Alaska is synonymous with the best fishing trips in the world. Its 46,600-mile shoreline could wrap its way around the lower 48 United States and have coastline to spare. Alaska also is home to 40% of the United States’ total surface water, which includes 12,000 rivers and over three million lakes. All this means there are endless opportunities to capture fresh salmon, halibut, dolly varden, char, grayling, cod, rockfish, trout, pike, sheefish, crab, or shrimp.
There are a million options for fishing trips in Alaska. Whether you are an avid fly fisherman who enjoys the fight of a king salmon, or you prefer trolling the ocean bottom for record setting halibut, you are sure to find a fishing adventure of a lifetime. From guided day trips, a week-long stay at a luxury fishing lodge, or planning your own fishing adventures in your RV in a roadside pullout, you are sure to find the right Alaska Fishing destination for you.
Once you’ve caught that delicious Alaskan fish, you’ll want to eat it or share it with friends. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has recipes galore to try. Whatever you do, don’t overcook Alaskan fish. It’s considered a sin in this part of the world.
Best Places for Fishing Trips in Alaska
There are so many choices on where to fish in Alaska it may be hard to decide where to go. Just know that in Alaska, you’re never far from a river, lake, or ocean to fish in! Below are some of the most popular fishing regions in Alaska.
The Kenai Peninsula is one of the most popular fishing areas in all of Alaska because of its easy accessibility by road, air, or water and its abundant fishing opportunities. Some of the best camping, birding, hiking, and fishing anywhere in the world can be found on the Kenai Peninsula.
The towns of Seward and Homer are esteemed for halibut fishing. If you’re looking for a top-rated fishing charter in Seward, look no further than The Fish House. They offer both halibut charters and salmon charters. In Homer, Bob’s Trophy Charters and Homer Ocean Charters are two excellent, professional fishing charters to consider. Homer is known as the Halibut Capital of the World. Here charters take anglers out into Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet for what most people call the best Alaska fishing trips in the state.
After catching your limit, bring them back to shore, where they can be cleaned, filleted, and processed. Most processors will vacuum seal meal-sized portions and freeze them for you to take home. In Seward, look for The Fish House or Captain Jack’s.
One of the added benefits of booking a fishing charter out of Seward or Homer is that the journey to the fishing grounds will likely double as a wildlife cruise. Guests can enjoy whale watching (humpback whales and orcas could be spotted), sea otters, and sea lions.
Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsula is famous for its Alaska salmon fishing in the Kenai River and Russian River. During the salmon runs, the campgrounds and rivers around Copper Landing are teeming with locals, state-wide visitors, and plenty of tourists looking to catch one or many of Alaska’s famed salmon. The world record King Salmon caught with a rod and reel was pulled from the Kenai River. It was over 97 lbs!
Southeast Alaska, also known as the Panhandle, is best known for its ocean-caught fish. Ketchikan carries the nickname of Salmon Capitol of the World for a reason. Petersburg also has prime fishing and is renowned for its shrimp industry.
Juneau, Sitka, and Haines have Alaska fishing charters ready to help you capture the best-tasting fish in the world. You can find luxury lodges throughout Alaska, but Southeast, in particular, has many amazing lodges. These lodges are typically reached by float plane as they are situated on some of the more remote islands in Alaska’s Inside Passage. Each venue offers its own charm and all-inclusive fishing packages.
Southcentral Alaska and Interior Alaska
Have a hankering for a rainbow trout? Look to the stocked lakes in Southcentral Alaska or the Interior from June through September. Interior Alaska is also well known for fly fishing in its streams and lakes.
Valdez, at the end of the Richardson Highway, sits on the shores of Prince William Sound, which is famous for its Halibut fishing. If you’re looking to get your catch processed, look to Fish Central or Easy Freeze.
Fishing the Alaska Highway.
Arctic Grayling & Northern Pike
Arctic Grayling & Northern Pike
Yarger Lake (Lakeview)
Alaska Fishing License
Alaska requires a license for all sports fishing. Nonresident fishing licenses are available at most stores where fishing gear is sold, including some grocery stores. In addition, you can often buy one from your professional guide or you can simply go online to purchase it directly from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Nonresident fishing licenses can be purchased for 1 day, 3 day, 7 day or 14 days. If you plan to fish for king salmon, you must purchase a “King Salmon Stamp” for your fishing license.
Discover an Amazing Alaska Itinerary
From 4 nights to 14 nights you’ll find an Incredible Alaska Itinerary!
Alaska Fish Species
There are five species of Pacific Salmon in Alaska, and each enjoys two names:
- Chinook or King Salmon
- Sockeye Salmon or Reds
- Pink Salmon or Humpies
- Chum Salmon or Dogs
- Silver Salmon or Cohos.
The sixth species of salmon is Arctic Grayling, a freshwater salmon found throughout Alaska and the Pacific drainages in Canada.
Do you like a fighting fish? Then look for Dolly Varden. It looks like a trout, but it is a char. There are two varieties: Northern and Southern. The Northern is larger and can be found in the Kenai Peninsula, Bristol Bay, Kodiak, Prince William Sound, and the Susitna River drainage areas from July through October, with August being the ideal peak season in almost every area.
A similar fish, the Arctic Char, is found in the coldest lake waters around Bristol Bay. Both thrive on salmon roe, and it is suggested that you purchase local roe for bait as they can tell the difference.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides information on their website on how to find stocked lakes, ice fish, or capture that trophy king. In addition, the WeFishAK site includes an interactive map to help you find where your favorite fish are running.
What Fishing Gear to use in Alaska
What are the best lures for catching salmon? Pack your fishing box with a variety of silver spoons and spinners. We’ve also known some fisherfolks have success catching salmon using wobbling plugs, so make sure you have a variety of tackle to use. Remember that once salmon start up the rivers to spawn, they stop eating, so they aren’t drawn to the same temptations of dining upon smaller fish.
Halibut are best caught on a jig with live bait. We recommend employing a charter service with professional guides to catch halibut. You’ll often find local Alaskans on your day trip, too, because not everyone has a large enough boat with all the right equipment to catch this coveted white fish. And Alaskans love all types of fishing!
The best time to fish in Alaska
Generally, the best time to catch salmon in Alaska is May through September, but each species has its own run depending on the location.
A salmon fishing trip in Ketchikan can start earlier in the year than a fishing trip to the Kenai River or Kasilof River in the Kenai Peninsula. For example, Kasilof Sockeye may peak in mid-July, but the Kenai Sockeye peak a week later.
Likewise, king salmon in the Susitna River peak in early July, but in Kodiak, they are at their best in May and June.
So, if you have your heart set on a particular type of salmon, you may have to do some homework to find the best time and place, but do not despair; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has free online information.
Alaska Fishing Recordholders
Are you looking to catch one for the record books? Here is a list of the current Alaskan Fishing records. Notice that the largest King Salmon, Pink Salmon, and Sockeye Salmon all came from the Kenai River.
King salmon (from Kenai River)
Arctic Char/Dolly Varden
George R. Howard
Lawrence E. Hudnall