Believe it or not, the first anadromous species to enter our river system at Alaska West each spring are known as eulachons, or ‘hooligans’ as we commonly call them. We aren’t positive, but aside from resident baitfish and the occasional rodent, it’s a pretty safe bet that these anadromous smelt are the first major protein source that our leopard rainbow trout key into each spring.
As they return by the hundreds of thousands, hooligans can be seen marching up the banks to spawn for the first couple weeks of our season. Chucking mice and dark toned sculpin patterns at the banks is our typical ticket for early season trout, but imitating a Hooligan with a 4-6 inch baitfish streamer (with small hooks, please) can be deadly too. Although it’s an uncommonly fished method, dead-drifting a Hooligan pattern near snag lines (similar to how we like to fish our flesh flies and egg patterns) can tempt the biggest trout in the river to come out and play.
The short spawning run of these little fish happens long after the previous year’s silver salmon flesh has been recycled back into the watershed, yet before the year’s salmon smolt have begun their migration to the sea. Thus, hooligans fill a perfect space in our meat-eating trout’s calendar while providing us with ample opportunity to catch them!