Fish and Wildlife of Wood-Tikchik State Park
Wood-Tikchik State Park spans 2700 square miles of mostly remote wilderness. The park provides habitat critical for fish and wildlife sustainability. The park is a sanctuary for many species, but the most important is likely sockeye salmon. The Woodchats Area Lakes provide prime spawning and rearing habitat for sockeye salmon, the most central and essential component of the watershed. The need to protect salmon spawning areas was a primary basis for establishing Woodchats State Park.
Photo courtesy Fishing Bear Lodge
Used for traditional subsistence, commercial and sport fishing, sockeye salmon are a key species within the park, all originating from the largest native salmon run in the world out of Bristol Bay. Salmon provide nutrients for most inhabitants of the park; they provide nourishment for animals within the park and provide many local residents needed nutrition for the year. Carcasses provide protein for many carnivores and salmon eggs, fry and smolt are an important food source for other fish and birds.
Freshwater sport fish are prolific throughout the area. All five species of pacific salmon, Chinook (king), Sockeye (red), Coho (silver), Chum (dog), and Pink (humpy) inhabit and spawn in the Wood River and Tikchik Systems. Rainbow trout, grayling, lake trout, arctic char, dolly varden, and northern pike thrive throughout the park as well. Whitefish are also an important subsistence species in the Tikchik Lakes.
Big game animals including moose, brown bear, and caribou can be seen throughout the park. Occasionally black bears are seen in the northern and eastern regions of the park as well. Common small game and fur bearers include beaver, muskrat, otter, fox, wolverine, mink and porcupine, ground squirrels and marmots.
Woodchats State Parks offers an ideal resting and breeding area for many species of birds. Raptors including eagles, ospreys and a variety of hawks can be seen throughout the park and generally congregate near streams and rivers preying on fish. Many species of waterfowl including loons, swans, geese and numerous species of ducks are found throughout the park. Other species include gulls, shorebirds, owls and a variety of songbirds.
Residents of Aleknagik and Dillingham as well as the surrounding villages use the park for a variety of purposes. Many residents are highly dependent on a subsistence lifestyle. Subsistence uses in the park are concentrated in and around the lakes and rivers. Hunting, fishing and gathering are a vital part of the local way of life. The most important fish and game resources in the park is salmon, although moose, caribou and resident fish are also important.
For centuries families have fished for salmon, gathered berries and plants and hunted for moose and caribou in the Woodchats and surrounding area. The park is also used for gathering firewood, trapping and providing other renewable resources for food, clothing, shelter, transportation and handicrafts. The culture and the health of the people of the watershed are reliant on the resources of Woodchats and the surrounding lands. Communities and villages that use the park include: Aleknagik, Dillingham, Ekwok, Koliganek, Manokotak, New Stuyahok, Platinum, Portage Creek, and Twin Hills.
Local residents and visitors from the Lower 48 and around the world visit the park during the fishing season. Though sockeye salmon are arguably the most important species within the park, most visiting anglers come to Woodchats State Park after another equally impressive species, rainbow trout. Rainbows can be found throughout the park and their migrations are tied closely with salmon spawning.
The Agulowak and Agulukpak, two shallow and relatively short clear water rivers, inspire Woodchats’s status as a world-class sport fishery. The five lodges operating within the park provide guided sport fishing services from early June until early October. Unguided users either camp in the park or they access the park from Lake Aleknagik State Recreation Site. While sportfishing occurs throughout the park, the Wood River system receives the heaviest fishing pressure due to ease of access.
Sport and subsistence hunting also occur within the park. Residents of Southwest Alaska comprise the majority of the hunters using the park, although the number of hunters from other parts of the state and country is growing. Primary game species are moose and bear, and some caribou are taken each year.
For information regarding fish and game bag and possession limits, seasons and methods of take, please refer to the Bristol Bay Drainages Sport Fishing Regulation Summary, the Alaska Hunting Regulations, or visit www.adfg.alaska.gov
Another type of recreational activity in the park is paddling, floating and sightseeing from powerboats. River trips are offered by specialized guiding companies and by lodges. A popular trip in the park is floating the Tikchik River, which can begin on either Nishlik or Upnuk Lakes and ends nearly 60 miles downriver at Tikchik Lake. Be sure to check with the Dillingham State Park office prior to floating the Tikchik River, as permits are limited.