Becharof Lake Fishing, Size, Depth, And More

Becharof Lake in Alaska
R.J. Wilk, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US-FWS) / Public domain, from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

Written by Patrick Sather

Updated: July 13, 2023

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Becharof Lake is located in the Aleutian Range in southern Alaska near the city of Egegik. This 37-mile-long lake ranks as the second largest lake in the state after Iliamna Lake. Moreover, it also ranks as the 8th largest lake in the United States in terms of volume, as well as the 12th-largest natural lake and the 14th-largest lake overall in terms of surface area. 

Becharof Lake gets its name from Russian navigator Dmitry Bocharov, who first encountered the lake during an expedition in 1791. That said, indigenous people have lived around the lake for thousands of years. Today, the lake supports diverse wildlife, including one of Bristol Bay’s largest salmon runs. Keep reading to learn more about Becharof Lake’s location, size, and depth. We’ll also cover the lake’s history and fishing and camping opportunities in the area.  

Becharof Lake Location

Becharof Lake resides in the Aleutian Range on the Alaska Peninsula. It rests approximately 23 miles southeast of the city of Egegik within the Becharof National Wildlife Refuge. The lake is nestled between the Ugashik National Wildlife Refuge to the south and the Katmai National Park and Preserve to the north. 

Becharof Lake History


The area near the lake featured bones from a pliosaur.

The land around the lake offers clues to the area’s dynamic history. Paleontologists have found fossils in the Becharof Lake National Wildlife Refuge dating back to the Jurassic Period. Discoveries include the bones of a large pliosaur, marine fossils, and fossilized trees. In more recent history, the area around Becharof Lake served as a crossroads for trade amongst local native tribes. Hunter and gatherer groups from the Kodiak, Aleutian Islands, and Alaskan interior all crossed paths around the lake. Five native villages continue to exist within the wildlife refuge to this day. 

In 1791, Russian navigator Dmitry Bocharov was directed by the Shelikhov-Golikov Company to explore the shores of the Alaska Peninsula. Along with several dozen men, Bocharov set out to find a portage route across the peninsula. He and his men traveled up the Egegik River and found the lake. After the Alaska Purchase of 1867, natural and Acting Assistant to the United States Coast Survey, William Healey Dall, named the lake in honor of Bocharov. However, the spelling of the lake was altered to the more Americanized “Becharof.” 

During the early 1900s, the village of Kanatak on the lake’s eastern shore grew into a bustling oil town. To facilitate the transportation of oil, the people of Kanatak constructed several roads to and from nearby oil wells and the village. However, the oil soon dried up, and the town’s population fell to 0 by the mid-20th century.   

Today, the lake and the surrounding area operate as a wildlife preserve. The lake supports hundreds of species and attracts tourists who appreciate the area’s natural beauty. 

Becharof Lake Size

Becharof Lake encompasses a total surface area of 453 square miles. At max length, the lake measures approximately 37 miles long. Meanwhile, the widest point measures about 15 miles wide. 

Becharof Lake Depth

Like many lakes, the depth of the lake varies depending on the location. Presently, no accurate measurements exist on its average depth. That said, experts have determined that the lake’s deepest point measures 600 feet below the surface.  

Becharof Lake Water Level

The water level varies depending on the time of year. Temperature and precipitation can also affect the water level in the lake. The lake usually reaches its highest level in spring and summer as the ice melts from surrounding peaks. Meanwhile, the water level usually reaches its lowest level in fall and water as the weather cools.

Becharof Lake Fishing

Grizzly bear

Grizzly bears, moose, caribou, and other animals are along the lake’s shores.

Despite its remoteness, anglers from all over the world flock to the lake for its excellent fishing. The lake supports one of the world’s largest salmon runs and numerous other types of fish. In fact, Becharof Lake serves as the spawning ground for the 2nd-longest sockeye salmon run in the world. Nearly 6 million sockeye salmon spawn yearly in the lake’s waters. 

There is no commercial fishing done on Becharof Lake. However, recreational fishers can fish on the lake year-round. In addition to fish, the area around Becharof Lake supports a wide range of wildlife. You can find grizzly bears, bald eagles, moose, caribou, and many varieties of waterbirds along its shores. 

You can find excellent fishing spots all over Becharof Lake. Most fishing trips on the lake are organized by professional charter companies which provide logistical support for anglers and maintain campgrounds outside the refuge. Here are a few of the different fish you can encounter while fishing on Becharof Lake:

Becharof Lake Geology

Becharof Lake rests within the 1.2 million-acre Becharof National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge lies along a mountainous coastline that features sheer cliffs, mountains, glacial lakes, valleys, and fjords. Several rivers and streams feed into the lake, the largest of which is the Egegik River, which connects the lake to Bristol Bay on its western shore. Upper Ugashik Lake and the Ugashik-Peulik volcano are just south of the lake. To the north of the lake lies the Kejulik Mountains, which feed the Kejulik River on Becharof Lake’s eastern shore. 

Mt. Peulik,Island Arm, Becharof Lake, Alaska

Becharof Lake rests within the 1.2 million-acre Becharof National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Becharof Lake Boating and Watersports

You can only access Becharof Lake by boat or float plane. As a result, boating is permitted on Becharof Lake. However, the Becharof National Wildlife Refuge forbids the use of motorized vehicles. The lake also forbids the use of helicopters to access the lake. Moreover, the lake has no marinas, piers, or boat ramps. As a result, most boats access the lake via the Egegik River. 

Becharof Lake Camping

There are no campgrounds within the confines of Becharof National Wildlife Refuge or around the lake. Moreover, you can only access the lake via the 5-mile Kanatak Trail, as no vehicle-accessible roads lead into the refuge. However, several private campgrounds are in the area just outside the refuge. 

The Becharof Lodge is located on the upper stretches of the Egegik River. Amenities include a dining hall, kitchen, cabins, bedrooms with bunk beds, hot showers, and flushable toilets. The lodge specializes in coho fishing and fly fishing. 

Becharof Rapids Camp resides on the Egegik River in the Bristol Bay Watershed. You can reach Becharof Rapids camp via a float plane chartered out of nearby King Salmon. The camp consists of several cabins, a cookhouse, and a common room with couches and satellite TV. The camp features hot running water and offers guests a chance to enjoy hiking, fishing, and sightseeing in the Alaska Peninsula.  

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