A frequent question we are asked is, “When is the best time to visit Kodiak and Kodiak Raspberry Island Remote Lodge?” A common misunderstanding is that the best time to visit is in late July, with the idea that that is the height of the summer, and thereby has the warmest temperatures and nicest weather. There is not a specific time between Mid May and Late September that typically has better or worse weather. Living here for most of my life, we have seen every month; be it May, June, July, August, or September, reach 70 plus degrees Fahrenheit, about as warm as it gets on Kodiak, and stay that way for weeks, with no wind and blue skies. We have also had rain, wind, and fog also hamper arrivals, departures, and activities scheduled during the week. There isn’t a routine as to when the weather will be good or bad; Mother Nature seems to do what she pleases. And while we hope the weather is flat calm, sunny and warm during your stay, if it isn’t, we’re prepared to go out in it anyway. Our location puts us within the wilderness; so going on a hike or kayak starts right at the lodge. Our catamaran hulled boats are stable and comfortable. And, since we’re located on an island, we can typically find a lee where the weather is calmer. Finally, we are located on the West Side of the Archipelago, so we get a little less rain than Kodiak City is notorious for. One thing is for certain; you will see the weather that makes the Kodiak Island Archipelago so special, and such an important part of Wild Alaska.
While I’ll define different highlights to different parts of our season below, I will point out that our kayaking trips remain largely consistent between Mid May and Late September, and simply adjust with the tide and wind of the day.
Mid May through Mid June
This is the beginning of our summer; and we have often seen temperatures into the 70s, flat calm days, and the overwhelming vitality “Spring” brings to ones senses. The surrounding flora is in a rush to bud and flower, capitalizing on the newly arrived long days, often drunk with sunshine. The most delicate flowers are now in full bloom and the mountains turn green almost before your very eyes, pushing right up to the edges of any remaining alpine snow.
This is an outstanding time of year to spot wildlife, as the Kodiak Brown Bear is recently out of hibernation, our Roosevelt Elk Herds are rearing newborn calves, and Humpback and Finback Whales are returning to feed on the rich soup of growth that is arriving with the return of summer; all of which may be spotted from the fishing boats. Bald Eagles are hungry after a long winter and the fish scraps donated at the end of a day’s fishing attract a dozen or more of these magnificent birds. The ones comfortable with the routine will often swoop right down above guests watching us fillet fish, snatching a filleted salmon carcass right off the beach in front of us.
Fishing can be surreal as Sockeye Salmon enter our favorite rivers and begin their final journey upriver to spawn. They’re largely dime bright, fight hard, and are arguably the most valuable of the salmon species (same species as the famous “Copper River Reds”). These fish run from late May through early June; and define one of our two river fisheries. Paired with an abundance of ocean fishing options, including Halibut, Rockfish, Cod, and Tanner (Snow) Crab fishing, guests fishing and choosing to harvest their catch will likely have a very diverse collection of premium, wild Alaskan Seafood to take home.
Hiking adventurers will find our trails the most open at this time of year, before the density of vegetation overwhelms the game trails we hike along. Songbirds announce their territories enthusiastically, and the views from along the coastline or ridge tops can be captivating.
Mid June through Mid July
By now Summer has set in and Old Man Winter has moved along. The last of any high snow is typically gone by mid July at the latest. Temperatures again have the opportunity to be in the high 50s through low 70s, and we hope for rain to feed the rivers that are so important to the Sockeye Salmon that are migrating upstream. They must have enough water to reach their lake to spawn. Do we get it? Each year is different; sometimes we do, sometimes it comes later (or earlier) in the year.
Now that the Sockeye Returns have largely moved upriver, we will focus our fishing on the ocean. Lingcod Season opens July 1, and King Salmon trolling is a strong candidate for each day of fishing. Halibut, Rockfish, and Cod fishing is ever popular, both for the excitement when hooking into a “barn door” as well as the exceptional table value these fish yield. By late June or early July we typically catch our first trolled Silver Salmon of the year, and fishing captains’ eyes will start to hunt birds diving, revealing schools of feeding Silvers underneath. Action can be intense as greedy Silvers, often mixed in with King Salmon and even Halibut, pound the trolling gear.
Bear Viewing remains similar to earlier in the year; with the bears still enjoying fresh green chutes erupting from the flats, with bears lazing in fields or grazing like cattle (cattle with brown furry coats, long claws, and big teeth). Glacier viewing and flight seeing can be tremendous at this time of year.
Hiking also largely remains the same as prior weeks, with the biggest difference being the longer grass and more dense vegetation. Green is overwhelming what is left of any winter colors, and the diversity of photographic opportunities is evident.
Mid July through Late August
This, as I mentioned before, is the peak of our summer. The Kodiak Island Archipelago, including Raspberry Island, has lived up to it’s name, the Emerald Isle. By now every plant that is going to thrive is in full bloom, soaking up every ray of sunshine during our short growing season. Fields of Fireweed turn hillsides pink and every inhabitant of the land and sea revel in pure, lush, abundance. Temperatures can range from the high 50’s to low 70’s.
Fishing will continue to focus on the ocean’s bounty. Seeking Silver Salmon will be part of nearly every day; watching for birds, ready to deploy our trolling gear if a ‘feeding frenzy’ is spotted. Halibut, Rockfish, Cod, Lingcod, and Crab will also be targeted, as well as a short but focused shot of King Salmon returning to a specific area we routinely keep our eye on. Again, variety and abundance defines this time of year on our fishing boats.
Bear Viewing, while still watching for concentrations of bears grazing in fields, will also begin to focus on certain rivers. The animals will begin to shift attention and start to gorge on the abundance of Sockeye or Pink Salmon that are now filling the rivers, helping provide the bears with the nutrition they’ll need to sleep through the colder winter months.
Hiking remains as rewarding as previous months, only now the vegetation’s full and trails are more small tunnels you feel with your feet, gently pushing grass and overgrown brush off to the side as you move through. Views will reveal the mountains and islands in full green.
Late August through Late September
And so the summer begins to fade into Fall, which many Alaskans consider the greatest time of the year; the time for harvest. Now the rivers are truly full of Salmon, and bears are so full they just focus on the fattiest parts of the salmon to eat. Vegetation around the islands are just beginning to show hues of yellows and oranges, and fields of fireweed that were pink weeks ago are now deep red. Winter, though not yet present, is sensed, and the wilds begin to prepare for it. Temperatures can still range from between the high 50’s to low 70s.
Fishing will feature our second river fishery, with schools of big, bright Silver Salmon pushing into the fresh water and viciously chomping on spinners, flies, and other presentations we cast to them. Still in abundance are Halibut, Rockfish, Cod and Tanner Crab in the ocean, so we typically weave together both pursuits. On a rare occasion, happening only a few times per year, we’ll hook a Steelhead while fishing the fresh water for Silvers; truly an unexpected cherry on top. This time of year, similar to Late May through Mid July, is another opportunity to combine both fresh and salt water fishing into one trip.
Bear Viewing begins to slow down, with bear dispersing into the wilds as the major Pink Salmon returns have concluded. That being said, opportunity to spot a bear from the fishing boats or along the river banks the rivers is up, and fly out bear views can still reveal a bear or two, which will most likely be chasing late returning salmon.
Kayaking and Hiking remains similar, but with early morning kayak trips feeling a little cooler in the morning than earlier weeks. The vegetation is as dense as its going to get at this time of year, and also not as favorable as earlier in the year. But, many hidden experiences still wait for the adventuresome, and we will still have a kayaking and hiking guide within our team, ready to host and educate you on our locale.
Last Two Weeks in September
Fall is here, and most of the Silvers are now in the rivers moving up towards their spawning grounds. There is a higher chance of catching a Steelhead during your stay, and while some of the Silvers are still bright, some have turned a deep red. Ducks are beginning to arrive, and Deer Season is open. Ocean fishing for Halibut, Rockfish, Cod and Crab is still available, but the fall Westerlies can hamper exposed fishing. Some days are perfect and calm, but there is more likelihood the weather can limit our day to day options. Fly out bear viewing is concluded for the season, and kayakers and hikers have migrated south for the winter.
One thing remains perfectly unique to these two special weeks; this is the only time of year that we are comfortable with offering a fishing and hunting combination trip. The Sitka Black-Tailed deer, introduced to the islands in the 1920s, are currently flourishing. To many, they offer a unique and physically challenging hunt, and who wouldn’t want to combine a trip to Raspberry Island without tying in some fishing? So this small window presents that unique opportunity to combine both the fishing and hunting side of Alaska into one trip, with an opportunity to bring home a variety of seafood, targeted in both the salt and fresh water, as well as the opportunity to pursue our Sitka Black-Tail; some of the most delicate wild game I’ve tried.