Planning Your Fishing Trip & Best Fishing Spots
The biggest problem with fishing in Alaska is making decisions - saltwater or fresh, guided or unguided, remote lodge or road system, summer or winter, where to go - the list of options is nearly endless. However, whether you're a die-hard fly fishing purist or a visitor who'd just like to catch a couple salmon to take home for friends and family, you can fulfill your fishing fantasies in Alaska. Read on for answers to the most common questions about planning your Alaska fishing trip: do I need a fishing license, what can I catch, and where should I go?
DO I NEED A FISHING LICENSE IN ALASKA?
Yes, fishing licenses are required to fish in Alaska. Different licenses are available for residents, non-residents, and military. Senior licenses for ages 60+ are available for residents only. Non-resident fishing licenses can be purchased just about anywhere in Alaska, from the corner grocery store to sometimes right on-board your charter vessel. You can even purchase your fishing license online. For more information, visit the Alaska Department of Fish & Game website.
Non-Resident Fishing License Fees:
- 1 day: $15
- 3 days: $30
- 7 days: $45
- 14 days: $75
- Annual: $100
WHAT CAN I CATCH?
Top 5 Sport Fish in Alaska & the Best Time to Catch Them:
King (chinooks): May – July
Sockeye (reds): June – August
Coho (silvers): July – September
Pink (humpys): July – August
Chum (dogs): July – August
Halibut: March – October
Rainbow Trout: June – September
Dolly Varden: July - October
Where is the best fishing in Alaska?
Whether you make your vacation plans with fishing foremost in your mind or add it in as a sideline, you can find places to fish and fish to catch any time of year and any place in the state where there's water. The first decision is deciding where to go.
FISHING IN INSIDE PASSAGE ALASKA
The Inside Passage is famous for saltwater fishing, and the freshwater possibilities are equally impressive. A myriad of full-service wilderness lodges and charter boat services are available. Juneau, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Haines, Skagway, Petersburg, Sitka, and Yakutat are the key gateway cities to this diverse coastal region. Salmon is the area’s most popular species, and many communities sponsor derbies for the largest salmon caught.
- Saltwater Charters: Ketchikan calls itself the Salmon Capital of the World and for this reason anglers flock to the city. Charter fishing tours target all five species of Pacific salmon. Other species available include halibut, red snapper, lingcod, and rock cod.
- Salt Lagoon Creek: Located 22 miles north of Ketchikan, accessible by boat. Coho and pink salmon, Dolly Varden, and cutthroat are some of the species you’ll find.
- Auke Bay: Located approximately 12 miles north of Juneau and accessible primarily by boat. King salmon is available all year with the best season for larger fish May to June. Coho salmon are best in August and pink salmon are best July and August.
- Gastineau Channel: Located between Juneau and Douglas Island and runs for 19 miles. Accessible by boat or by road from certain shore areas. A variety of species can be caught including king, coho, pink, and chum salmon, and Dolly Varden.
- Saltwater Charters: The action begins in late April or May when king salmon are the first to begin spawning. Along with salmon, anglers fish for halibut, red snapper, ling cod, and sea bass.
- Harding River: Located in Bradfield canal 35 air miles from Wrangell, accessible by boat or plane and a Forest Service cabin is available. Fish available are coho salmon, chum salmon, Dolly Varden, and cutthroat trout.
- Saltwater Charters: Local charter companies target all 5 species of Pacific salmon with excellent fishing for king salmon. Other species include halibut, rockfish, and lingcod.
- Chilkat Inlet, Lake, and River: Located southwest of Haines and accessible by boat or road. Camping, picnic sites, and boat launching available. King salmon is the most common species caught in these waters.
- Saltwater Charters: Fishing for all 5 species of Pacific salmon with excellent king salmon fishing, plus halibut, rockfish, and lingcod.
- Dewey Lakes: Located two miles southeast of Skagway and accessible by trail. Brook trout is the most common species caught in the lower lake and rainbow trout in the upper lake.
- Lost Lake: Located 10 miles from Skagway by road and continue by trail for a strenuous two mile hike. Good spot for rainbow trout.
- Saltwater Charters: Targeting halibut along with king and coho salmon.
- Eagles Roost Park: Beach access by a short paved trail close to downtown, with fishing for cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden.
- Petersburg Lake and Petersburg Creek: Accessible by boat access from town. Fish for salmon, Dolly Varden, steelhead trout, cutthroat trout.
- Saltwater Charters: Sitka Sound waters are home to all five species of Pacific salmon, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish. Coho and pink salmon are also targeted to a lesser degree along shoreline areas and in fresh water.
- Swan Lake: Lake near downtown Sitka with Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout.
- Indian River: Several trails in town provide access to Indian River to fish for salmon, Dolly Varden, and rainbow trout. Fishing for salmon is prohibited in the lower section of the river downstream from Sawmill Creek Road Bridge.
- Heart Lake and Thimbleberry Lake: Two lakes along the Sitka road system that have established populations of brook trout.
- Beaver Lake: On the road system and stocked with Arctic grayling.
- Saltwater Charters in Yakutat Bay: Located west of Yakutat and accessible primarily by boat. A variety of species available including halibut, ling cod, king and coho salmon, red snapper, black bass, and rock fish throughout the summer.
- Situk River: 12 miles south of town by road. One of the area’s top fishing spots for coho salmon, pink salmon, and cutthroat trout.
- Rivers and Lakes along Yakutat Road System: Variety of sport fishing opportunities in rivers that drain into the Gulf of Alaska along the Yakutat road system. King, sockeye, and coho salmon can be caught during spawning runs and rainbow trout, steelhead trout, cutthroat trout, and Dolly Varden are present in many streams and lakes.
FISHING IN SOUTHWEST ALASKA
The Southwest region is a vast and largely remote area including Kodiak Island, the Aleutian Islands, and the Alaska Peninsula, where you'll find the renowned Bristol Bay and Lake Iliamna regions. A variety of full-service lodges and fishing charters host avid anglers in some of the state's most fish-concentrated waters.
- Kodiak Island Saltwater Fishing: Fishing charter companies in port communities on Kodiak Island offer saltwater fishing trips to target salmon, halibut, cod, and sea bass. Most fishing charters depart from the towns of Kodiak, Old Harbor, Larsen Bay, and Port Lions, and remote fishing lodges located throughout the island offer multi-day backcountry fishing packages. Charters typically run May through October.
- Afognak River: Located on Kodiak Island 32 air miles from the city of Kodiak. Fishing for Dolly Varden is strong most of the summer with various salmon runs throughout the summer.
- Buskin River: Located on Kodiak Island and accessible by road from the city of Kodiak. Various salmon runs are active from June through October.
- Karluk River: Located 75 miles southwest of the city of Kodiak and accessible from the town of Karluk. Peak run is mid-June to end of June for king salmon, and many other species can be caught in the river.
- Naknek River System: Located near King Salmon, with a large portion of the system located within Katmai National Park. All five species of Pacific salmon can be caught here along with other species of fish. Multiple fishing charters and fishing lodges are located along the Naknek River and are accessible from King Salmon.
- Egegik River System: Located 40 miles south of King Salmon and accessible by air service. All five species of Pacific salmon are found in this drainage.
- Iliamna Lake: Alaska’s largest lake helps support the largest red salmon run in the world. Accommodations and guides can be found in the Iliamna area.
- Unalaska/Port of Dutch Harbor: Several fishing charter operators offer saltwater fishing trips from the Port of Dutch Harbor to target halibut, salmon, and cod.
- Dillingham: Rivers in the Dillingham area offer fishing for all five species of Pacific salmon, Arctic char, Dolly Varden, grayling, and rainbow trout. Fishing lodges and day fishing charters accessible from Dillingham operate on area rivers including the Nushagak, Togiak, Agulawok, Agulukpak, and Wood Rivers.
FISHING IN SOUTHCENTRAL ALASKA
The state’s most populous region has an excellent road system to access endless opportunities for freshwater and saltwater fishing. The famous Kenai Peninsula is in this region, home of the world's largest king salmon plus giant Pacific halibut. The mighty Copper River, world-renowned for king, sockeye, and silver salmon, is also found in Southcentral Alaska.
- Ship Creek: Where else can you catch a king salmon in the city? Ship Creek in Anchorage offers the unique experience of fishing for salmon just below downtown. King salmon run lake May through mid-July and coho salmon run mid-July through late September.
- Kenai River: Located on the Kenai Peninsula, accessible by road. The Kenai River is referred to as one of the world’s best sportfishing rivers and is one of the most heavily used freshwater fisheries in Alaska. Renowned for its king salmon run from mid-May through July. Other species include sockeye, coho, and pink salmon, rainbow trout, and Dolly Varden. There are numerous access points, outfitters, lodges, and services in the area. Hub communities include Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling, and Cooper Landing.
- Russian River: Accessible by road from the Russian River campground. Popular fishery for sockeye salmon from mid-June to late August and coho salmon from July to September.
- Deep Creek: Located approximately 130 miles south of Anchorage in Ninilchik, accessible by road. Deep Creek is a top king salmon fishing destination from late May through June. Other species include pink and coho salmon, Dolly Varden, and steelhead trout.
- Resurrection Bay: The town of Seward is home to a large charter fishing fleet that targets all five species of Pacific salmon, halibut, rockfish, and lingcod in Resurrection Bay and beyond. The popular Seward Silver Salmon Derby takes place in August.
- Kachemak Bay/Cook Inlet: Saltwater charters available from Homer, Anchor Point, Seldovia, and Ninilchik target halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, pink salmon, rockfish, and lingcod in Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet. Homer is often called the Halibut Fishing Capitol of the World with dozens of charter options operating from the Homer Spit.
- Whittier, Valdez, Cordova: These three communities provide access to a wide variety of fishing opportunities in Prince William Sound. The area’s protected waterways provide excellent fishing for all five species of Pacific salmon, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish. Whittier and Valdez are accessibly by road, and all three communities are accessibly by ferry on the Alaska Marine Highway system.
- Gulkana River: Multiple access points by road from the Richardson Highway north of Glennallen. Fishing for king salmon, sockeye salmon, rainbow trout, steelhead trout, Arctic grayling, and whitefish. Outfitters in Glennallen, Copper Center, Chistochina, Gakona, and Chitina offer fishing trips in Copper River basin rivers.
- Klutina River: Accessible by road from the Richardson Highway, Old Richardson Highway, and Klutina Lake Road near Glennallen and Copper Center. Fishing for king salmon, sockeye salmon, Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, and steelhead trout. Outfitters in Glennallen, Copper Center, Chistochina, Gakona, and Chitinaoffer fishing trips in Copper River basin rivers.
- Lake Louise: Located 32 miles northwest of Glennallen, accessible by floatplane or by road. Lodges are located on the Lake Louise. Excellent trout fishing.
- Deshka River: Located 60 miles northwest of Anchorage. Primary access by floatplane or boat via Susitna Landing. The Deshka River is known as one of the best rivers for king and coho salmon fishing in the area.
- Little Susitna River: Starts at Mint Glacier, in the Talkeetna Mountains and flows southwest into the Cook Inlet, accessible by road or boat. Little Susitna River has one of the largest coho salmon runs in the region, plus king salmon, sockeye salmon, pink salmon, rainbow trout, and Dolly Varden.
- Willow Creek: Accessible by road on the Parks Highway near the town of Willow. This tributary of the Susitna River is popular for king salmon, coho salmon, Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, and Arctic grayling.
- Montana Creek: Accessible by road on the Parks Highway near Talkeetna. This tributary of the Susitna River is popular for king salmon, coho salmon, Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, and Arctic grayling.
FISHING IN INTERIOR ALASKA
- Fairbanks Area: A wide variety of lakes and rivers in the Fairbanks area, particularly those of the Tanana River drainage, offer good fishing opportunities for salmon, grayling, trout, northern pike, and other species. Several fishing charter operators in Fairbanks offer drive, boat, or fly-in fishing trips on area rivers such as the Chena, Delta Clearwater, and Chatanika Rivers.
- Denali Area: Fishing for Arctic grayling and rainbow trout is excellent in the Cantwell area near Denali National Park. Several fly-fishing guides operate trips departing from Cantwell and Denali Park.
- Charley River: Accessible by plane from Fairbanks, Charley River is rated excellent to good for grayling, but you can also catch king, coho, and chum salmon.
- Porcupine River: Accessible by air or boat from Fort Yukon. Fish that are commonly caught are northern pike and Arctic grayling.
FISHING IN ArCTIC ALASKA
Fishing in Alaska’s Arctic region is primarily accessible by air, although riverboats can occasionally be rented at villages along rivers, and some road-accessible fishing can be found along the Dalton Highway. Fishing for salmon on their spawning migrations, plus superb waters for trophy-size northern pike, lake trout, and Arctic char is of special interest to freshwater anglers in this region.
- Nome: The 14 rivers in the Nome area offer good fishing for multiple species including salmon, Dolly Varden, Arctic grayling, and northern pike. Drive-in fishing access can be found on the road system outside of Nome, and local tour operators offer fly-in fishing trips to backcountry fishing spots.
- Kanuti River: Accessible at mile 107 of the Dalton Highway. Fishing for king and chum salmon, northern pike, whitefish, Arctic grayling, and burbot.
- North Slope near Dalton Highway: Several roadside lakes and streams between Atigun Pass and Prudhoe Bay/Deadhouse offer fishing for Arctic grayling, Arctic char, burbot, Dolly Varden, and lake trout.
- Jim River: Crosses the Dalton Highway three times between Mile 140 and mile 144. Fishing for Arctic grayling, king and chum salmon, northern pike, whitefish, and burbot.
- Kobuk River: Located in Gates of the Arctic National Park and flows to Kotzebue. Boats may be chartered from residents in villages along the river. At its best June 1 to September 15, northern pike available year-round. Fishing for chum salmon, Arctic grayling, northern pike, sheefish, and Dolly Varden.
- Noatak River: This fly-in river flows through Gates of the Arctic National Park and Noatak National Preserve to Kotzebue for species including chum salmon, Arctic grayling, northern pike, and Dolly Varden. Approximate season July 15 to September 30.
The State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game monitors Alaska's fisheries to protect, maintain, and improve healthy sport fisheries. Visit their website for in-season fishing hotlines and current regulations, including areas open or closed to sport fishing.
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