GPS Coordinates: 56°13’55.10″N 160° 4’31.92″W
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Hoodoo’s Sandy River Sport Fishing Tackle Supplemental
(Chinook and Steelhead)
Anglers headed to the Hoodoo’s Sandy River Lodge to fly fish for king salmon or steelhead will find the gear and techniques similar to that used for these species elsewhere. As always, there is no substitute for quality equipment, the value of which is immediately apparent upon hooking into your first smoking-hot, fresh-from-the-salt chromer!
Remember also that Hoodoo’s Sandy River lodge only has a limited number of spare rods and reels. They are intended only as emergency back-ups should anglers, for whatever reason, find themselves in a pinch. As a general rule, you’ll need to bring all your fishing and personal equipment with you to the lodge.
Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha):
Alaska’s state fish and is one of the most important sport and commercial fish native to the Pacific coast of North America. It is the largest of all Pacific salmon, with weights of individual fish commonly exceeding 30 pounds. A 126-pound Chinook salmon taken in a fish trap near Petersburg, Alaska in 1949 is the largest on record. The largest sport-caught Chinook salmon was a 97-pound fish taken in the Kenai River in 1986.
The Chinook salmon has numerous local names. In Washington and Oregon, Chinook salmon are called Chinook, while in British Columbia they are called spring salmon. Other names are quinnat, tyee, tule, blackmouth, and king.
In North America, Chinook salmon range from the Monterey Bay area of California to the Chukchi Sea area of Alaska. On the Asian coast, Chinook salmon occur from the Anadyr River area of Siberia southward to Hokkaido, Japan. In Alaska, it is abundant from the southeastern panhandle to the Yukon River. Major populations return to the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Nushagak, Susitna, Kenai, Copper, Alsek, Taku, and Stikine rivers. Important runs also occur in many smaller streams.
Adults are distinguished by the black irregular spotting on the back and dorsal fins and on both lobes of the caudal or tail fin. Chinook salmon also have a black pigment along the gum line which gives them the name “blackmouth” in some areas.
In the ocean, the Chinook salmon is a robust, deep-bodied fish with a bluish-green coloration on the back which fades to a silvery color on the sides and white on the belly. Colors of spawning Chinook salmon in fresh water range from red to copper to almost black, depending on location and degree of maturation. Males are more deeply colored than the females and are distinguished by their “ridgeback” condition and by their hooked nose or upper jaw. Juveniles in fresh water are recognized by well-developed parr marks which are bisected by the lateral line.
Like all species of Pacific salmon, Chinook salmon are anadromous. They hatch in fresh water, spend part of their life in the ocean, and then spawn in fresh water. All Chinooks die after spawning. Chinook salmon may become sexually mature from their second through seventh year, and as a result, fish in any spawning run may vary greatly in size. For example, a mature 3-year-old will probably weigh less than 4 pounds, while a mature 7-year-old may exceed 50 pounds. Females tend to be older than males at maturity. In many spawning runs, males outnumber females in all but the 6- and 7-year age groups. Small Chinooks that mature after spending only one winter in the ocean are commonly referred to as “jacks” and are usually males. Alaska streams normally receive a single run of Chinook salmon in the period from May through July.
Chinook salmon often make extensive freshwater spawning migrations to reach their home streams on some of the larger river systems. Yukon River spawners bound for the extreme headwaters in Yukon Territory, Canada, will travel more than 2,000 river miles during a 60-day period. Chinook salmon do not feed during the freshwater spawning migration, so their condition deteriorates gradually during the spawning run as they use stored body materials for energy and for the development of reproductive products.
Each female deposits from 3,000 to 14,000 eggs in several gravel nests, or redds, which she excavates in relatively deep, moving water. In Alaska, the eggs usually hatch in late winter or early spring, depending on time of spawning and water temperature. The newly hatched fish, called alevins, live in the gravel for several weeks until they gradually absorb the food in the attached yolk sac. These juveniles, called fry, wiggle up through the gravel by early spring. In Alaska, most juvenile Chinook salmon remain in fresh water until the following spring when they migrate to the ocean in their second year of life. These seaward migrants are called smolts.
Juvenile Chinooks in freshwater feed on plankton, and then later eat insects. In the ocean, they eat a variety of organisms including herring, pilchard, sandlance, squid, and crustaceans. Salmon grow rapidly in the ocean and often double their weight during a single summer season.
Commercial Fishery & Subsistence:
North Pacific Chinook salmon catches during the late 1970s and early 1980s averaged more than 4 million fish per year. The United States harvested the majority of the catch followed by Canada, Japan, and the USSR. Alaska’s annual harvest during this period averaged about 731,000 fish per year, or about 32 percent of the North American catch. The majority of the Alaska catch is made in Southeast, Bristol Bay, and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim areas. Fish taken commercially average about 18 pounds. The majority of the catch is made with troll gear and gillnets.
There is an excellent market for Chinook salmon because of their large size and excellent table qualities. Recent catches in Alaska have brought fishers nearly $19 million per year.
Catches by subsistence fishers in Southwest and Southcentral areas from 1976 through 1986 have averaged approximately 90,000 Chinook salmon. Approximately 90 percent of the subsistence harvest is taken in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.
The Chinook salmon is perhaps the most highly prized sport fish in Alaska and is extensively fished by anglers in the Southeast and Cook Inlet areas. Trolling with rigged herring is the favored method of angling in salt water, while lures and salmon eggs are used by freshwater anglers. The sport fishing harvest of Chinook salmon is over 76,000 annually, with Cook Inlet and adjacent watersheds contributing over half of the catch.
Unlike other salmon species, Chinook salmon rear in inshore marine waters and are, therefore, available to commercial and sport fishers all year. Catches of Chinook salmon in Southeast Alaska are regulated by quotas set under the Pacific Salmon Treaty. In other regions of Alaska, Chinook salmon fisheries are also closely managed to ensure stocks of Chinook salmon are not overharvested. – Kevin Delaney (Alaska Department of Fish & Game)
King salmon (Chinook)
These are the largest fresh/cold water fish to target with a fly. Sandy River kings average 15 – 25 pounds, with trophy specimens in the low 40-pound range.
Single-Handed Fly Rods:
For those anglers that like to use a single-handed rod, the Sandy River is best fished with a 9’ or 9’ 6” graphite rod designed to cast a 9, or 10-weight fly line. Each angler should have two rods available for the trip. Each rod should be rigged with a different fly and fly line combination. This saves time changing reels, spools, and lines – maximizing your time on the water and swinging flies through and over salmon. Quality rods to consider include those made by Sage, Winston, and Scott.
Single-Handed Fly Reels:
A high quality, single-action (direct drive) fly reel with rim-control feature is what to look for in a fly reel appropriate to handle mint-bright Chinooks. The reel should be equipped with a smooth, reliable, preferably disk-drag system. Reels should be filled with a minimum of 150 yards of fresh 20 or 30 lb. high-visibility backing. Reels to consider include those manufactured by Galvan, Hardy, Hatch, Ross, and Abel.
Single-Handed Fly Rod Lines:
The proper collection of fly lines is critical to your success and will get your fly in the right place in the water column. You need three lines or line systems to effectively fish the Sandy River.
- Floating line: When conditions are right, a floater can really come into play, dead-drifting a heavy fly along the bottom. Scientific Anglers and Rio each produce excellent weight forward lines suitable for the Sandy.
- 8’ – 14’ sink-tip: This is an important line for effectively fishing the variety of water depths on the river. We highly recommend Scientific Anglers sink-tip lines, in a Type VI sink.
- 24’ sink-tip: Don’t leave home without it! The most indispensable fly line in your arsenal is the 24-foot sink-tip in different grain weights and densities. Rio and Scientific Anglers sink tip fly lines in 200 grain, 250 grain, and 300 grain models are good choices.
Two-Handed Fly Rods:
Two-handed rods are very popular and excellent tools for covering the water. In the past few years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of anglers using two-handed rods. Two-handed rods are arguably the most efficient tool to fish anadromous species; they make it easy for a lot of anglers, especially those with shoulder or elbow problems.
When considering a two-handed rod, don’t automatically go for the longest and strongest rod on the market. Get together with a casting and rod expert, and test several different weights, lengths, and manufacturers until you find the rod that best fits your casting style, as well as the type of water and lines and flies you will be fishing. 9wt’s and 10wt’s between 12.5 and 14 feet long are the most common choice.
Spey casting will certainly have an advantage of efficiency and distance. If you have not already joined the two handed revolution now is the time to start! Spey casters can effectively cover more water. The Sage, Winston, Scott, and Echo are excellent choices in a double-handed king rod.
This is probably the most important part of your tackle system! A reel of mediocre quality will not withstand the brute force of a fresh sea run trophy Chinook. Any high-quality single action reel with 150+ yards of backing capacity with a good drag system will work fine. Your classic Hardy’s and other noise makers, which we all love while steelheading, may be in big trouble against these powerful King’s…. Be warned.
Have a look over this diagram of the 2 main styles of modern short belly heads for two handers. For Kings’, we only have to be concerned with the Skagit lines… These fish won’t rise to the surface, and Scandi’s don’t throw tips, so they are not useful tools in this game. This will serve as a general guideline that anyone with any questions about lines should follow. If you are uncertain which line you should select to properly match your rod, do not hesitate to contact us. We are experts in this field and we are happy to assist you in preparing the correct rod/line combinations.
Skagit style lines, the ones you want for chinook fishing, are basically shortened condensed shooting heads for spey rods developed in the Pacific North West by a hard core group of anglers that were looking for a way to cast sinking tip and large weighted flies long distances, with a very short compact casting stroke.
They are ideal for Kings. No other line can handle the deep tips we need in combo with the nasty flies we throw. These are the way forward in Chinook world. These lines should be paired with the MOW sink tips in Heavy (T-14), and make sure you get custom tips made in T-17 as well, in 12.5ft and 15ft for these rivers. Many Skagit casters prefer to prepare their own sink tips using varied lengths of T-14. We prefer these custom tips in 2.5ft increasing length increments.
Leaders are very simple…15 lbs to 25 lbs Maxima. You may want to bring a larger selection simply to ensure that you will be prepared for any and every situation.
King Salmon Flies:
Flies used are standard attractor patterns tied on stout hooks, sizes 4 to 2/0.Your flies should vary from heavily weighted to non-weighted. Colors should range from black, to orange, pink, purple, flame, red, chartreuse, or any combination thereof. A large weighted black streamer can be deadly. Comets with bead-chain eyes are highly effective. Large egg-patterns like large Glo-Bugs, King Caviar, and Egg/Sperm flies and the Egg-sucking Leech (black/purple) tied on a long shank stout hook work well.
Chinook flies are very similar to winter steelhead flies. Most of the usual winter steelhead menu, in the full spectrum of colors commonly used will work. Some are dark and somber. Others are vibrant and bright. This is because of the diversity of water conditions, and run timing. Even the same river can display different moods and may go from low and clear to high and dark in a matter of hours. A large assortment of wet flies in varying sizes, colors, and weights will work well. A few favorites are Black or Purple for darks, and Pink or Chartreuse for bright colors. Orange, Cherise and combos of all of the above will all have their moments throughout the spring and summer. Tube Flies are the newest fly design concept to hit king and steelhead fly fishing, and the possibilities are endless. Tubes allow swing fishermen versatility when it comes to meeting changing conditions by changing the type of tube they use, allowing more control over the depth and action of the fly. They also have the advantage of having a larger fly with a shorter shank hook, exactly what is called for to drag out large Chinook from deep fast rivers. Remember to have flies also in varying weights and sizes as well as a variety of colors. It pays to carry a variety of patterns and be prepared for whatever nature and her fish can throw at you. Chinook will always be deliciously unpredictable.
- Stu’s Rhea Intruder, (pink/white, blue/purple) #1/0
- Spey Prawn, (hot orange, chartreuse, pink) #1/0
- River Rat Marabou Spey, #4
- Stu’s Griz Turbo Tube, (purple, orange/pink)
- Stu’s Tiger Tail Turbo Tube
- Sili Leg Intruder, (pink/orange, pink/blue, blue/green), #1/0
- Mercer’s King Caviar, #1/0
- Egg Sucking Jig Wiggler Leech, (purple) #4
Call the The Fly Shop® (800) 669-3474 to put a package together for you that will work in the majority of fishing scenarios. Bring oversized hooks as well! These guys are absolute beasts, standard steelhead hooks will bend out. Gamakatsu Octopus #2/0 are great to change them out with. Bring 1/8 oz lead cone worm weights as well. These are great for fast adjustment when you really need a fly down fast.
Sandy River Steelhead
The STEELHEAD TROUT Salmo gairdneri (Richardson) is a rainbow trout that has spent a part of its life in the sea. There are no major physical differences between rainbow trout and steelhead trout; however, the nature of their differing lifestyles has resulted in subtle differences in color, shape, and general appearance.
Like all trout, the steelhead are positively separated from the various salmon species by having 8 to 12 rays in the anal fin. The rainbow trout/steelhead group are then separated from the brook trout, lake trout, and Dolly Varden by the complete absence of teeth at the base of the tongue. Generally speaking, steelhead are slenderer and more streamlined than resident rainbow. Like rainbow, the coloration on the back is basically blue-green shading to olive with black regularly spaced spots. The black spots also cover both lobes of the tail. The back coloration fades over the lateral line to silver-white coloration blending more white on the stomach. Steelhead, fresh from the ocean, are much more silver than the resident rainbow.
On steelhead, the typical colors and spots of the trout appear to be coming from beneath a dominant silvery sheen. The silvery sheen gradually fades in freshwater and steelhead become difficult to differentiate from resident rainbow trout as the spawning period approaches. Steelhead and Rainbow lack the red slash on the underjaw characteristic of cutthroat trout, but do have white leading edges on the anal, pectoral and pelvic fins. Spawning steelhead and rainbow develop a distinct pink to red stripe-like coloration that blends along the side, both above and below the lateral line. On steelhead, the rainbow trout coloration gradually fades, following spawning to the more characteristic silvery color that the fish display during their ocean journey. The distinct & beautiful coloration of steelhead, during the freshwater spawning period, is apparently important in regard to mating and reproductive process. The silvery sheen and streamlined shape of ocean bright steelhead is essential in regard to survival in the ocean environment. Juvenile steelhead trout are identical to rainbow trout until the period to their ocean migrations. Young trout and stunted adults have 8 – 13 parr marks on their sides. There are 5 – 10 parr marks between the head and the dorsal fin. Prior to migrating to the sea, juvenile steelhead become very silvery and resemble miniature adults.
Steelhead are found in the coastal streams of Alaska, from Dixon Entrance, Northward and West around the Gulf of Alaska down the Cold Bay area of the Alaska Peninsula. There are no documented populations of steelhead on the Alaska mainland, west of the Susitna River and north of the Chignik River System. This area is, generally, known as Bristol Bay and contains excellent resident rainbow trout populations, but no steelhead. We lack information on the ocean migration of Alaskan steelhead. However, large numbers are intercepted in high seas fisheries and undoubtedly many of these fish are of Alaskan origin. Steelhead migrate to areas west of the Aleutian Islands and are routinely caught in net fisheries of the coast of Japan.
When compared to the mundane habits of resident rainbow trout, steelhead lead a very complicated and dangerous life. Each spring, thousands of 6-inch steelhead smolt leave the streams to begin their ocean journey. For every 100 smolt that reach the sea, only 5 – 10 will return as a first spawning adult. Within a 1, 2, or 3 year period, Alaska steelhead will have moved hundreds of miles from the parent stream. Some populations return to the home stream as early in the year as July and are known as “summer steelhead.” Summer steelhead are relatively rare in Alaska and found in only a few select Southeast Alaska streams. “Fall” run steelhead are much more common, particularly in the systems North of Frederick Sound. These fish enter the freshwater systems as adults in August, September, October, and on into the winter. Anchor, Naha, Karluk, Sandy, and Situk Rivers have good runs of fall steelhead. Many of the Southeast Alaska systems have “spring run” steelhead. These fish end their ocean journeys in mid-April, May and early June. Karta, Naha, Sandy, Situk, and several other rivers also have spring run steelhead. In these rivers, bright, shiny, spring-run fish can be observed mixed with “rainbows” marked spawners that have spent the entire winter waiting for the spring spawning period.
Spawning commences about mid-April and usually occurs throughout May and early June. A male may spawn with several females, and more males than females die during the spawning period.
Unlike salmon, steelhead commonly spawn more than once, and fish over 28 inches are almost always repeat spawners. The ragged and spent spawners move slowly downstream to the sea and the spawning, rainbow colors of spring return to a bright silvery hue. Lost fats are restored and adults again visit the feeding regions of their first migration. On rare occasions, a fish will return to the stream within a few months, but most repeat spawners spend at least one winter in the sea between spawning migrations.
While adult spawning wounds are healing and growth resumes, the eggs which were deposited deep in the gravel during the spring, quickly develop into alevins or “sac-fry.” These tiny fish gradually absorb the yolk sack and work their way to the surface. By mid-summer, fry emerge from the gravel, minus the yolk sac, and seek refuge along stream margins and in protected areas. Tremendous numbers of eggs and fry are killed or washed from the stream each year, but by Fall, 2 – 3 inch steelhead populate habitat that, hopefully, will carry them through the first winter. Generally, the juvenile steelhead will remain in the parent stream for about 3 years before out-migrating to saltwater.
If all the steelhead left in the stream at the same age, returned after the same length of time in the ocean, and died after spawning, the adults in a given stream would be of similar age. They don’t – and, thus, they are not. Add to this, the complications of summer run, spring run, and fall run, fish spawning at the same time and in the same stream, and you have a rather complicated situation. Perhaps nature has conspired to make steelhead life history complicated so that a harsh flood, or winter or drought does not destroy all of the given population.
-Frank Van Hulle Alaska Department of Fish & Game
Single handed rods are fine for steelhead. We recommend a 7 or 8-weight graphite rod, 9’ or 9’ 6” in length. Sage, Winston, and Scott each produce fine rods for Sandy River steelhead fishing.
A high quality, single-action (direct drive) fly reel with rim-control feature is what to look for in a fly reel appropriate to handle ocean-bright steelhead. The reel should be equipped with a smooth, reliable, preferably disk-drag system. Reels should be filled with a minimum of 150 yards of fresh 20 lb. high-visibility backing. Reels to consider include those manufactured by Ross, Galvan, Hatch, Hardy, and Abel.
Single-Handed Rod Fly Lines:
The proper collection of fly lines is critical to your success and will get your fly in the proper water column. You need three lines or line systems to effectively fish the Sandy River.
- Floating line: When conditions are right a floater can really come into play, dead-drifting a heavy fly along the bottom. Rio and Scientific Anglers both offer excellent weight forward floating lines designed to cast and fish steelhead flies.
- 15’ sink-tip: This is an important line for covering the varying pieces of water levels on the We highly recommend the Rio and Scientific Anglers 15’, Type 6 sink tip line.
- 24’ sink-tip: Don’t leave home without it! The most indispensable fly line in your arsenal is the 24-foot sink-tip in different grain weights and densities. Scientific Anglers and Rio’s sink tip lines in 200 grain, 250 grain, and 300 grain models will be good choices for the Sandy.
Two-Handed Fly Rods:
Two-handed rods are very popular and excellent tools for covering the water. In the last several years we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of anglers using two-handed rods. Two-handed rods are arguably the most efficient tool to fish anadromous species; they make it easy for a lot of anglers, especially those with shoulder or elbow problems.
Spey rods are the go to tool up here. Due to the nature of these rivers, Spey casters will certainly have an advantage with distance and efficiency. If you have not already joined the two handed revolution now is the time to start! Spey casters can simply cover more water more effectively and the The Fly Shop® team of experts have all the tools to work with novice and veterans alike! Give us a call if you have any questions.
The most popular choice of Spey rods for steelhead are in the #7 and #8 weight category between 12.5 and 14 feet long. Your choice of rod for the trip is a matter of personal preference, though we have found that the lighter, relatively shorter rods are about perfect for every situation on the Sandy.
If you are having trouble deciding which rods are the most suitable for you, we would be more than happy to give you some expert advice, based on our experience there!
The Sandy River steelhead fishery is a typical Alaska fall-run scenario – big, chrome-bright fish in the 8-15 pound range flooding into a late-season river with cold water temperatures. The fish are aggressive to the fly and screaming hot when hooked, but unlikely to move up in the chill water column to take a fly – you want your flies presented right along the bottom of the stream. The fly line is a more important tool in achieving this than the fly, but anglers can often tip the scales of success in their favor by using larger, heavier patterns. Traditionally- tied flies should be on hook sizes from 2 – 2/0. String leeches should be full and long, up to five inches in length. Flies should be tied full with lots of flash in varying colors and color combinations. Don’t be afraid to tie and throw big flies for these fish, they love ‘em.
- Stu’s Rhea Intruder, (black/purple, pink/white) #2
- Stu’s Metal Tubes, (fuchsia)
- Trailer Trash, (pink/white, green/blue) #2 trailer
- Jumbo Critter, (blue/chartreuse) #1
- Hartwick Flashtail, (purple/pink) Tube Fly
- Mini Intruders, (blue/purple, black/blue, metal detector, pink) #4
- Super Spey Phantom’s, (black blue) #2
- River Rat Tube, (bubblegum ice cream) Tube Fly
Gratuities are a personal thing based on service rendered. Normally, guides and staff are tipped upon departure in accordance with their individual effort and service. In most cases, we like to leave a gratuity with the camp or lodge owner or manager. A good rule of thumb for figuring an amount to leave is between 10 and 15 percent of the package cost. If you have any questions concerning gratuities, please feel free to call us or ask the lodge manager/owner.
The limiting weight restrictions here are with the charter that you will fly round trip between Anchorage and the lodge – they take a maximum of 70 pounds checked baggage, plus a carry-on.
Please pack your gear in a soft-sided duffle bag not weighing more than 70 pounds. NO hockey bags or hard-sided suitcases please.
- Hoodoo Sportfishing Anchorage: (907) 346-3983
- Hoodoo Sportfishing (Camp Phone): (907) 989-2200 or (907) 989-2211
- Hoodoo Sportfishing (Cold Bay): (907) 532-2797
Internet Service at the Lodge:
There is limited internet service at the lodge.
The most convenient way to buy your Alaska Sport Fishing License is online. If you are fishing for king salmon (so if you’re fishing through late July), you will also need to purchase a king stamp.
The lodge does NOT sell fishing licenses; you must purchase your license in advance of your arrival to the lodge, online, at: http://www.admin.adfg.state.ak.us/license/purchasing.html
Alcohol Served at the Lodge:
The lodge provides complimentary beer and wine with dinner. They also have a limited-stocked bar that usually includes: Whiskey (typically R&R), Rum (Bacardi), Vodka (Skyy), Tequila (Jose Cuervo), Bourbon (Jim Beam), Gin (Tanqueray), Scotch (Johnny Walker Red Label). Wines on hand are typically: Reds – Cabernet, Merlot. Whites – Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio. If you prefer a special brand of spirits or vintage varietals, please plan on bringing your own.
House Shoes/Slippers at Hoodoo:
Please note that Hoodoo’s Sandy River lodge requires guests to take off their outside shoes while in the lodge. Please bring a pair of slippers or such (Crocs are easy to put on and off and weigh nothing) for use while in the lodge. The lodge can supply them, as well.
Please DO NOT bring studded wading boots. Studded boots are very damaging to the aluminum floats on the floatplane, the walkways, and the lodge’s aluminum boats.
Hoodoo Sportfishing provides complimentary body soap and shampoo for their guests.
Phone and Internet Service at the lodge: Cell phones will not work (except sometimes with wifi calling). At Hoodoo’s Sandy River Lodge there is excellent WiFi for emailing. Anglers will need to pay $2/minute to use the lodge’s satellite phone (or bring their own satellite phone).
The lodge rooms have all-night power, they can accommodate cpap machines, recharging electrical devices, etc.
Alaska Department of Fish & Game
Anglers are reminded that footgear with absorbent felt or other fibrous material on the soles are prohibited while sport fishing in the fresh waters of Alaska.
*Please do not wear felt soled wading boots in Alaska this summer*