Gulkana River

The Trials and Tribulations of the Wild and Scenic Gulkana River

By Larry Bartlett

Every year, usually beginning around mid-June, I head south from Fairbanks to the highly popular Gulkana River. This past season was no different—except for one thing—I had a boatful of fish-hungry Texans who were more than anxious to get on the river and begin catching their bounty of king and sockeye salmon.

While each river adventure I guide offers something new and different, my objectives remain constant …I must find fish, fast, and before anyone else decides to hoard the choice campsites along the river. You see, the Gulkana River is one of the most affordable and productive fisheries in the state. People from Interior, Southcentral, and Southwest—not to mention those from Outside—swarm the Gulkana each season. And by July, over 500 river users have already caught and released thousands of salmon. It’s no wonder why this river system is one of the most popular in the state.So, there I was, guiding a group of eight Texans down the Wild and Scenic portion of the Gulkana. I had anglers stretched out for several hundred yards beyond our inflatables. This sight must have resembled a Wild West firing squad from the 19th century—wearing waders instead of chaps and each person decorated from forehead to big toe in mosquito netting, bug dope, neoprene, and big guns. I’ve yet to meet a Texan who goes into the wild without his or her “hog leg.” Nonetheless, my job was not to judge appearance, but to put these folks on fish, and it wasn’t long before it happened. This content is available for subscribers only.

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