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Thill for a Thrill on the Situk River

Learn about a world-class steelhead fishing destination in Southeast Alaska.

Steelhead from Alaska riverSteelhead from Alaska river

Denis Isbister travels the world to feed his fishing addiction. The host of “Wild Fish, Wild Places” has exposed his viewers to unique fisheries all over the globe.

To satisfy his steelhead habit, Denis likes traveling to Yakutat, Alaska, to take on the wild Situk River. The Situk flows south through a short part of Southeast Alaska into the Gulf of Alaska near Yakutat. It is an amazing spawning ground for sea-run steelhead. These fish typically invade the Situk in late April, May and June.

“The Situk River is one of the smallest and most manageable rivers for chasing steelhead,” Denis said. “It is typically a very navigable, safe but challenging system to chase some of the most addicting fish you'll ever chase. The Situk River combines pristine Alaska wilderness and beauty with unbelievable fishing for a steelhead fishing trip of a lifetime.”

Float-Fishing Approach

steelhead floats and jigsteelhead floats and jig

While Denis utilizes many tactics to catch steelhead, one of his favorites is using a hair jig under a Thill Premium Steelhead Float. These floats are available in three shapes and feature soft latex tubing for securely attaching the float to your line. The advantage to using Thill balsa floats over other floats is balsa is extremely buoyant and sensitive and rides low on the shortened shaft. This helps anglers detect more strikes while making drifts.

“Float fishing for steelhead is the most popular technique for chasing these fish,” Denis said. “This trip we ran Thill Floats with a 1/8-ounce Yakima hair jig or a 4-inch plastic worm on a 1/8-ounce head.  We typically run the jig about 18 inches under the float all the way to 6 feet deep in some of the holes. 

“The Thill Float works best as you can adjust your presentation on the fly as depths change rapidly and the design of the float allows your bait to get running true right after it hits the water. Once that float is getting a dead drift it is just a matter of time until it got buried by one of these monster chromers (steelhead just entering the river from the ocean).”

Denis utilizes Okuma rods and reels while pursuing steelhead. He uses both spinning and baitcasting equipment and likes using 20- to-30-pound braid with 12- or 20-pound fluorocarbon leaders. The Thill Premium Steelhead Floats should be pegged on the braid section of the line, just above the leader, which is typically 12-to-18 inches long.

Situk River Steelhead Fishing

The days are long on the Situk. The 14-mile floats typically last 10-12 hours. There are options to use several local outfitters. (We used Glacier Bear Lodge – Glacier Bear provides transportation to and from the airport and to and from the river and has a full-service lodge with a fully-staffed restaurant and bar. You can use a guide or rent a river boat and do it yourself. Saltwater trips are also available.

When pursuing steelhead on the Situk, you won’t see any buildings, hear any cars or see many people. Just mainly crystal-clear water, Alaska wildlife and flora and, of course, thousands of steelhead. But don’t let the peacefulness and beauty fool you. Steelhead are strong and quite explosive when hooked.

“We’re looking for violence,” Denis said with a laugh. “These fish are so amazing and strong. They destroy baits and give you all the fight you are looking for in the fast waters of the Situk River!”

steelhead floats on river boatsteelhead floats on river boat