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One of the more interesting FREE fishing trips ever handed out here at The Angling Report was the one awarded to subscriber Kent Sullivan back in September 2009. Sullivan’s report on what was then a brand-new offering on the Alaska Peninsula near Nelson Lagoon appeared in the November 2009 issue. The trip, you may recall, was organized by the nonprofit organization APICDA (Aleutian-Pribilof Island Community Development Association). The stated goal of the program was to provide visitors a high-quality sport-fishing experience in Alaska while promoting economic growth within the village of Nelson Lagoon.

Fortunately, Sullivan was an old Alaska hand who was way out there on the experience curve, because the trip was not completely put together when he flew into Nelson Lagoon for a week of fishing on the Sapsuk and Steelhead rivers. In fact, the tent camps that were supposed to be set up on the rivers were not in place yet, which meant he had to commute to the Sapsuk in a jet boat every day or on an ATV to the Steelhead River. The latter commute was a 35-mile journey down the beach in an open vehicle. Far from being ruffled by this, Sullivan raved about the opportunity to beachcomb an area that almost no one visits. He picked up a box of glass fishing-net floats and spent hours watching gray whales rubbing themselves on the sand. “I am used to seeing whales,” he wrote, “but it was still very cool to see them next to the shore with their fins sticking out of the water.”

This is not to suggest Sullivan didn’t catch any fish on his trip to Nelson Lagoon. He did. Rainbow, Dolly Varden, and silvers mostly, because he was too late for the kings and too early for the steelhead. Indeed, the fishing available around Nelson Lagoon is off the charts. The unusual opportunity to sight-cast to king salmon part of the year is just icing on a very rich cake. The fishing is so good that a big-name lodge in the area, Hoodoo Lodge, attracts a stream of guests each year willing to pay between $4,150 and $5,850 for a week of fishing. The APICDA trip was—and still is—only $2,400.

All of this is a roundabout way of providing an update on this trip sent to us recently by APICDA’s George Weaver. Clearly, there have been some major infrastructure improvements since Sullivan visited Nelson Lagoon, and we understand that an experienced fly-fishing guide is on board for the 2011 season. All considered, this trip is still probably appropriate only for anglers who’ve knocked around Alaska a bit and want to find something different while supporting a very worthy cause. If you go on this trip, please file a report. A place on our Subscriber Honor Roll awaits the first person to file a letter-length report.

Weaver writes: “As your subscribers already know, we opened this program slowly. We began by offering what were essentially guided day trips to the Sapsuk and Steelhead rivers from a base camp in the village of Nelson Lagoon. These trips were successful and well received by our first clients, but we knew we had to improve if we wanted to expand the operation. And that is what we have done.

“APICDA now has semi-permanent Weatherport camps on both the Sapsuk and Steelhead rivers. Having camps directly on the rivers allows guests to spend less time traveling to and from the rivers and more time fishing. These river camps, mind you, are by no means comparable to a fancy lodge. We’re proud to offer folks a ‘no-frills’ approach to wilderness fishing. Our camps are warm, spacious, and comfortable, but they are geared toward the angler who wants something more than the typical lodge experience.

“Access to the camps is pretty straightforward. To reach the Sapsuk camp, guests ride a custom-built, 22-foot, jet-powered aluminum skiff. The camp on the Steelhead River is still only accessible by all-terrain vehicle. The route there takes visitors down a remote beach that directly fronts the Bering Sea. Both journeys offer guests exciting opportunities for unparalleled beachcombing and wildlife viewing along the way.

“The Weatherport camps rest on raised wooden platforms overlooking the rivers. The sleep tents are outfitted with solar powered lights and basic furnishings such as easy chairs, padded sleeping cots, and fly-tying tables. We provide fresh towels, sleeping bags, liners, and pillows for each guest. The camp bathroom on both rivers—a modern version of the traditional Alaska outhouse—is a short stroll down a connecting boardwalk. The facilities are outfitted with solar powered lights, vanity, and sink, and private hot showers. Again, the accommodations are basic and offer little beyond the standard amenities, but they do provide a clean and comfortable place to relax after a long day of fishing.

“Meals at the Sapsuk and Steelhead camps are prepared and served daily by our local cooks. We serve three square meals a day in a buffet/homestyle setting. While we strive to utilize fresh ingredients flown in weekly from Anchorage, we don’t pretend to offer gourmet fare, just good, hearty meals. Typical items on the dinner menu are fresh salads and breads, homemade soups and stews, steaks, roasts, chicken, king crab, and halibut.  

“APICDA currently offers weeklong guided sport-fishing trips for king, silver salmon, steelhead, and Dolly Varden. Trips are typically offered from mid-June through mid-July for king salmon, and from mid-August through early October for silver salmon. The main steelhead month is October. We are fortunate this coming year to have a very experienced Alaska hunting and fishing guide, Kevin Adkins, on site. Kevin can do it all—select flies, rig fly rods, even help clients with their casting. Assisting him will be our local guide from Nelson Lagoon.

“As we work to increase awareness of this fishery and build a steady client base, we have decided to keep our trip costs relatively low in order to set ourselves apart from everyone else, because, frankly, we really are different. Our underlying motive here is not to make a profit but to create economic opportunity for residents of a rural Alaska village. We’re happy to report that the program has had a stimulating effect on the economy of Nelson Lagoon. Not only have we been able to hire and train locally for the positions required by the sport-fishing operations, but we use local bed-and-breakfast establishments, vehicle rental companies, and so forth whenever possible.

“For the 2011 season, our weeklong trips start at $2,400 per person. The trip package includes seven nights of accommodations at either the Sapsuk or Steelhead camp (or a combination of the two); six days of guided fishing on the rivers; three home-cooked meals per day plus beverages and snacks; and free access to fly or conventional fishing tackle. We also have the equipment to prepare a limited silver salmon harvest for transport home by clients. King salmon and steelhead are catch-and-release-only species.”

Postscript: You can find more information about APICDA’s sport-fishing program at Nelson Lagoon by visting Tel.: 888-430-8329.

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