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Sport Fisheries

copyright Greg SyversonIn summer 1940, three New York City flyfishermen of international repute traveled 11,000 miles to Bristol Bay, Alaska, with one purpose in mind: to catch the biggest rainbow trout of their lives. One of them, Frank Dufresne, later wrote that they had finally discovered the mythical ‘Fisherman’s Paradise.’ "Nowhere else on Earth," he declared, "is there anything to compare with it!”

Although not as remote as it once was, it's still that way today. Home to the largest rainbow trout in North America, thousands of sport fishermen travel to Bristol Bay each year in search of Dufresne's experience. Although rainbows are the most sought-after species, other game fish—grayling, char, lake trout, pike, whitefish, and all five species of Pacific Salmon make this region the sina qua non of freshwater angling.

The reason: the immense wealth of salmon that each summer flood the region’s waterways. Trout gorge on the eggs and flesh of both young salmon and spawned-out adults, as well as on the rich plankton, insect, and fish life that thrives in the presence of salmon.

copyright Greg SyversonChrome-bright rainbows, called jumbows, are long-lived here, some attaining twelve years of age and forty or more inches in length. These huge fish are found in the largest lakes, like Iliamna and Naknek, drained by the Kvichak and Naknek rivers. In smaller watershed streams, beautifully spotted dark bow, fittingly called leopards, typically grow to be less old and somewhat smaller—a nine-year-old, twenty-seven-inch fish is large for the species. All are incredibly powerful trout, capable of the diving, jumping, tail-walking antics that anglers have come to love.

copyright Bruce HamptonBut with more anglers come more problems. With over one hundred lodges and outfitters in the region providing services for thousands of visitors, over-crowding, trespass on private lands, and conflicts with subsistence users have increased. Of most concern, however, is that private land within this largely public-owned remote landscape may be sold and developed in such a manner that will imperil the future of this salmon ecosystem.

To this end, the Land Trust is working to protect these private land inholdings from inappropriate development.