj's expertise is King Salmon fishing. TJ said, "I'm an analytical type of guy. I have journal entries from every time I've been fishing in the last 4 years. Now with new technologies like the Anglr app, I am able to analyze this data and get a strong reading on what the fish are doing." TJ believes by tacking all the data behind his fishing trips and fishing every day this gives him a huge advantage over other fisherman.
Evan Sledge (SledgeHammer)
Evan is the founder of Sledge Outfitters. Evan is living a dream. He gets to wake up every morning, meet a brand new group, and provide a once in a lifetime trip for them. Evan says, "You would be surprised how close you get after fishing together for 8-9 hours. They know everything about me and my story and vice versa. It's the coolest feeling meeting somebody totally new that morning, fishing with them all day, and then staying in regular touch with them for the next 5 years. "You don't get that everyday in a corporate finance job."- Evan. Evan specializes in King Salmon fishing, also known as Chinook salmon. Evans looks at king salmon like a chess match. In the morning Evan likes to pick 3 of his strategic spots to hit off the bat. From there Evan likes to jump the field (other boats) to be in the front 5 boats. Evan likes to smack a king in the middle section, than shoot it down to the bottom river in order to be the first boat on the incoming tide. Everybody has their own style. There's not a right way or wrong way. However, this is Evan's way and it's been working pretty well.
Alaska 2019 Fishing Regulations
The Alaska fishing regulations are set by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Depending on how many salmon have passed during the season the ADFG will adjust the fishing regulations to allow more or less harvest. So far so good. ADFG is expecting a healthy 2019 salmon run. They do not currently see any reason why it wouldn't be a healthy salmon run in 2019. This means that June and July should be great times to catch king salmon and sockeye salmon. Sockeye and silver (coho) salmon will be targeted in August. When coming to Alaska it is important to stay familiar with the regulations if you plan on doing any fishing on you own. Click here to check regulations.
New Bait, Bigger Kings
Last year Tj had experimented with new roe (salmon eggs) recipes. In fact he experimented with about 8 different recipes. The main goal was to find a bait and setup that was exceptionally well at catching those really big king salmon. From a cure standpoint he tried all the main cure brands such as FireCure, Nates Baits, and Pro Cure. Tried numerous additives, sugars, borax, and anise oil. By the end of the season TJ came up with his own cure recipe and additives that produced his two biggest king salmon last season. If your looking to catch one of those big boys be sure to ask Tj for some of that secret bait before you let the lines out.
We are really excited to announce that Sledge Outfitters has taken the knowledge we've obtained on the water and started our own lure line!
Locals Only Lures is simplifying the lure buying process by highlighting local guides and picking the most productive lure they use season after season. So if your visiting new waters or going after a new species, take out the guessing game of which lure to use and trust the local guide with their Locals Only Lure. Already assembled, Locals Only Lures is an attach and go option having you fish like the guides in less than 5 minutes.
10% Goes Towards Taking Veterans Hunting and Fishing
We are fortunate enough here at Sledge Outfitters to have been able to guide hunting and fishing trips for returning veterans. This is something that is really special to us! the truth is the different foundations don't have enough founding to support all the veterans that should be able to go on hunting and fishing trips. Sledge Outfitters has decided to dedicate funds to this cause and give the opportunity for you to partner with us as we respect those who have fought for our freedoms and gift them with hunting and fishing trips. With each lure you buy from Locals Only Lures 10% proceeds go towards taking veterans hunting and fishing! How cool is that!
Locals Only Lure King Salmon
The first lure launched is a king salmon Lure specifically for Alaska. We like to call this baby the Record Setter. This lure highlights Evan Sledge who is a fishing guide for king salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof River. Evan said, "it's a no brainer, I have a lure I assemble called Record Setter. Record Setter has been my most producing king salmon setup year after year. It doesn't matter if it's the first or second run of salmon, I will always have a record setter out there.
No more pointless descriptions and directions we have seen out of lure manufactures to this point. Locals Only Lures give clear and easy directions along with pictures to be sure you are using the lure correctly in under 5 minutes. Locals Only Lures also will tell you very clearly what species this lure targets and what waters it has been guide proven to work. Also, you can visit sledgeoutfitters.com to watch videos of the sponsored guide giving direction on how to assemble and use your lure.
Where to Buy
Right now Locals Only Lures King Salmon can be found in local tackle shops in Soldotna and Kasilof. We are trying to get in more locations right now. If locals Only Lures is something that you are interested in we recommend you tell your local tackle shop and we will try our best to supply them with some lures. In the meantime our Locals Only Lure is available to order via our website.
Locals Only Lures will continue to expand its offering highlighting bass guides on different Texas lakes, as well as trout and salmon here in Alaska. Our guides in Texas are field testing our bass lure for lake Granbury, Fork and Rayburn right now. We are hoping to have a launch next Spring!
The season Is upon us!!! going into the third week of June Soldotna is getting busier and more people are out on the water fishing. Although it isn't as busy as the July rush, it is safe to say that June on the Kenai has arrived. I hope this short blog is helpful and interesting before you head up.
There aint nothing I love more than going after some king salmon! King salmon are the prize fish here in Alaska and are the hardest of the five species of salmon to catch. As a guide it takes a lot of preparation and knowledge to get one of these beast. This early run we experimented with our gear, and have found a recipe the big kings can't resist. One of the good problems we have had is the kings we have been catching are above the Alaska fish and game requirements for June of 36 inches (more on Kenai regs). After talking with other guides, we are not the only ones catching some good size kings on the first run. Usually the second run (July) of king salmon will be larger on the Kenai River than the first run in May and June. However, it is known that some of the biggest kings of the season will come up late May early June. In fact, The world record king salmon was caught around this time. On May 17th 1985 Les Anderson caught the world record king salmon on the Kenai River. The monster fish weighed in at 97 and 1/4 pounds (more on Les Anderson). Now I am not saying that someone is going to take over Les Andersons record this season, but I would bet that when it does happen it's on the Kenai River. Insider Info: We have started to se a few Russian reds coming through the stream. So the next 10 days should be a good chance to catch some early run sockeye.
The Kasilof River in my opinion is one the most hidden gems in Alaska. The Kasilof River is about 15 minutes south of Soldotna and brings the true Alaska adventure. The Kasilof offers excellent salmon fishing, lots of wildlife, a peaceful float, and a lot of history. The first hunting license given in Alaska was given to Andrew Berg. Andrew Berg would take out rick Europeans for hunts and fishing trips on the Kasilof river and Tustemena Lake. The Kasilof has been a little slow on fishing this season. A large part of this can be due to the low and cold water temperatures. Luckily, the last two days we have had rising water levels and an increase in strikes while fishing. The Kasilof should just keep getting better and better as the season goes on. July on the Kasilof is a great time to plan your combo trips. we will start in Tustemena lake, do some sockeye fishing on the upper kasilof, have a beachside lunch, then finish up with king fishing the bottom Kasilof.
Free some freezer space cause were catching limits out in Deep Creek. The halibut fishing has been pretty good out of Homer, Anchor Point, and Deep Creek. After talking with a few other captains it seems pretty aware the halibut are still staying shallow between 80-150 feet. If your looking to catch big halibut try fishing a salmon head, and watch your pole come tide switch.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game made a few emergency orders regarding salmon fishing. The Anchor River and Ninilchik have been closed the rest of June to fishing. Also saltwater salmon fishing has been closed within a mile of Deep Creek. If you have a combo trip planned out of Deep Creek, I would recommend calling your guide/outfitter and just ask them if this emergency order affect your trip in any way.
Just recently we got to other emergency orders. We recommend you visit Alaska Fish and Game website to learn about all regulation changes. Pretty much though, the emergency river affected the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers for king salmon fishing. On the Kenai River it is only catch and release for king salmon. On the Kasilof River you can old retain hatchery king salmon.
Last year over 500,000 people from around the world purchased fishing license to fish in the great State of Alaska. With so many options of world class fishing, visitors aren't sure which trips to choose the few days they have. You have fly-fishing trips, saltwater trips, fly-out trips, river trips, and back country trips We hope that after reading this article you will have a better understanding of your options when visiting Alaska.
Everybody has seen the National Geographic pictures of the rivers colored red with thousands of salmon working their way up to spawn. Alaska is home to some of the largest salmon runs in the world which makes river fishing great for fisherman, as well as wildlife like bears and eagles.
The trophy fish of Alaska would be the King Salmon. The King salmon is the largest of the salmon species and provides one of the most thrilling catches for a fisherman. The kings are also the hardest fish to catch. King season runs from June-July. A good day fishing for kings is typically 2-3 fish for a group of 4 on a full day trip. Although your doing well to catch a few, the fight you get from hooking into a king is worth it. To catch these kings a trolling method is used with salmon roe or lures as bait. If your looking for a trip that's relaxing and suitable for all skill levels, the King Salmon river trip is the trip for you. The Kenai River is the most famous river to fish kings in the world. The Kenai River has the world record King Salmon caught by rod n reel at 97 pounds 4 ounces. When fishing the Kenai it is not uncommon to catch a 40-60 pounder. Another great river to fish Kings is about 15 miles south of the Kenai River on a smaller glacier fed river called the Kasilof River. The Kasilof gets good numbers and size of Kings that come up every. The Kasilof is a nice river to fish also because is a drift boat only river where motor use is not allowed when fishing. When fishing the Kasilof is not uncommon to only see 3-4 other boats the whole trip. I like to think of the Kasilof River as one of Alaska's hidden gems.
For sockeye salmon you use fly-fishing gear and wade shin deep off the bank. When sockeye are biting well you can catch a limit of fish in no time! The best time to go sockeye fishing would be late June through early August. If your looking for a fishing trip that allows you to walk around and always moving and casting, the Sockeye trip is the trip for you. The Kenai and Kasilof River are popular places to target this species, but another option is taking a fly-out trip. Fly-out trips are a great experience I recommend to everyone coming to Alaska. In a fly-out trip you get to hop on a float plane fly through the mountains of Alaska to a remote body of water and then fish for Sockeye or Silver Salmon. Fly-out trips also provide a great opportunity to see bears while you fish from the boat. one of the most popular destinations for a fly-out trip is Wolverine Creek.
Silver salmon run up the rivers is August. popular destinations are flyout rivers, Kenai, and Kasiof River. Silver Salmon are a fun fish to catch as the style is some of a mix between King and Sockeye Salmon. These fish got a lot of energy and are always jumping out of the water when trying to reel in.
If you like to eat fish, there is nothing better than fresh Alaskan halibut. Remember to ask for the cheeks when getting you fish dressed. Halibut fishing is like pulling up a barn door. When reeling in a halibut its a lot of work, and these fish can get to be 300+ pounds. I would say a good average fish on a charter would be a 40-50 pound fish.
Homer Alaska is the "Halibut Capital of the World" making it one of the more popular places to go out of for halibut trips. Homer is a beautiful town that has other attractions as well. Some big advantages of taking a trip out of Homer is that it is usually calmer waters and the boats will typically be larger.
Seward is another great option to book your trip out of if your looking for a combo trip. Seward trips give a great opportunity to target salmon, rockfish, and halibut on the same trip. Seward also has a lot of wildlife and glaciers making it a top destination in Alaska. The only downside to taking a trip out of Seward is the fact that the waters can get a bit rough out there.
Deep Creek in Ninilchik is a great location to book a trip if you are looking for a more personal experience. The trips out of Deep Creek are from 6-Pac boats, meaning that they only carry 5 customers. If you are booking as a family and their is a group of yall this is a great option to get a more personal experience.
Alaska offers some of the biggest Rainbow trout and Dolly Vardens in the world! With the salmon every year coming into the streams to spawn, the trout will feed on egg patterns and flesh flies. The best time to fish for trout is August and September. I would recommend fishing either the Kenai River or take a flyout trip to a stream.
The last day of the season is always reserved for the boys and girls of Sledge Outfitters. If you think Christmas is the best day of the year, last day of duck season is better. Here at Sledge Outfitters, we believe the guides need at least one day to themselves. It all begins the night before with a good ole Chuckwagon cookout, a campfire at midnight with three to four hours of sleep. By 5 am, the decoys are spread in the pond and the guides are in the blind. As per tradition, Copenhagen for the pond and for the boys. Ripe for shooting at 7:04, its the one point at the season the guides can relax and enjoy hunting for themselves. Usually, the last week or two is slower. Temperatures are warmer, most of the ducks are pushed to the coast. Luckily, 2018 was the best season we've seen for the last 10 years.
We had a lot of early morning action; with a mix of Mallards, Divers and Teal. Typically, we experience early morning runners with a break around 7:30 am and another run around 9 am. This day was unique as our main run was at 7:45 that continued with singles and doubles steady throughout the morning. Overall, the crew had a great time. We shot some great late season birds. We cannot wait for the beginning of November to start again!
Fishing early August in Alaska is an awesome time. Great weather, last part of sockeye fishing, and the chrome silvers are making their way upstream. It also is the time for one of Alaska's largest festivals, Salmon Fest. From August 4th to 6th in the little town of Ninilchik, population 880; thousands of hippies reside for camping, music, and salmon. The first time I saw salmon fest it was a shock. I was at the Ninilchik General Store and there were thousands of people walking around; which isn't a normal sight for sure. We had Saturday off from work so Cole, Cheyanee, Brandon, Corina and I went to go experience Salmon Fest first hand. There were all types of people present young, old, hippie, business professionals, tourist, and some mountain men deep from the bush. It was definitely a different experience than your typical honkytonk in Texas, but a good time to say the least. The musicians were majority local artist, but also had some bigger names that night with Jewel and a surprise performance by Zac Brown from the Zac Brown band. If you plan on visiting early August, I would recommend at least driving through Ninilchik and check it out. Maybe add a few more unique pics to the Alaska vacation album.
You got two types of guides in Alaska. You got your salt captains and you got your River captains. We have totally different waters, but both live, eat, and sleep fishing. There is an ongoing joke with the ole salt captains that us river guides have it easy floating down the river in our shades and short getting a nice golden tan. While the salt captains battle 8 foot swells and dogfish. I've learned to let em take the oars through some mild rapids one time, and they respect you a little more. This year I met a salt captain from Michigan named Cole that will be family from now on. Cole had been guiding the Great Lakes for King Salmon since he was 13, and the guy was one hell of a fisherman I tell you what. Well one day we were having a classy natty light after work (Natural Light beer), and Cole was talking about how everybody back home was going crazy about a 25lb King salmon caught on the great lakes. We both had the next day off and I told Cole I could put him on a 30lb king tomorrow, if he could handle it. At first he thought I was joking and said he would be a god back home if that happened. I told him we could do it and were launching at 3:15 am. Those salt guides arent use to that! That next morning I took Cole straight to my special spot on the river and told him to get ready your about to get a take down in 20 feet. Sure enough he had a major takedown and Cole gave that fish jessee! The King started heading upstream which tells you he is a big fish, but we were able to get him back down in front of the boat. After about a 10 minute fight we were able to net a 32lb king and make those Great Lake KIngs look like his little sister! Just another win for the river captains against the salt captains.
During my time on the river, I've captained several different makes of drift boats. In Alaska, our rivers are different than the lower 48 states. We have larger bodies of water, deeper, and strong currents. In the lower 48, you will see fiberglass hulls like the Claka Craft and the Hyde. They're popular due to their weight, quietness, and ability to navigate in shallow waters. In Alaska, we are looking for a big, stable boat that has the ability to hold 4 fisherman while trolling gear in front of us. Aluminum hulls like Fishrite, Willies, and Alumawelds are popular. They are built like tanks. The boats I have used have been a 1998 Willie, 2002 Fishrite, and 1998 Alumaweld.
When you choose a boat, you want one that is comfortable to you and compliments your rowing style. It must be designed in a way that fits you gear and makes everything accessible for four fishermen. Also, being in Alaska, you can expect to get some rain so dry storage is important. When comparing these brands, you will see that the compartments are pretty similar.
In the last couple of years, a lot of guides have been moving from bench seating to pedestal seating. Depending on the number of clients on the boat, you can shift seating and arrange it in a way to have more room and distribute weight accordingly. The disadvantage of this is you loose some dry storage space.
When it comes to rowing, I prefer 9' 6" oars, and from my experience it takes less effort to row the Fishrite and the Willie compared to the Alumaweld. The Willie is more maneuverable which is important when you are trying to hit tight spots to get your gear behind rocks which is a favorite spot for salmon.
Any of these brands of drift boats are great options but it comes down to the fisherman and the waters you are trying to fish. The first decision is aluminum or fiberglass depending on the body of water, then you have to get out in them and try them out. I chose to order a new 2018 model, 19-66 (19 ft long; 66 in wide) custom built from Willie with a walk through seating layout. With this model, I still have dry compartments for storage but have mobility to get around without having to step over bench seating. For King Salmon fishing, I know this arrangement is most suitable for our conditions on the Kasilof/Kenai giving us the best chance to land big fish.
I had launched at 3am for a 10 hour trip with clients from Oregon trying to get our King limit. We were almost done when I got a call from the office wanting me to do a double with a family that afternoon. After saying goodbye to my clients, I met my new group who turned out to be a family of four from Idaho and a float I'll never forget.
Mom and Dad lived in Alaska at one time and were bringing their 12 and 5 year old sons back to experience fishing as only Alaska can provide. I went through protocol and all the usual instructions. The 12 year old's rod was bending in the water, screeching line. I could tell it was a 40+ pounder. He couldn't get the rod out of the holder because the salmon had it pinned down. We had to pull anchor and chase the fish downstream because he was about to strip us to the spool. Every time we thought we could net him, he would have a boost of energy and head the other way 20-30 yards. I told the mom that she was on rock duty to look for obstacles and right as we are about to net it, Mom casually said "Hey, Evan, those look like some big rocks". I glanced up, took control of the sticks, and told the boy to get ready for a fight. We had to choose between cutting the line or going through the rapids. It was a no brainer....we chose the rapids. Believe it or not, he fought that fish all the way through the rapids keeping it clear of rocks and trees. On the other side, we were able to net it and bring him in the boat.
The boy was an avid bass fisherman and when he got him in the boat he said "I've never caught a bass this big!". That salmon ended up being 52 pounds and dragged us 3/4 mile down the river. 10 months later, I still receive pictures of them eating that fish at their dinner table!
It was an average day fly fishing for Sockeye on the Kasilof River but it was blue skies and 70 degrees. "Big John" served our country in Afghanistan and was wounded and now an amputee. He was also a hell of a fisherman and didn't let one fish get upstream to the rest of the boys all afternoon. After bringing in 2-3, Big John went on security duty watching the cooler. Every once in a while, he would through his line out and while sittin on the cooler, he somehow caught a big one! He went to hootin and hollerin and I looked downstream and next thing I know, he was half way in the water hooked into a solid 8 pound sockeye salmon. I've seen some people catch a few, but I ain't never seen someone reel one in while being fully submerged in glacier water! That's just something you can't coach! Thanks, guys for one of the best trips I've ever had.