Fishing Derbies on the Kenai Peninsula

Anchorage, Seward, Soldotna, Homer

Alaska fishing derbies are a favorite tradition for visitors and locals alike. Typically hosted in the summer, derbies attract crowds of anglers eager to win big prizes for tagged or large fish. Get in on the action with this 7-day sample trip that takes you through the scenic, fishery-rich Kenai Peninsula to participate in some of the most popular summer derbies.

Day 1 — Anchorage to Seward

Fly into Anchorage’s international airport and rent a car. Drive 3 hours south to Seward via the Seward Highway, a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road. This famous stretch of road weaves along the dramatic Turnagain Arm with expansive views of the Cook Inlet and the snow-capped Chugach Mountains. Upon reaching Seward, choose from a variety of quality lodging options, from hotels to bed and breakfasts to campgrounds.

Day 2 — Seward
In the morning, buy your derby ticket and Alaska fishing license*, and then make reservations for your chartered fishing excursion the next day. Enjoy the rest of the day exploring Exit Glacier, one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska. Drive to Seward Highway milepost 3.7 and turn onto Exit Glacier Road for 8 miles to reach the easy hiking trails that take visitors to the terminus of the glacier.

Day 3 — Seward
The Seward Silver Salmon Derby runs for a week in mid-August when the silver (coho) salmon runs are at their prime. Running now for over 60 years, this derby is one of the oldest and largest fishing derbies in the state.

Your fishing charter will take you out onto glittering Resurrection Bay, where you’ll experience phenomenal fishing as well as possible encounters with sea lions, seals and other marine creatures.

If you are traveling outside of mid-August, you can still enjoy bountiful fishing on the water or from the shores of Seward’s picturesque beaches. In addition to other varieties of salmon and freshwater fish, Resurrection Bay supports one of the largest silver salmon sport fisheries in the Pacific Northwest. Each weighing an average 8-20 lbs., silver salmon begin to enter the outer areas of Resurrection Bay the last week of June, with fishing continuing through mid-September.

fishing derbies on the Kenai Peninsula

Day 4 — Seward to Soldotna
Drive north on the Seward Highway for 35 miles, and veer west onto the Sterling Highway. Cruise along the turquoise blue Kenai river through Cooper Landing, after which the mountains fade behind you and the land opens up to rolling, lake-pocked scenery. Stay the night in the popular fishing community of Soldotna. If you are traveling in mid-August, enter the Kenai River Classic derby, a 3-day long charitable event.

Day 5 — Homer
Head south again on Sterling Highway to reach the "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World" in Homer. On the final stretch, behold the unfolding, panoramic views of Kachemak Bay, the Kenai Mountains and 4.5-mile long Homer Spit. Book your fishing charter, have dinner in one of the town’s excellent restaurants and then spend the night in a cozy bed and breakfast.

Day 6 — Homer
The Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is the longest running in Alaska. It starts in mid-May and ends in mid-September, so you can catch it at any point during the summer. With some amazing prizes, including a $50,000 truck, it’s worth it to nab a ticket before you head out to fish. Even if you catch a fish tagged from the previous year, you’ll win $100!

Day 7 — Homer to Anchorage
It’s time to head back north. Drive back along the Sterling and Seward highways about 5 hours to Anchorage, where you can take advantage of all the big-city offerings you may have missed on your fishing derby extravaganza.

*To purchase your Alaska fishing license online before your trip, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Online Store.