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Steelhead fans, take note. Subscriber Bud Gore has filed a must-read report on a river in southeast Alaska that offers 14 miles of fishable water near the town of Yakutat. The river – roughly midway between Anchorage and Juneau – is the Situk River. Gore says he has fished the river four times now because it consistently produces incredible numbers of large, wild steelhead. His catches there include a 44-inch, 27-pound fish that he landed in 2009.
Gore tells us his most recent trip to the Situk was this past May. He fished with Aaron Shook, who garners excellent ratings across the board. Gore describes Shook as “…the best guide I’ve had in over 18 years of fishing in Alaska. He trains the other guides who come to fish the Situk from the Portland area.” In the winter, Shook fishes steelhead in the Pacific Northwest.
Gore says he stays at a place called Yakutat Lodge, which he describes as adequate but not luxurious. “It’s in town, adjacent to the airport,” he writes. “The food is reasonable with many choices. Breakfast is at 6, and that allows you to get on the river by 7:15, with take-out between 5 and 6 pm.”
Gore says the fishing here is a combination of floating and wading gravel bars. Alternately, there is a streamside trail here that you can use to wade and fish seven miles of the river. He says the steelhead fishing on the Situk is usually prime from April 1 through May 21.
Gore says Alaska Fish and Game maintains a counting weir on the Situk, and last year it counted 12,500 steelhead returning to the ocean. During the prime time for steelhead, there are no other fish in the river, though a run of sockeyes begins after the steelhead depart, and silvers enter the river later in season.
Using 7-weight rods and floating lines to fish Aeropuffs, yarn balls and jig flies fished below an indicator, Gore reports he hooked approximately six to 10 fish per day in his five days of fishing, all of them “great fish.” He says he landed at least 50 percent of the fish he hooked. “New fish enter the river on each incoming tide,” he writes. “Plus you have ‘winter’ fish which come down into the river from Situk Lake.”
The weather in April and May, Gore writes, can range from brutal (sleet and rain) to bright sunshine and 50 degrees. He says the boats all have a propane heater, and you may need to use it. “Bright sunshine is the worst for fishing,” Gore writes, noting that Shook is “willing to hit the water before the sun does if necessary.”
Gore says he’s headed back to Yakutat in September, taking his daughter for the silvers, which reportedly run from 12 to 22 pounds. He gives the cost of his most recent trip as $2,600 for seven nights lodging and five days of guided fishing. He tells us that he flew from San Francisco on Alaska Airlines (www.alaska air.com), which offers the best flights and service. “I made it to Yakutat via Seattle and Anchorage in one day of travel,” he writes. “But I had to overnight in Seattle on the way home.”
(Postscript: As this is written, a new lodging option is emerging in this area, Gore tells us. It’s a new, eight-bedroom lodge right on the Situk River. A converted private home, it’s slated to be called “Fanning’s On The Bay,” and it will be booked through Yakutat Lodge. If you stay here, or fish the river from another location, do file a report.)