The Alaska trout are by far the real deal when it comes to size of the fish in comparison to it's fight. If you have ever seen Tie Domi fight back in his NHL days, you would understand the comparison. He was short, but strong enough to take on anyone in the league regardless of their size. A 16" Alaska rainbow trout can pull around a 20" trout from the lower 48 with ease. They are just stronger, and it comes from pure genetics and diet.

The Alaska trout have the opportunity to live off of an extremely rich protein diet for several months a year. They also have the a long cold winter where they shut down and are able to make it through with minimal food almost like the brown bears of the coast. They both rely on salmon as the major food source to get them through the winter by storing so much fat from the summer, and grow in size naturally more than trout in the lower 48 with this huge protein rich food source.

Leopard Rainbow Trout caught with Angler's Alibi
Beautiful Alaska Leopard Rainbow Trout caught on the Alagnak River with Angler's Alibi Lodge

There are so many lodges and do it yourself areas in Alaska that boast about catching "Trophy Alaska Rainbows".

So...What constitutes a "Trophy Alaska Rainbow"

Truth is, just like the lower 48, they are not a dime a dozen. The next question is, what is a true trophy for Alaska standards? Most guides, lodge owners, and die hard locals would agree that a 30" or larger rainbow trout is the trophy size for Alaska and for that matter, the globe. Sure, there are a lot of places that hold these fish in the lower 48, but most are on private tracts of land or have just been released from a hatchery because they will no longer produce eggs. These large "brood stock" rainbows and browns can be caught in tail-waters where there is enough food to sustain such a large fish. A true 30" fish in the lower 48 that is wild and not associated with a tailwater will live in a river or lake that has a ton of biomass to produce such a beast of a trout. There are not many places where this happens naturally. In Alaska, there are few river systems that can hold and routinely yield fish of this size. Yes, even in Alaska, the amount of true 30" plus trout water is not a common place.

Beautiful new lodge built in 2014 situated on the shores of Lake Iliamna
Beautiful new lodge built in 2014 situated on the shores of Lake Iliamna

Intricate Bay Lodge sits along the shores of Lake Iliamna in the Bristol Bay Water Shed. There are many fishing lodges scattered throughout Alaska. Few, if any, sit in such a pivotal location. Though the lodge sits on the shores of the lake, it is located in Copper Bay. The location is at the heart of Alaska's most prominent rainbow trout fishery and offers guests a nearly endless opportunity to fish for trophy rainbows.

Fly Fishing the Copper River
Fly Fishing the Copper River - © Scott Cindrich

The smaller Copper River is home to monster Rainbow Trout. The river is designated as a catch and release river which adds to the monster fish population within the fishery. The river structure is ideal for fly fishermen of all skill levels. Beginners and veterans will find the thrill and action of trophy rainbows along these crystal clear waters. The best time to fish for trophy rainbows is June through September with the exception of July when the Sockeye Salmon invade the river by the millions. The Benefits of the smaller Copper River include:

  • 18 plus pound trophy rainbow trout
  • Fly fishing haven for all levels of fishermen.
  • River geology that increases active fly time.
  • Huge population of massive, monster rainbows.
  • Large selection of food choices so the trophy fish will strike many types of lures and flies.
  • Easy fishing for veterans and beginners. 
  • Rated a best river to fish by Trout International.
  • Catch and Release for active monster fish management. 
Alaska Rainbow Trout

Alaska is known for some amazing fish from King Salmon to Halibut, but Alaska Rainbow trout are perhaps one of the most sought after fish that Alaska has to offer. There are a huge number of people who visit Alaska each year simply for the challenge and sport that Alaska Rainbow Trout offer.

The basic territory of the Alaska Rainbow Trout is the South Eastern portion of Alaska, but they spill into South Central Alaska and Southwestern Alaska. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the Rainbow Trout range as far East as the Kuskokwim River and as far west as the Kuskokwim Bay. The Kenai river is an excellent location for Rainbow Trout fishing. The best locations to find Alaska Rainbow Trout are in the lakes, and tributaries of major rivers. In Spring, they spawn in the shallow waters and gravel riffles. Spawning can extend into early summer in years when the winter has been hard. Understanding the river is a key to successful fishing.

The following is an overview of the Alaska Rainbow Trout, their habitat and the food that they eat.

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