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Anglers who are planning a traditional wilderness fishing trip to Alaska may want to consider adding a day or two of pike fishing to their itinerary. Our correspondent up that way, Tony Route, says northern pike are "invading" the northern Cook Inlet’s Susitna River drainage. The lakes in this watershed are only a short fly-out from Anchorage, and Route says one of the more convenient and logistically easy spots to cast a fly to pike is Alexander Lake. This good-sized lake lies 48 miles northwest of the Lake Hood floatplane base just outside of Anchorage.
As far as the fishing here goes, Route has this to say: "Alexander Lake used to be a good place to fish for rainbow trout, but now the lake is filled with nothing but pike. Not only are there lots of them – in one study Fish and Game tagged over 2,000 – but sampling data includes lots of pike weighing more than 20 pounds.
"You can successfully fish for these pike throughout the summer season, but the prime time to get at them with a fly rod is from mid to late May, which is just after the ice melts. Pike are spring spawners and are found in the shallows at that time of the year. This coincides just fine for anglers who have trips planned for the late May king salmon fishery or the early June trout opener.
"I wouldn’t go after them with anything less than an eight-weight rod. With some of the smaller fish you could get away with a lighter outfit, but pike like very big flies. Casting large Deceivers and Dahlberg Divers with a light fly rod isn’t much fun. I’d stock up on rabbit strip flies, particularly ones with a red and white color combination. I’d also carry some mice patterns for top-water action. Pike are anything but delicate, though, and deer hair mice don’t float too well after a few big pike have messed with them. Because of this, I’ve experimented with hard-bodied poppers over the past couple of seasons and found them to be excellent substitutes for deer hair surface bugs. The pike have a tough time damaging them, and they’ll float forever.
"Getting to Alexander Lake involves hooking up with one of the many floatplane outfits at Lake Hood, which is the busiest seaplane base in the world. One such operator is Rust’s Flying Service (*). They are competitively priced, have a decent reputation and have been around for a long time.
"Prices vary with the number of anglers in a party. For example, they fly a party of three anglers in and out for $165 per person. The usual stay is only for the day, although if you want to stay overnight, Rust’s can rent you tents, stoves and other gear. They also have a boat with a motor cached at the lake, for which they charge an extra $25 per person, including gas.
"I’ve had plenty of success fishing Alexander Lake with nothing but a float tube. If I did it again, though, I’d opt for the boat rental. I’d still take my float tube, but the boat would make it easier to get around and scout the entire lake. Once you arrive at a good-looking spot, one or two anglers can cast from the boat and one or two can plop into the water with float tubes. This would spread the effort out and keep those big flies from whistling by your fishing partner’s ears."