Fishing in Bristol Bay

The type of fishing you do while at Bear Trail Lodge is your choice. Whether it’s wading, drifting, casting or plugging, your guide will help you fish in whichever way you enjoy the most. You can fly fish or use conventional gear. There are streams that are fly fishing only areas and there are rivers that allow either fly fishing or conventional gear. 

The location of Bear Trail Lodge, on the trophy-class Naknek River, assures our guests will have the opportunity to fish each day during their stay. At our lodge, we have the best of both worlds. The fishing is excellent on our “home” river and the lodge is very close to many “fly-out” rivers.

Many times throughout the season, especially when fishing big rainbow trout, the Naknek is the river of choice. Throughout the Bristol Bay and Lake Iliamna area, there are tremendous fishing opportunities allowing guests to see and experience the flavor of this great area. Our central location makes many of the remote streams very accessible and only a short flight away. We are near Katmai National Park and Preserve and have permits to operate on “limited access” rivers. Bear Trail Lodge facilitates fly-outs to take guests to different rivers throughout the area to fish for salmon, arctic char, and rainbow trout. These adventures are included in guest package prices.

The benefit of choosing to visit Bear Trail Lodge is whether you decide to fly-out to fish a nearby stream or stay and experience the wonders that our home river offers, your fishing day will be filled with adventure and excitement.


During June, shortly after the ice goes out, the sport fishing season in the Bristol Bay area opens. The first part of June is excellent for rainbow trout, arctic grayling and northern pike.

There is plenty of excitement for anglers as the fish are aggressively feeding on migrating salmon smolt after a long winter with little food. The mouth of the Naknek River acts like a funnel for the millions of baby salmon smolt migrating to Bristol Bay. This provides an excellent feeding spot for the large rainbows of the Naknek River.

The mighty king salmon, the largest fish of the Pacific salmon family, begin to arrive in their native rivers about June 15. Anglers visiting us at this time of the year will have a combination rainbow trout and king salmon trip. The kings average between 20 and 30 pounds. We have three different rivers in which we fish for king salmon. One of them is right in front of Bear Trail Lodge on the Naknek River. You will travel a short distance by boat from the lodge to fish for kings or you can choose to fly out to fish one of our other rivers. The flights from the lodge are included in your package and your guides will help decide which river to go to. King fishing stays good from June 15 through July 31.

During the end of June and through July, the Naknek River becomes the passageway for sockeye salmon to instinctively return to their spawning grounds. Millions of sockeye pass right in front of the lodge, with as many as 20,000 fish per hour swimming by. These fish are fresh in from the ocean, are dime bright and put up a spectacular fight once hooked. The bag limit for sockeye on the Naknek River is very generous. Many people prefer the rich taste of the sockeye salmon’s deep red meat over any of the other salmon.

The next species to arrive to the streams in the Bristol Bay area are silver, chum and pink salmon. These fish show up each summer around the last week of July. Silver salmon fishing is very exciting and many anglers prefer silvers to all other salmon because of their hard strikes and many long runs with spectacular tail dances. Chum salmon, although not prized like the kings, sockeye and silvers, offer a very enjoyable sport fishing experience. These fish average 15 pounds and put on a tremendous fight as they aggressively take a fly. We generally catch and release these fish which provide for a very exciting day of fishing.

troops rainbow trout Bristol by a naknek

Mid-August through October, rainbow trout return to the Naknek to stock up for the long, cold winter. Although we have tremendous rainbow trout fishing in many of the surrounding nearby streams of Katmai National Park throughout the entire summer, this is our “trophy” time of the season on our home rivers. The Naknek holds an abundance of 28–30 inch rainbows and each year we land quite a few fish in excess of 30 inches. These prized fish will quicken your pulse as they make run after run as you try to land one. They are pound-for-pound the best fighting sport fish in the world. If you want to catch a true trophy rainbow trout, you will want to be at our lodge in June or from mid-August through the end of October.

Rainbow Trout
June 8 - Oct. 15
Average size is 24–26” fish on many rivers throughout the region.

King Salmon
June 15 - July 31
Excellent fishing throughout the season for 25–30 pound fish on the Naknek.

Sockeye Salmon
June 28 - July 20
World’s largest salmon run passes right in front of the lodge.

Silver Salmon
July 28 - Sept. 25
Very exciting fish to catch; excellent combo with big rainbows.

Fall Rainbow
Sept. 1 - Oct. 15
Trophy fishing for the largest rainbows in Alaska right in front of the lodge.

Chum Salmon
July 15 - Aug. 20
Great fighting sport fish averaging 12 pounds; excellent for fly fishing.

Two-Handed Spey Casting
The Naknek River is tailor made for spey casting with long runs of great stretches of fishable water. The best times to fish for rainbows on the NakNek with a spey rod are June 8 - June 28 and again Sept. 1 - Oct. 15.