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Person catching a fish in the Kenai Peninsula
Photo credit: Willard, istockphoto.com
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Fishing Derbies on the Kenai Peninsula

Fishing Derbies on the Kenai Peninsula

Alaska’s summer fishing derbies attract crowds of anglers eager to win cash prizes for tagged or large fish. Get in on the action with this seven-day sample trip that takes you through the scenic, fishery-rich Kenai Peninsula and some of its most popular summer derbies.

Day 1: Anchorage to Seward

Fly into Anchorage’s international airport and rent a car for the 125-mile drive 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 coastline, offering expansive views of 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

Purchase your Alaska fishing license (available in grocery stores, outfitters, or online) before your trip, then make reservations for a chartered fishing excursion tomorrow. For today, choose from the many other adventures Seward offers: consider kayaking, exploring Exit Glacier (one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska), or taking in the sights on a glacier and wildlife cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park

Day 3: Seward

It’s time to fish the charter that you booked yesterday. But before you go, make sure you buy a ticket for the Seward Silver Salmon Derby, which runs for a week in mid-August when the silver (coho) salmon runs are at their prime. Running now for more than 60 years, this derby is one of the oldest and largest in the state. Seward also has a halibut derby, the Seward Halibut Tournament, that runs during the month of June. Even if you’re traveling outside those dates you can still enjoy bountiful fishing, along with possible encounters with humpback whales, seals, sea lions, and other marine creatures.

Day 4: Seward to Soldotna

Make the 95-mile drive to the fishing town of Soldotna. Along the way you’ll drive alongside the turquoise-blue Kenai River and through the small town of Cooper Landing, where fishing is also a popular pursuit.

Once you’re through Cooper Landing, the mountains fade behind you and the land opens up to rolling, lake-pocked scenery. If you’re traveling in mid-August, fishing out of Soldotna nets you a chance to enter the Kenai River Classic derby, a three-day long charitable event. But even if you miss the derby, Soldotna is still the perfect base for a float trip on the Kenai River or a fly-in adventure to one of the nearby lakes.

Day 5: Homer

From Soldotna, it’s another 75 highway miles south to the "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World," sometimes known as Homer, Alaska. Spend your afternoon exploring the 4.5-mile Homer Spit, a finger of land that juts into Kachemak Bay and is lined with locally owned art galleries, restaurants, and gift shops.

Day 6: Homer

If you haven't had your fill of fishing, head out on a full-day fishing charter from Homer for halibut, salmon, rockfish, or lingcod. Or, hire a water taxi to access great day hikes in nearby Kachemak Bay State Park, or take a small ferry to visit the picturesque coastal towns of Halibut Cove or Seldovia. Homer also has many sea kayaking outfitters, along with several wide, sandy beaches that are a pleasure to stroll, as long as you keep an eye on the fast-moving tides.

Day 7: Homer to Anchorage

It’s time to head back north. The 220-mile drive back to Anchorage along the Sterling and Seward highways usually takes about five hours, but leave yourself plenty of time to pull over and watch wildlife or take pictures of the dramatic scenery. Once in Anchorage, you can take advantage of the many big-city offerings, including a world-class Anchorage Museum, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and a number of fine shops and restaurants. Consider spending one more night here so you’ll be well-rested when you start your trip home.

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