No matter what time of year an angler may decide to cast a line into Alaska’s waters, he or she can expect to encounter a varying number of popular game fish. While it is true that each species has its own period – or window – of prime opportunity, it is also correct that depending on the drainage and the specific fish populations present, anglers are more than likely to find good and consistent success for at least two or three different sport species at the same time and place as the presence of one often leads to the survival of others. In other words, it is this interconnectivity between species, coupled with the visual aspects that the state is known for, that virtually guarantees a memorable fishing trip.
The fish migrations and their relationship to the seasons makes for very dynamic sport fisheries. While waters in more southern latitudes commonly have longer periods of species availability during the year, Alaska’s game fish generally see significantly contracted windows of angler opportunity as the ice-free seasons of spring, summer, and fall are very brief (perhaps a few short weeks each). This means that timing is the most crucial element to any angler, followed by other pertinent points such as gear and tackle, and methods and techniques.
It is no secret that salmon help drive a huge component of Alaska’s ecosystem. The annual influx of protein-rich nutrition is what sustains many species throughout the year, from decaying flesh of dead adult fish to eggs to juvenile salmon; all contribute as a natural fertilizer that ensures healthy populations of trout, char, grayling, and whitefish among a myriad of other species, both sporting- and non-sporting. While migrating and spawning salmon may be a feast to the senses in several different ways, anglers take it as a good omen in locating a couple of the more popular game quarries, such as rainbows and Dolly Varden.
And in places where salmon are not present, fish display their feeding habits along the lines of other available nutrients, such as insect activity and smaller fishes, each which offer their own unique seasonal patterns. Understanding and applying this intricate cycle of life to the activity of fishing is key in being a successful angler here as anywhere else in the world.
A great many anglers residing in and visiting Alaska each year appreciate and even depend on fish. Yet it is without a doubt that salmon is the leading interest and the engine that drives the financial side of the sport. The state has become synonymous with salmon fishing and perhaps nowhere is this as obvious as it is seeing the number of tackle shops, guide services, charter companies, lodges, and fish processors lining a great many road and highways all over the more populated regions and areas.
Apart from salmon, the bottomfish business is flourishing with the help of a growing appetite for halibut, rockfish, and lingcod, all of which add by considerable measure to the local angling infrastructure, particularly among the major coastal ports.
The exclusive market for trout and char is holding its own and is especially big in the realm of the fly-fishing crowd. In fact, few species can match the level of determination and infatuation witnessed here, despite being ruled by a mainly catch-and-release state of philosophy.
This section deals with the various fish species available to roadside anglers with particular emphasis on the main ones, like the five kinds of salmon, trout, and char. Also covered in moderate depth are types of fish perhaps not as coveted, in general, as the previously mentioned species, such as grayling and pike. Lastly, there is a fairly broad discussion on the more sought-after saltwater species. Species identification and descriptions of locations and timing are given, as well as suggestions on top lures and flies, including proper methods and techniques.
Please click on any one of the fish groupings below for more details regarding the species of choice.
Species: King (Chinook), Red (Sockeye), Pink (Humpback), Chum (Dog), and Silver (Coho) Salmon.
Trout & Char
Species: Steelhead, Rainbow, and Lake Trout; Dolly Varden and Arctic Char.
Species: Arctic Grayling, Northern Pike, Burbot, and Whitefish.
Species: Halibut, Lingcod, Rockfish, Shark, Cod, and Skate.