Located at the northeast side of Bristol Bay in Southwest Alaska and home to the world’s richest sockeye salmon fishery, the community of Naknek is all about fishing.
Given its location, it’s no surprise that six salmon processors operate in Naknek, a village of a few hundred residents whose population swells with seasonal fish processing workers each summer.
Accessible by road from nearby King Salmon, Naknek sits on the north bank of the Naknek River. The village comes alive during the red salmon run from mid-June to the end of July. Almost 70 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon is caught in Bristol Bay and Naknek is in the heart of it with 20 million fish passing through. Thousands of people flood the area during the fishing season, sending millions of pounds of salmon down the road to King Salmon, where jets whisk away the fresh fish to restaurants and markets across the country.
The abundance of salmon attracted Yup'ik Eskimos and Athabascan Indians to the region more than 6,000 years ago and Russians traders by 1821. The first salmon cannery opened on the Naknek River in 1890 and by 1900, there were 12 canneries in Bristol Bay.
Things to do
The excellent fishing near Naknek isn’t just for commercial operators – several high-end fishing lodges offer guests the opportunity to fish for some of the pink, king, silver and sockeye salmon as well as fly fish for rainbow trout, Arctic Char and grayling. Most of these lodges are all-inclusive and provide guides to help you get to the very best fishing holes for the time of year you’re there.
In town, the Russian Orthodox St. John the Baptist Chapel in Naknek, reportedly constructed in 1886, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Naknek is also home to the Bristol Bay Historical Museum, which features archaeology, history and Native culture and documents Naknek's history as one of the largest commercial salmon fishing and canning headquarters in the world. The museum building is the original Fisherman's Hall, an early meeting place for fishermen.