Chasing Trophy Rainbows in the legendary Bristol Bay Drainage.
Alaska’s wild Rainbow Trout live a hard life. The road to becoming that trophy trout size is not an easy one. They face all sorts of adversity in there lives, from the array of fish species when they’re small, to birds of prey, bears, martins, and otters when they mature. The list is long and the odds are not in their favor. Also, anglers play a huge part in that percentage due to mis-handling, over playing, and damages sustained from hooks.
So how do these fish fight the odds and reach that coveted trophy mark? An abundance of protein rich food! The big 3 major food sources for these fish are: salmon smolt, salmon eggs, and salmon flesh, all of which provide a protein packed diet. So, unlike other Rainbows that predominantly feed on insects, these fish spend the better part of five months gorging just so they can survive the brutal Alaskan winter. Consequently, this helps them grow to these incredible sizes.
The one major food source that I’m going to concentrate on is the mighty smolt migrations that the Rainbows in the Bristol Bay region take full advantage of. If you have never experienced a “BOIL” from fish in a feeding frenzy, it is utter madness. This is especially true in the case trophy Rainbow Trout that force these 2”-4” salmon smolt to the surface, which creates the boil (feeding frenzy)! These salmon smolt migrate back to the ocean in hoards and run into a gauntlet of predators along the way. Rainbows will chase these little fish into a ball and start to force them to the surface which gives them no where to hide. This creates a buffet for trout and birds alike at the surface. The Rainbows will literally gorge until smolt are hanging out of their mouths.
From the Angling stand point, this is a great opportunity to catch jumbo educated Rainbows off guard and come tight on your trout of a lifetime. This being said, it has been discussed that Rainbow Trout in Alaska are dumb or a “sure thing” and we don’t think this is entirely true. We believe that the window is short for these fish to bulk up for a long Alaskan winter which puts them actively on the bite. This in turn makes them easier to target for sure. However, anyone who has fished for Rainbow trout in Alaska knows that these fish, especially trophy size, are very particular and are primed toward only a specific food source. If it looks, moves, or acts off, they will readily reject it. But, if you are lucky enough to connect with one of these fish this is just half of the battle, because these fish are wild, explosive, and full of protein rich energy. To bring them to hand will test your patience, gear, and skills.
Our advice to anyone who seeks Alaskan Wild Rainbow Trout is to research the time period in which you will be fishing for them, and prepare accordingly. These fish key into a specific food source depending on what time of the season it is and will not deviate far from it. Also, the right type of equipment for the type of fish and how you will be fishing for them is another piece to the puzzle. If you are not prepared for these fish, it can make for a very frustrating outing.
As Anglers, it is up to us to protect the fish. Please use good wilderness values when you’re on the water, respect the resource, and respect the fish. Treat every fish like its a trophy when fighting, handling, and when releasing it. We are the frontline to ensure the survival of our resources. Now get outside and enjoy it.