Fly away to wilderness fishing

While salmon and trout fishing on the Kenai River is what brings anglers from all over the world to the Kenai Peninsula, more guides are providing fly-in fishing trips for visitors looking for the ultimate Alaska wilderness adventure.

Talon Air Service, located on Mackey Lake Road in Soldotna, is one flight company that offers a variety of fishing trips to more remote locations on the west side of the Cook Inlet. Fly out fishing combines sight seeing, wildlife viewing with some of the best remote fishing around, said Mark Wackler, owner of Fishology Alaska, a guide outfitter.

Wackler, who uses Talon Air to take clients out, said for people interested in a fly-out trip, there are three places worth checking out: Big River Lakes, Kustatan River and Crescent Lake, all within the Lake Clark Preserve and Wilderness.

A 30-minute floatplane ride from Mackey Lake takes clients to the west side of the Cook Inlet to Redoubt Bay. Clients board a 19-foot boat and explore the lakes and Wolverine Creek for sockeye and silver salmon along with a guide familiar with the waters. Part of the experience is sharing the fishing holes with brown bears, he said.

“Everyone is flying to Big River Lake for silver salmon fishing,” Wackler said. “At the Kustatan River when the silvers come in (late July) the fishing is insane. It is so much fun.”

Wackler said his favorite spot is Crescent River, where up-close views of Mount Redoubt from the air are spectacular and on the remote waters the fishing is top-notch.

“It has become more popular over the years as people experience it for themselves and word of mouth spreads,” he said. “The scenery is unmatched.”

Wackler said while July is peak fishing time on the Kenai River, August and September have become the best fishing months for silvers on the other side of the Cook Inlet. The guides who frequent these areas know trends and what the fish are doing, he said.

Monte Roberts, a guide for All Alaska Outdoors in Soldotna, said they offer three fly-out services: floatplane, wheel and the ultimate trip. All Alaska Outdoors uses Talon Air floatplanes, while the wheeled planes from Natron Air, fly from Soldotna Airport to the beach on the west side of the Cook Inlet.

From the beach anglers can either use spinners or fly gear for chum salmon, Arctic char between August and September. While fishing in such a secluded area makes for common bear encounters, they are often seen from the safety of a boat, Roberts said.

The ultimate trip package, provided by All Alaska Outdoors, is the pursuit for a variety of fish species, from salmon to Dolly Varden, grayling, northern pike and rainbow trout. Along with a guide, clients will travel to multiple spots in one day aboard a Dehavilland Beaver floatplane.

“The difference between fly-out and fishing in the Kenai River, those fish are in clear water streams fished by one group for six hours a day as opposed to all day long by hundreds of boats,” Roberts said. “The scenery on all three trips is beautiful. Overall it makes for an incredible experience.”

The floatplane trip to Big River Lakes or Kustatan are $375 per person. The 40-minute flight to Crescent Lake and River is $475 per person. Wackler said the extra $100 is more than worth it. The ultimate fly in fishing expedition costs $750 per person.

Alaska Troutfitters in Cooper Landing also offers fly-out fishing trips to several lakes on the Kenai Peninsula. Jeff Whalen said they use Scenic Mountain Air and fly out of Moose Pass. For fishermen looking for grayling, they fly to Paradise Lake, Crescent Lake and Bench Lake. Dolly Varden fishing is found in Crescent Lake. With Bench and Johnson lakes close to each other one attraction guides like to do is take people fishing for grayling in Bench Lake then hike down the trail to Johnson Lake for rainbow trout, he said.

Alaska Troutfitters charges $900 for one person and $1,100 for two people. All the fishing equipment, waders and float tubes are provided. The customers only need to bring a fishing license and lunch, Whalen said.

“(Fly-out fishing) is a great option when the river is high or when it’s early in the season,” Whalen said. “It’s just a 20 minute flight so it doesn’t cut into your fishing time.”

 

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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