Home » Alaska » A Sky High Adventure-Excellent Sockeye Fishing on Big Lake

Most people favored the Kenai peninsula because of the prized king salmon fishing. However, a short flight over the Cook Inlet to Wolverine Creek, you will find a sky high adventure with excellent sockeye fishing on Big Lake River. Reds or Sockeye are the most sought-after fish in the Kenai. We knew when we started planning our 2nd trip to Alaska, we would be taking a float plane fishing trip.

High Adventure Air Charter provides anglers the opportunity to fish for “reds” during the month of June and later in July silver salmon. Wolverine Creek on Big River Lake is an especially popular spot for early June bear-viewing. Tours can be scheduled at a reasonable price. So embark on a trip that will provide memories for a lifetime.

High Adventure-Dehavilland Beaver-
High Adventure-Dehavilland Beaver-

We had the pleasure of flying with High Adventure in 2012 for bear-viewing. Looking to repeat our experience again in 2021, we booked our 2nd trip. Unfortunately, this time, the bears decided not to arrive early. To salvage our 6 1/2 hour day tour, the staff recommended a combination fishing/bear-viewing trip. Fishing is our passion, so it was a straightforward decision to switch.

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High Adventure Air Charter in Soldotna

High Adventure Air is on Longmere lake off the Sterling highway near Soldotna. They offer daily fishing or bear viewing trips to Wolverine Creek. I had fond memories of breathtaking mountain vistas, calm lakes, endless river stretches of blue glacial waters lined with lush green foliage from my 1st trip. I was looking forward to another spectacular venture with the High Adventure Air Charter for excellent sockeye fishing. 

NOTE: Sadly, High Adventure Air is no longer offering trips as they are selling the buisness.

We chose the early morning charter arriving at 6:30 am. We changed our hiking boots to the more appropriate rubber waders. Although you spend all your time in a 20 foot aluminum boat, the weather is cold, and the waders helped to keep us warm. They verified fishing licenses before we walked to the dock for our safety brief and boarding. Our professional guide, Drew and pilot Cory, loaded the gear into the floats before getting us all seated and ready for take-off.

Note: you can buy your fishing license online before your trip. Licenses must be printed and signed as required by the State of Alaska (FWC).

Wendy & Barry Ready to Fly-High Adventure sockeye fishing
Ready!! High Adventure Sockeye Fishing

Ready, Set Take-off on our High Adventure Fishing Experience

Our DeHavilland Beaver float plane slips out onto a calm Longmere Lake. Cory, our pilot, performs the pre-flight engine check while veteran pilot Mark keeps a watchful eye. On this rainy, cloudy morning, the liftoff from the lake is seamless. Our 30-minute flight takes us over the Cook Inlet and into Big River Lakes. It is simply breathtaking. We can see the Cook Inlet’s tidal flats, as the tide is currently on its way out. The shoreline shows many braided streams and vast marshy areas. We look for moose that frequent these areas. The last time I flew across the inlet, I saw moose munching willows and sedges. We don’t see any moose today, just a few seals laying along the inlet banks.

Cory gently landed the aircraft on the lake and taxied to a marsh inlet that forms a natural harbor for the boats.The Chigmit Mountains seem to rise out directly out of the lake, draped by low-lying clouds. Drew guided the 18-foot Jon boat to one float of the plane. We then unloaded all the gear. Leaving the boat tied to the float, we helped to guide the airplane to deeper water for take-off back to home base. Using the small motor, our guide maneuvered us out to begin our venture with 6 hours of extreme red fishing.

Big Lake River on the Edge of Otter Lake

Barry was first to sight fish breaking in a remote cove at a nearby Fisher fall. The clear water from the falls descends about 30 feet into the glacial blue waters. Today, our group has this remote cove all to ourselves. No other boats for the first two hours.

The turquoise blue waters result from suspended glacial silt called rock flour. The sunlight that reflects off these particles gives rise to the spectacular colors in the rivers and lakes in much of Alaska. Drew was patient and we could see he was very passionate about fishing as we motored over to the postcard waterfall. He explained the fish rise and slap the water to dislodge the silt particles that build on their gills as the fish move from ocean waters to the fresh river. Fish seem to be schooled up all around us.

Fisher Falls HIgh Adventure Sockeye Fishing
Fisher Falls-Big Lake river

Catching the Wiley Reds

Drew did such a wonderful job explaining how to use the provided spin fishing equipment and gave us helpful tips so that we would have more successful hookups. He told us the reds here hold in epic schools along the shoreline, making for relatively easy hookups with fish weighing in on the averaging of 4 or 6 lbs.

So how do we catch these fish? Red Salmon will not take a lure or bait on their journey upstream to spawn. They primarily feed on zooplankton while in the ocean. The bare hook sockeye rig works great at places like Big Lake River.

Bear Viewing Wolverine creek me in the boat
Wolverine Creek


High Adventure Sockeye Fishing Gear

The rig we are using today has a strong leader that is 24-30 inches in length attached to a 1 oz piece of lead and has a single hook. Basically, you just take the hook with weight and jig through the school. Reds face upstream and constantly open and close their mouths. The trick is to feel when the fish bumps into the leader; you pull the rod swiftly upwards, setting the hook in the open mouth. They often refer to this to as “flossing.” They sometimes called this method lining, plunking, or flipping.

Our guide stated the limit is three sockeye salmon per person and you may not fish after retaining your limit. As a group, we decided we would fish for a limit of 2 at this location before moving to a different location further up the clear river. Drew was vigilant in noting that fish need to be hooked in the mouth. We immediately released those snagged back to the river. Some of the fish had seal scars, which we returned to the lake as well.

"Fishing seems to be the great occasion when all manner of contradictions reconcile themselves."

The Aerobatic Sockeye

Once the fish is hooked, this is when the fun really begins! My first rod-bending fish began searing of line with incredible speed. Going airborne several times. Drew expertly coached me through keeping the rod low, slowly bringing the fish to the net. It took a few tries with the fish running under the boat before we finally got her netted. Fish just kept on coming after this. Pretty amazing!

  • Sockeye salmon-Big Lakes River

I was the first to limit with two fish coming pretty quickly with the average fish weighing 4-7 lbs. Although it was cool and rainy, I enjoyed watching the others fish while looking through the binoculars for wildlife along the shoreline. After a half hour, everyone had two fish except Barry. Drew wanted to move as the fish were no longer congregated, making them harder to catch. Rain gear is essential today with the off and on showers, but this does not dampen our spirits, even the mosquitoes don’t deter us.

Note: You want to make sure and dress properly in layers, as the weather can be unpredictable. Bring a little cooler with some snacks and drinks.

Wolverine Creek Salmon Fishing Boats
Wolverine Creek Salmon Fishing Boats

South Fork Big River on the Edge of Lake Clark National Park

The run up the south fork of the big river took about 20-minutes. The river can change overnight because of the enormous amount of glacial silt being deposited by the double glacier. Just once, Drew had to get out and unclog the motor and get us off the shallow shoals. Once we got to the top of the creek, we were no longer alone. Multiple boats lined the shore where the fish were stacked in gigantic schools.

Action was fast and furious during the first 10 minutes. Many of us got tangled with multiple fish zig-zagging under the boat. I got my last fish during this fury. Not even trying to hook the fish, I lifted the line, and the fish was already 100 yards from the boat. This was my first cast, and it was “fish on!” Arguably reds are the hardest fighting fish. This was the largest fish of the day for me, sadly this was my third and last fish. I watched as the others caught their limit over the next hour. JT was the last in our group and he struggled with the energy to finish after having fished the last 4-days for kings and halibut. He was plumb tuckered out. With everyone having their limit of fish, it was time to look for bears.

South Fork Big River Lakes-High Adventure Sockeye Fishing
South Fork Big River Lakes

Wolverine Creek Bear Viewing on Redoubt Bay 

Wolverine creek sits on the edge of Lake Clark National Park. This 171,000 acre state-owned critical habitat area is prime viewing for both black and brown bears during the months of June/July. The bears are drawn to the huge schools of both sockeye and silver salmon that begin their journey to spawn at the mouth of the creek. Excellent bear viewing opportunities to see sows with cubs happen daily. Luckily, I got up-close-and-personal bear viewing on my first trip with High Adventure Air in 2012.

  • Brown Bear Wolverine Creek

Both the North and South Fork of Big Lake River flow into Otter Lake. Finally, entering the Cook inlet at Redoubt bay. Otter is the largest of the seven Big River Lakes. Many migratory birds come to the area to breed on the low grass islands or along the shore. A pair of trumpeter swans, immature bald eagles, and merganser ducks were just some species we observed today. We moved to a rocky shoreline so that we could watch for bears making for the wolverine creek falls and to clean our catch.

Note: Bears are highly active along the shoreline. Be bear aware, carry bear spray. Today our guide has bear spray and a firearm for our safety.

Fresh cut salmon Filets-High Adventure Sockeye Fishing
Fresh cut salmon Filets

Hardy Shore lunch on Big River Lake

Drew expertly fileted our fish and bagged them up for us. It mesmerized me, watching how skillfully he cut the filets. For lunch, he used a small butane stove to cook the fresh diced pieces from one filet. He enhanced the flavorful pieces with a few choice spices (a family secret). The taste was indescribable. Just melted in our mouths. We could understand why wild caught sockeye is so sought after for their tasty vibrant red-flesh. Unfortunately, no bears show while we are waiting for the plane to return, but all had lively conversation. We are lucky to have two others in our group that have the same passion for fishing we do.

Double Glacier Flyover

The DeHavilland arrives with the afternoon group. Sadly, we have to return to base. We repeat the process from this morning getting loaded except we have filets now! The take off is smooth as we head towards the double glacier.

  • Double Glacier - Lake
  • Double Glacier Ice Field
  • Matanuska Glacier Ice Face Crevasse

The scenery is truly breathtaking. The views from the air were spectacular as we flew over the double glacier on our return trip. Double Glacier feeds the south fork of Big River Lake. Peering down the green mountain valley, we could see the remnants of snow and ice that had not melted with the spring thaw. The vivid colors of the glacier, from deep blue to bright white, changed with the angle of the plane. You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of Mount Mastedon on the return trip too. The flight over Cook Inlet is uneventful. We can see the mouth of the Kenai river as we pass overhead, looking at the king salmon boats spread out below.

High Adventure Sockeye Fishing-Mouth of the Kenai River
Mouth of the Kenai River

Fresh Salmon Filets-Heaven!

The filets of the sockeye are bright red and have a super-rich flavor. Since we had not thought we would be sockeye fishing, we did not have a cooler. We had not made preparations to transport fish filets home. Instead, Drew recommended Tanner’s in Soldotna. Once we returned to our cabin next door, we drove into town to get the fish processed. Tanner’s had the filets packaged, vacuum packed and flash frozen for shipment home. You can ship your frozen fish home by Fed Ex, at a cost of about $200 for a 50 lb box. It was so worth the price to have our filets sent home.

Our fresh frozen filets High Adventure Sockeye Fishing

Where we Stayed in Soldotna

We had the perfect cabin located steps away from High Adventure Air on Longmere Lake. The Alaska Lakefront Getaway cabin is perfect for a couple. We were looking for quiet in a centrally located spot on the Kenai Peninsula. We sat out on the veranda every evening enjoying the plane’s take-off and land while listening to the call of the loons. Kayaking on the lake added to our overall experience. They even have a freezer for your fresh fish. Highly recommend to anyone travelling the Kenai.

Alaska Lakefront Getaway cabin-High Adventure Sockeye Fishing
Alaska Lakefront Getaway cabin

Final Thoughts our Sky High Adventure with Excellent Sockeye Fishing on Big Lake

This was an excitement filled adventure sockeye fishing that easily exceeded our expectations. We will remember the experience for years to come. So glad we added this to our Alaskan road trip itinerary. If you are looking for an accommodating fly in fishing trip, High Adventure Air has an action filled day of sockeye fishing and bear-viewing for everyone! Our next adventure will be Arctic Grayling on the Chena river and fishing for Kenai rainbows.

Have you fished on the Kenai or Alaska? Tell us about your experience. We love if you would share in the comments below.