Alaska; the Last Frontier and home to over 27,000 places to fish became the 49th state in 1959. The fish that most people flock to Alaska to fish for is salmon. With a total area of 663,268 square miles, it is more than two times the size of Texas. There are almost 34,000 miles of tidal shoreline and more than three million lakes. The state fish, adopted in 1962, is King Salmon. Alaska offers some of the most spectacular saltwater, freshwater, and fly fishing in the world. They even have ice fishing.
Where to Fish in Alaska
Fishing in Alaska can be as easy as just pulling off to the side of the road and casting a line. There are also float planes or boats you can hire to take you to a secluded fishing spot. Here are the different regions, the rivers there, and fish you can fish for.
Most of the rivers and lakes in this area are reached by boat or air but some you can reach by car.
- Afognak River — in the summer the Dolly Varden is strong with different salmon runs intertwining
- Egegik River System — five species of salmon are found here
- lliama Lake — this is Alaska’s largest lake and it helps support the biggest red salmon run in the world
- Karluk River — for King Salmon the peak run in mid-June to the end of June many other species can be caught in the river
- Naknek River System — among other species of fish you can catch here there are five species of salmon. It is a great location to fish if you are on a limited budget
Far North Alaska
Some of these places may not be free of ice until as late as July. It is primarily accessible by air but there may be a riverboat you can rent.
- Kobuk River — you can find Northern Pike year round but the best time for fishing here is June 1-September 15
- Noatak River — best fishing is about July 15-September 30
Some of these rivers and lakes can be reached by car but the majority can be reached by boat or air.
- Charley River — here it is excellent fishing for grayling but you can also catch chum, coho, and king salmon
- Porcupine River — northern pike and Arctic grayling
- Rainbow Lake — rainbow trout fishing
- Wien Lake — northern pike
South Central Alaska
This is considered the city part of Alaskan fishing and here you can catch many species of fish with halibut and salmon being the two most popular. You can enjoy saltwater, freshwater, lake, and river fishing.
- Bull Lake — July and August is the fishing season for trout but you can also catch grayling
- Chulitna Lake — trout fishing season is July-September
- Deep Creek — this creek is known for some of the best king salmon
- High Lake — this lake offers some of the best fly fishing for rainbow trout and regular trout
- Little Susitna River — it has one of the largest silver salmon runs
This is the area for saltwater or freshwater fishing and the most popular fish here is salmon
- Auke Bay — king salmon is available year-round but May to June is the best season for the larger fish, pink salmon in July and August, and silver salmon is best in August
- Chilkat Inlet, River, and Lake — king salmon is the common species caught
- Dewey Lake — trout
- Harding River — silver salmon, cutthroat trout, chum salmon, Dolly Varden
Types of Salmon in Alaska
There are so many types of fish to fish for in Alaska but salmon fishing is the most exciting adventure to have. Most of the best salmon fishing species are found in the wilderness so you should hire an experienced guide to help you find the best spot for the type of salmon you want to fish for.
- Chinook (King) — this is the ultimate catch and on average, weight 20-30 pounds with some weighing as much as 50 pounds or more. You can catch them from June to late July but will vary from place to place seasonality. They are a hard-fighting fish.
- Chum — on average they weigh 10 pounds but some are over 15 pounds. From late June to the end of August is ideal for coastal fishing.
- Pink (humpy, humpback) — these are the smallest of all salmon and usually average five pounds but there are some larger. You should go after them on even years because their life cycle lasts two years. You cannot find them every year. When you fish for them you can catch 50 or more on each trip. You can fish for them from late July to the end of August.
- Coho (silver) — when fishing for this salmon, you will experience some fast and furious action. They have the reputation of being one of the best fighters of the Salmon Five. They are also the strongest acrobats and the best time to fish for them is July-September.
- Sockeye — these are the tastiest salmon of all of them and the most abundant. They come to the Alaskan waters by the millions and it is the best thing for fly fishing.
Alaska Fishing Regulations
For non-residents, you can purchase your fishing license from just about anywhere. The fees cost from $25 for one day to $145 yearly. You can get them for three, seven, or fourteen days also.
Be sure to check out the State of Alaska website for more information about the licenses and permits required for fishing in Alaska.
Fishing Bait, Tackle, and Lures
What you will need depends on the type of fish you are fishing for and where you are fishing.
- Grayling — you should use flies in sizes 12-16 like the black ant, gnat, and a variety of split shot. Small lures size 0-1 and natural colored flies both dry and wet.
- Lake trout — use spinners/lures that are blue/chrome or have fish patterns. You can use fishing herring as bait on the bottom of a lake. Use patterns that resemble smolt or leeches for fly fishing.
- Salmon — for King salmon use bead size 10mm, use 6-8 mm for Reds/chum/Silvers, and 6mm for pinks. Use flies that are fresh, bright red, and fades to a dirty white and tied as normal flies. If you see salmon in the water it is best to fish with beads as they mimic salmon eggs.
Fishing to Do in Alaska
- Sport and recreational fishing — this is attempting or taking fish for personal use and not for say. When doing this type of fishing you can catch the fish by hook and line that is held in your hand or if the line is attached to the rod or pole, which is held in your hands or closely attended. You can fish in areas around Fairbanks, Anchorage, Ketchikan, Juneau, Wassilla, Valdez, Kenai, and Palmer. When sports fishing, you can use a rod and reel only and personal fishing you can only use dipnets, gillnets, or seine nets.
Types of Fishing in Alaska
The best place to do saltwater fishing is in Homer, which means you can spend over 45 minutes trying to land a 150-pound fish. Here there is plenty of open water and it is recommended fishing off the coast of Homer where you can get fish weighing 20-30 pounds or more.
When you go remote fishing go to Kodiak Island Archipelago, which is 177 miles long. This type of fishing can give you some of the choicest halibut and salmon and be able to fish in a serene environment with less competition.
In Alaska, there are many opportunities for fly fishing. It is the method of fishing that most Alaskans choose. When fly fishing, you will typically catch salmon, bass, and trout. Here are some of the best places to fly fish.
- Alagnak River — here you will find rainbow trout and Pacific salmon, and arctic grayling. The fish here will be bigger than the average size. You will be able to fly fish this river if you are an expert or novice.
- Kenai River — you will see some massive rainbow trout and salmon in the Upper Kenai River. On this river, you will see a lot of drift boats. The river is 82 miles in length.
- Denali National Park and Preserve — in the park, the best spot is the Nenana River where you can find rainbow trout and arctic grayling. You can wade in or fish from the shore.
Typically the season runs from April-October but some months will be better than others. The best fishing is in August and September.
The Alaskan waters offer you more than 627 varieties of fish, including salmon, halibut, arctic char, trout, and more. It is not only choosing where you want to fish but what fish you want to catch. In addition to the three million lakes, there are thousands of more fish-filled streams and 12,000 rivers. Annually, visitors spend about $652 million on fishing alone in Alaska, including guides, licenses, and equipment. Every region of Alaska caters to the needs of anglers.
Interested in fishing in new locations? You may also like our Ultimate Guide to Fishing in the Bahamas.