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In Quinhagak, A Small Sport Fishing Industry Thrives

Krysti Shallenberger

When most people think of sport fishing in Alaska, they think of Homer, Bristol Bay, or the Kenai River. They don’t think of Quinhagak, a small remote village near the Kuskokwim Bay in Southwest Alaska. But people from all over the world come to Quinhagak, lured in by its vast selection of salmon and trout. 

Paul Jacob runs Reel Action Fly Fishing. He guides in his home state of New York three quarters of the year, but in the summer he goes to Quinhagak to guide on the Kanektok River. 

"It's a really special river. It has all five salmon species," Jacob said.

The Kanektok is also home to rainbow trout, among other types of fish. Jacob says that his clients come in from all over the country, and even as far away as Norway, just to go fly-fishing on the Kanektok.

Getting to the river is challenging. Flying to Anchorage is just the beginning.

"There’s couple different legs to get here. You gotta get yourself to Anchorage, then to Bethel, then to Quinhagak," Jacob said. 

A one-week guided trip with Reel Action Fly Fishing costs $5,000 per person, which doesn’t include airfare. Jacob says they take about 10 to 12 people each trip during the season. The season starts in mid-June and runs until the end of August.

Jacob’s clients won’t get to see much of the town of Quinhagak beyond the airstrip, but he says that they do try to contribute to the local economy. The people who set up the tents, maintain the camp, and take it down are from Quinhagak. Jacob also says they buy their fuel from Quinhagak, and try to shop at the village grocery and hardware stores.

But the guides come from other parts of the country. KYUK asked Jacob what it takes to become a sport fishing guide.

"Basically you have to have skills with the fly-rod, kind of have to have years of fishing experience, but the biggest thing with us is to be a team player," Jacob said. 

Jacob said that you need a guide’s license registration, king salmon permit and fishing license, and must know how to perform both first-aid and CPR.