Bear Viewing And Fly In Fishing

Alaska Bear Viewing and Fly-In Fishing

Our bear viewing and fly-in fishing trips are some of the most popular trips we offer. These trips are an amazing way to combine breathtaking views of glaciers, volcanos, and remote Alaska country and fish waters only accessible with a float-plane. On these trips, you’ll fish for silver and sockeye salmon depending upon the time of year and trip you select. Most of our offered trips are across cook inlet to the Lake Clark Wilderness and the Katmai National Park and Reserve but we also offer trips to Bristol bay and fishing the Nushagak River. Alaska fishing combined with bear viewing is a really great compliment to any vacation.

All of these trips are a full day ranging from 6-8 hours and because they depart from Soldotna these make for easy day trips from the Kenai Riverside Resort.

Please check out the trips below for more details and check our rates and reservations page for specific trip costs. If you are not as interested in fishing, consider the bear viewing only trip to Katmai National Park and Reserve and Brooks Camp viewing area.

Two brown bears fishing for sockeye salmon at Wolverine Creek, Alaska
Two brown bears fishing for sockeye salmon at Wolverine Creek, Alaska.

The wolverine creek trip is located 80 miles southwest of Anchorage on the west side of Cook Inlet and is a very popular bear viewing and fly-in fishing destination. Clear waters allow you to see schools of salmon swimming close to the shore.  And if you can see them, so can the bears that you’ll find also fishing these same waters. This is what makes it such a popular trip for fishing, wildlife viewing, bear viewing, and photographing these majestic animals. But don’t fear, while the view is up close you’ll be perfectly safe in the boat. 

The flight time is about 30 minutes and along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to spot bears, moose, seals, and whales along with the majestic views of glaciers, volcanos, and Alaska’s habitat.

On our bear viewing and fly-in fishing trips to Wolverine Creek, there is the opportunity to see both brown bears and black bears but the majority of the bears will be the larger brown bears as the black bears will typically be further into the interior. Still, seeing both is a possibility. In addition to the bears and salmon, the area is home to millions of waterfowl including eagles, hawks, falcons, swans, ducks, and more. White-fronted geese, named for the patch of white feathers bordering the base of its bill, flock to the area and is the largest known gathering of these birds anywhere in the world. 

On this trip you will fly across in a float-plane and land on the lake before being transferred to your boat which will be used to get to the mouth of wolverine creek where you’ll be able to fish and view the bears and other wildlife. 

Booking Info

Crescent Lake Bear Viewing And Fly-In Fishing

Two brown bears fishing for sockeye salmon at Crescent Lake, Alaska
Two brown bears fishing for sockeye salmon at Crescent Lake, Alaska. Crescent Lake is part of the Lake Clark National Park and Reserve

 

 

Sockeye Salmon: July 10 – Aug 10
Silver Salmon:  Aug 15 – Sept 15
Trout:  July – Sept

Crescent Lake is another great opportunity for bear viewing and fly-in fishing providing both sockeye and silver salmon opportunities depending upon the time of the year. At the base of a sleeping but active volcano towering over 10,000 feet called Mt. Redoubt, and within the Lake Clark National Park, you’ll find beautiful Crescent Lake. You’ll be traveling right across, and very up close to the largest active volcano in North America. Needless to say the scenery is spectacular. Like the Kasilof River, Kenai River, and many rivers on the Kenai Peninsula, Crescent Lake, and Crescent River are created from glacial melt from the permanent ice-capped range of the park. The lake and river are renowned for bear viewing, salmon runs, lake trout, and dolly varden. 

Crescent Lake is a short 45-minute flight from our location in Soldotna. After landing on the lake, the pilot will taxi the plane to the beach, where after deplaning, you’ll board a lake and riverboat that will take you around the lake to view the many bears that are in the area with their cubs, and the into the river where it’s easier to target the salmon. 

The fishing is best in this area around the same times as most other rivers in the region with sockeye from the middle of July through the middle of August, and silvers from mid-August through Sept. Combining the sockeye with a fantastic population of big dolly varden creates a very memorable day. You’ll remember the day well when you pull a limit of salmon and polish it off with 10 lb dolly varden. 

While limits can change, limits are generally 3 sockeye salmon per person per day and 5 trout per person per day. If you’re tying to select which of our bear viewing and fly-in fishing trips you should do, the Crescent Lake trip is probably our first choice.

 

Kustatan & Big River Lakes Bear Viewing and Fly-in Fishing

Nilsen family standing next to float plane during the Kustatan fly-in bear viewing adventure
Nilsen family standing next to floatplane during the Kustatan fly-in bear viewing adventure

Sockeye: June 1 – July 25
Silver Salmon: July 15 – Sept 15

The Kustatan and big river bear viewing and fly-in trips are always a great experience, especially in the fall after the sockeye have peaked and the silvers start to congregate. The Kustatan is known for it’s run of silver salmon. While a lot of our trips land on nearby lakes where we transfer to a waiting boat, the floatplane lands directly on a slower moving offshoot of the main river. There is still a transfer to a waiting river sled to shuttle you to the main channel to start your day fishing.

The Kustatan, like the Kenai, is a glacier-fed silty river, and with aggressive silver salmon, we’ll usually use eggs as bait for our primary method. Hip boots, rods/reels, and bait will all be provided as this is an experience best accomplished with shallow wading. For silver salmon, we will use primarily eggs suspended using a bobber or spinners. Underwater presentation is the key here.

The trip will take about 30 minutes from floats off the water to floats on the water with gorgeous views of Cook Inlet, Mt. Redoubt, Mt. Iliamna, and a variety of glaciers.

Big River Lake is located nearby at the entrance to Lake Clark Pass and feeds Big River and is fed by glacier melt as well. Big River Lake is small by Alaska standards but that doesn’t mean it isn’t teeming with fish. It feeds the river in a roughly 13 mile trip before emptying into Cook Inlet’s west side. We will fish for sockeye in July and August and then start transitioning to silver salmon around late July and into August when the silver salmon start to arrive.

 

Nushagak River King Salmon Fly-In Fishing

King Salmon: June 20 – July 10

Limits: 1 King per day over 28″, 4 Kings over 20″ annually, unlimited catch & release

It’s hard to figure out where to begin when discussing the Nushagak fly-in fishing trip because there are so many great places to start. The Nushagak is located about a 2-hour floatplane flight from the Kenai Peninsula crossing the Lake Clark National Park and landing on the Nushagak River about 30 miles east of the town of Dillingham. Known locally as “The Nush” this is a wide but shallow, extremely braided river, that is home to one of the largest king salmon runs in the world. It’s also the 3rd largest river in Alaska flowing nearly 280 miles before emptying into Bristol Bay. 

Historical Nushagak King Salmon Fish Counts

Just look at the last 5 years of historical numbers for the Nushagak River king salmon run:

June 19, 2016:     20, 931 King Salmon in a single day & 125,368 King Salmon total escapement
June 23, 2017:     10, 633 King Salmon in a single day & 57,000 King Salmon total escapement
June 20, 2018:      7,509    King Salmon in a single day & 97,000 King Salmon total escapement
June 21, 2019:     4,713    King Salmon in a single day & 47,000 King Salmon total escapement
June 26, 2020:     5,650    King Salmon in a single day & 44,000 King Salmon total escapement

This trip is a blast because when it goes off…does it ever go off!  Those daily maximum numbers and total escapement figures are staggering. Nushagak King Salmon average 15-25 pounds but catching fish larger than 25 pounds and even as large as 50 pounds is not uncommon. 

Fishing is done back-bouncing eggs and trolling Kwikfish wrapped in sardine or shrimp and we typically fish the lower Nush just above where the tide influences the river.  This allows us to target tidal fish moving into the river as they are bright, strong, and just out of the saltwater. 

Fishing and Accommodations At The Nushagak

The flight to the Nush is about 2 hours in each direction and can be done in a single day. However, the run can be quite “peaky” as you can see from the graphs above so we recommend making this a multi-day trip to have the best opportunity of catching a big push of kings up the river. Also, due to the time of year of this run, the sunlight is at its maximum, and enjoying a few days on this rarely touched and rarely seen river, is an experience worth staying for.

If you do choose to stay overnight on a multi-day trip you will be spoiled by one of the most comfortable fish-camps you can find. This is a full-service camp, and while wifi is available (but often sporadic and limited), you will find a full-service camp that includes comfortable cabin wall tents, comfortable beds, three home-cooked meals daily with a full-time chef, ten hours of guided fishing, hot showers and sauna, complete filleting, vacuum sealing, and freezing of your catch.

 

 

Katmai National Park Bear Viewing

Katmai National Park And Preserve Location Bear Viewing Map
Where to find Brooks Camp and Brooks Falls Bear Viewing Location within Katmai National Park and Preserve

If you want epic bear viewing and watching these amazing animals staking their ground against other bears and catching leaping salmon out of mid-air this is the trip for you. These trips get you very close to the bears, sometimes as close as 30 ft.

The Katmai National Park and Reserve is situated about 200 miles southwest of Soldotna. Katmai National Park and Reserve is one of Alaska’s most remote national parks and yet easily accessible with the use of floatplanes. It is world-renowned for its Alaska brown bear population estimated at more than 2000 bears.

At the mouth of the Brooks River and the shore of Naknek Lake is the Brooks Camp which has what is probably the best bear viewing platforms in the world. It’s about a 1 mile easily walked trail to the viewing platforms over the falls where the bears are doing their fishing.

The Katmai National Park and Reserve visitors center is open seasonally from June 1 to September 17th and includes ranger-led educational discussions. and programs. They also have services and amenities such as meals and lodging for those interested in an overnight stay. Even though there are amenities as mentioned, it’s still important to remember this is Alaska and prepare accordingly.  This means planning for a variety of weather and prepared for changing conditions – like everywhere in Alaska. 

Getting to Katmai National Park and Reserve

Katmai National Park and Reserve is almost exclusively accessed by boat or plane. You will arrive in Katmai National Park after about a 1-hour float plane flight across cook inlet with breathtaking views of Mt. Redoubt Mt. liamna and endless spans of glaciers and Alaska wilderness.

After viewing the bears there are guided bus tours to the Valley of 10,000 smokes which is an incredible landscape created by the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century that took place in 1914.

Brooks Falls Bears Fishing For Salmon In The Katmai National Park and Preserve
Brooks Falls Bears Fishing For Salmon In The Katmai National Park and Preserve

This trip is extremely popular and if considering an overnight stay please let us know as soon as possible so that we can add this trip to your itinerary and secure lodging. It’s possible to make this a day trip but if you would like to have a more relaxing longer experience watching the bears for an extended time, enjoying dinner in this wilderness, and seeing the Valley of 10,000 smokes we recommend an overnight stay before returning and continuing your trip with us. 

There are so many great resources available about this park that we’ve made an effort to include many of them here for your convenience:

Katmai’s directions and transportation page

Brooks Camp Bear Safety page  

Katmai bear safety page

Brooks Camp Trip Planning Hangout

Katmai National Park & Preserve – Park Map