Sheefish-the most unique species

Probably one of the most unique species we fish for at the lodge would have to be the sheefish. The only native to five drainages in the north Alaskan Adventures sits on the banks of the Southern Most river, the Holitna River. It’s here that we stage our daily fishing adventures. With the main lodge, several cabins, and meals prepared by a great chef guests get to chase Sheefish, Pike, Char, Dolly’s, and all five species of salmon from comfort. 

            The Sheefish is one of the most miss-understood gamefish species there is. For example, out of the five drainages in the North, the Kuskaquim drainage is the only river that they come to not only to spawn but to feed as well. In all the rivers some Sheefish live in the salt and only return to spawn. Some just stay in brackish water and some live their entire life in the river system. One thing is for sure and that is no matter what when you do find them, they are usually big, and I mean on average we are talking 12-20lbs in the waters around the lodge. Every year we see fish in the 30lb range and hear about 40lbers caught. 

            During our fishing season of June till September where we find that sheefish change through the season as to where we might find them. The first part of the season we look at is late May Early June. This is high water runoff months. During this time, it seems to us that we find some of the larger fish and schools of fish in more classic moving water runs. In areas, you might look for trout on a classic trout stream. Our theory is that these are fish that are moving into the system and looking for that happy section of the river to call home for the summer season.

            Our tactics for finding and fishing for sheefish during this part of the season is the first challenge of the year. Historically we know where to start looking however that changes constantly with the water level. When searching a run to see if any players are home, we have two possible go-to tactics this time of the year. First, to cover lots of water when the water is high and really moving, we will troll a run with 20 jets and flutter spoons. If ANY fish are in the area, they typically can’t resist a spoon and we can cover lots of water to find fish. Once fish are located, we go back and drift the run and throw swimbaits. 4-6” paddle tail swim baits on jig heads are deadly once you find where fish are holding. Also, once we find Sheefish we also fly fish for them with weighted sink tips and 4” fry pattern streamers. By far this is our favorite style of fishing for sheefish. 

            As the season progresses more into summer and the water levels drop it seems that Sheefish on our river system seems to move into what we refer to as summer home. Summer homes for Sheefish seem to be more of larger deeper runs or pools where they can hold to some structure to the bottom and ambush schools of fry as they come over the top of them. Sheefish are not big fans of bright sunlight and really love the deep however constantly look to the top and use the light to see small fry against the backlight. Once spotted they attack from the bottom upward and continue their thrust upward until bursting through the surface. It’s not uncommon to see an entire run as if it looks like the water is boiling with large sheefish. 

            During summer months we typically fish Sheefish with either swimbaits or the fly. Mostly depending on clients and how they wish to catch fish determines how we target sheefish. For conventional tackle spinners, spoons and swimbaits all work great for sheefish. For fly gear as long as the fly has lots of movement and looks like a smolt or even baby lamprey they will attack it with gusto. We still will fish sink tips with our fly’s and sheefish will attack in an upward aggressive strike, so the grab is usually quite visual. 

            As summer progresses Sheefish start to move through the river system and into their spawning mode. Where we seem to find them is more of a hunt. They don’t typically “hold” in an area for a long period of time. It seems like once a nice school has gathered, they then stick together and shoot upriver with reproduction on their mind. The big difference of Sheefish from most spawning anadromes fish is that they still feed during there spawning period were as salmon don’t. We find them where we find them. What I mean is one day an area that looks prime will be completely void and then the next day that area will be full of fish. Sometimes areas we would never think would have sheefish in the fall end up having a few hawgs. It’s a very hit and miss game in the fall however we know where exactly to look. With a river like the Holitna being so large knowing where to look can be a daunting task. 

            Usually, in the fall we are more focused in on the Silver Salmon run than actually fishing for Sheefish. We usually catch Sheefish on pink spinners, spoons, and pink jigs as a bycatch. We can still target them with the traditional gear of spoons, spinners, and swimbaits. Fly Fishing for Sheefish we would still fish with the same flies as we do all summer. Four-inch smolt patterns and baby lamprey imitations all with LOTS of movement are absolutely deadly all year round. 

            September is the end of our season on the Holitna River and we look forward to next year’s fishing season. Sheefish however are in the river system year-round. We have heard rumors of fish being caught through the ice. For us, we decide to head south in search of warmer waters. To find out what they fight like, and even what they taste like drop us a line and we would gladly get you on fish. Who knows maybe you will set the next IGFA Record? 

Cast & Blast!

Our area of Alaska has an absolute ton of freshwater. We are situated on a big river and all around are oxbow lakes and small marshy potholes all over the tundra making for ideal breading and summer habitat for all kinds of waterfowl. All summer long as we are running the river, we see an exuberant number of waterfowl. Because we are on the river all summer, we have been able to pay attention to where ducks like to be.  

The last week of fishing we save for our cast and blast. Yes, catch fish and shoot ducks in the same week. Alaska is a wonderful place to duck hunt. As a matter of fact, the majority of the birds that end up in the Gulf area for the winter are birds that were born right here in our water system. We shoot a TON of Teal in the early season but also Mallards, Gadwall, Widgeon, Shovelers, Pintail, and Goldeneye. We have several locations that we hunt from. Some are on local lakes and some are on the river itself.  

During this past seasons cast & blast, we had a full camp but only four duck hunters. The first few days were spent fishing for Silver Salmon, Pike, and Sheefish. The silver salmon were still showing up in good numbers for sure and guests were easily landing limits and then some.  The best of all was the Sheefish. We have a very great run of Sheefish every year and this year guests were easily landing double digits of fish. The Pike fishing is always good and everyone at the lodge landed pike over 40”.  

 September 1st is when Duck season opens, and you can bet opening day guides and guests were in the duck blind waiting on the first flights of the season to come into the decoys. The first day was a little slow but the second really picked up. The limit in our area is 10 birds per hunter per day. Guys were easily pulling the trigger on limits.  

 Once ducks are harvested, they are cleaned, and some are frozen for guests to take home however some are also prepared by our chef. I’ve heard it said that a lot of folks won’t eat duck because of how it tastes. To that, I say you haven’t had it prepared right. In my opinion, duck is one of those things you can either make really great or you can really mess it up. Knowing the difference in how to prepare either takes a great chef or an experienced duck hunter. Luckily at the lodge, we have both and I can guarantee you that whatever came out of the kitchen never made it to the leftover plate. Yes, duck prepared that good can be great!  

 Guests that come all year can take home boxes of fish (25lbs). The cast and blast week is by far the best time of the year to take home a great variety of what Alaska has to offer. Salmon, Sheefish, and a mixed bag of ducks. This week is also one of the best ways to not only experience a great variety of Alaska, but our garden is in full harvest so whatever meals are prepared are 100% fresh Alaskan. The weather is perfect, and the bugs are for the most part gone. For those of us that live at the lodge, it’s our most favorite time of the year. 

For more information on Booking your Cast & Blast Alaskan Adventure, contact us here 

Fifteen New Pending IGFA Records

It’s no secret that in 2019 we set 12 new IGFA records with Vicki Martin as the angler. Vicki is a very talented angler that has made it her goal to travel the world and set world records mainly with conventional tackle. She and her husband are a team that is very organized and focused on success. Vicki and her husband were booked to come back this year (2020) to re-break and set some new records but unfortunately due to Covid-19 decided to take a break and play it safe at their home in Florida. 

Meredith McCord is another very accomplished world record chaser however her specialty is fly fishing. When Meredith McCord found out that Vicki’s spot at the lodge was open, she did not hesitate once to make arrangements to come to the lodge and set some records on the fly.  It’s the Sheefish that really peeked Meredith McCord’s attention. As an accomplished angler with records from around the world (200+), the Sheefish is one she’s never heard of until she met the owner of the lodge Dan Paull. 

Now I have met some dedicated anglers and most of them are men. In my time guiding it’s rare that anyone is ever willing to REALLY get after the game. What I mean is Sheefish like the late evening and early morning hours best. Not to say that they can’t be caught mid-day because they can however to really get the good bite you have to be EARLY or Late in the evening. Once I told Meredith McCord this, I was amazed to get a response of “ok great I guess we leave the dock at 6 am”. Did I mention she was dedicated? Most days she wouldn’t even want to leave the water. Some days it wasn’t until 6 pm that we arrived back at the dock. She is a true die-hard!  

Sheefish are a unique fish and catching them on the fly can be a BLAST as long as you know where to look and how to put it in front of their face. For most of our runs, we fly fish for sheefish in that we are stripping small baitfish streamers with ten feet of T-11 to get the fly down in the water column. Sheefish, do not like the bright light so they will hide on the bottom looking up and attack by chasing to the surface usually erupting at the surface with the fly in the mouth. Fishing the fly like this, Meredith McCord was able to land many sheefish records on the Holitna River. 

Most days were spent fishing for Sheefish however Pike also was on the menu and Meredith McCord already had a few records with Pike however breaking those records and setting a few new ones was her goal. Pike on the fly is a BLAST especially on topwater. During Meredith McCord’s time at the lodge fishing for Pike, she was setting a record here and there until the last day fishing for Pike. It’s almost as if the river decided to hold the best for last. I think it was this day that she landed roughly five new pike records and her best and the one I’m most impressed with a 15lb 10oz Pike on 2lb test. First, let me tell you it’s not easy hooking a big scrappy fish on a 2lb test let alone fighting it to the net. Especially a 15lb fish but Meredith McCord made it look easy. 

Yes, Meredith McCord is a well-accomplished angler that makes it look easy on the fly. We are truly honored to be able to assist in her goal of setting world records.

To learn more about Meredith, visit

To learn more about IGFA visit

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