My Alaskan Fishing Trip
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Steelhead Fishing in Alaska

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With regards to most scientists there is no difference between Steelhead and Rainbow Trout. However, to us anglers there is a huge difference! Steelhead are similar to salmon in the fact that they are born in freshwater, then spend some time in their natal rivers as smolt before beginning their migration to the saltwater. Here in the salt the steelhead cover great distances hunting their varying food sources. They then return back to their natal rivers to spawn again. Unlike Pacific Salmon who only spawn once and die, Steelhead in the right conditions can spawn multiple times. This incredible life cycle yields incredibly strong, beautiful, and athletic fish.

Steelhead caught with FishHound Expeditions in Alaska
Steelhead caught with FishHound Expeditions in Alaska

Alaska is a Steelhead Fishing Destination

Alaska is one of the last strongholds of good Steelhead runs. Writing that sentence pains me greatly…I learned how to steelhead in Oregon, Washington, and California many years ago. Just today I read that the wild steelhead return for the Deschutes is forecasted to be less than 700 fish. Runs in the lower 48 and even Canada are suffering for a variety of reasons that could fill pages and pages and have. I truly hope that Alaska will be spared and our numbers will remain strong and healthy so that my daughter can become the Steelhead addict that I am. Steelheading in Alaska has been a destination for many anglers for many years. Due to our remoteness, lack of dams, catch and release protocols, and decent management numbers of wild steelhead are still strong.

Alaska Steelhead runs are primarily fall and spring runs. Some rivers will have both while other systems will only have one. Fall runs will typically start mid to late September and hit full force by October. These fish will "winter" over until they spawn in the spring. Spring fish can start as early as late March and as late as early May. These fish come into the system, spawn and then return back to the salt. Alaskan steely are generally not as large as some of their Canadian cousins but can still reach over 40 inches. Most steely are in the upper 20's to low 30's with lots in the mid 30's.

Chasing Wild Alaskan Steelhead

Anglers dreaming of catching wild Steelhead should consider Alaska as a location to chase these unicorns for lots of reasons. As mentioned prior our numbers are still high. Also, Alaska has countless rivers where steelhead come to spawn. Some are easily accessible by road while others are only accessible by plane or helicopter. Some runs are on the smaller side such as 200-500 fish while other systems will boast 6,000 – 15,000! My favorite thing about fishing for Steelhead up here in Alaska is compared to the lower 48 there are way less people. Even on what I consider a crowded day up here would be a ghost town for most steely rivers in the lower 48. Our runs are wild which mean strong fish not fish born in pens. In most of our rivers that have Steelhead other species can be fished for as well. In my favorite river there are resident Rainbows, sea run Dolly's, and 2 species of Salmon! That's 5 different species of fish in one river.

When fishing for Steelhead in Alaska anglers first need to check if the specific river system, they're wishing to fish has them. Alaska Department of Fish and Game has an amazing website where this info can be found. Our Steelhead rivers are primarily located in the south-central, south-east, and Kodiak Island parts of the state. Most of the river systems will also have a lake involved where the river begins. So, a good factor to consider when looking at maps for possible steely locations. Many methods can be employed to catch steely whether that be with conventional tackle or fly gear. One of the most effective ways is to drift a bead below a float, bobber or indicator. The bead imitates an egg which is a primary food source for all fish in Alaska. My preferred method is to swing flies on a 2 handed rod. Swinging spoons on conventional tackle is also effective. Having a stout rod is important when targeting steelhead for several reasons. They're insanely strong and acrobatic and have an inherent knowledge of how to beat anglers, they can take many runs, and lastly having a rod with enough backbone to get these fish in quickly to not stress them out to death is of the upmost importance. Most fly anglers will typically use an 8wt. Some of the best flies aren't flies at all but beads ranging in size and colors. Some anglers prefer smaller more natural looking beads while others prefer large brightly colored beads. One's best bet is just come prepared with a variety of size and color. Some of my personal favorite "swing" flies are variations of the Intruder in black and blue and pinks. Another go to swing fly for me is the Hobo Spey, it is a smaller profile fly that can work in all water conditions. Other good swing flies such as the Dali Llama incorporate rabbit strips in the fly. These strips provide great fly movement in moving water. One of the most important things to consider in fly selection is an anglers faith in the fly, if you don't have faith in what your using, you won't fish as effectively if you believe your fly will work!

Top Fishing Trips for Steelhead


Kodiak Island Resort
Kodiak Island Resort
Remote, World-Class Sport-Fishing Lodge on Kodiak Island, Alaska | Experience Kodiak Island's outstanding fishing, magnificent scenery, abundant wildlife and our fishing lodge's four-star service!
126 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $5,000 to $6,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $4,000 to $5,000 Per Person
Package: 2022 Alaska Fishing Lodge Packages
Alaska Fishing with Mark Glassmaker
Alaska Fishing with Mark Glassmaker
Top-Rated Fishing Guides & Affordable Lodging Packages | Kenai River, Cook Inlet & Remote-Fly Out Fishing
100 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $1,000 to $2,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $1,000 to $2,000 Per Person
Half Day: $200 to $299 Per Person
Full Day: $200 to $299 Per Person; $500 to $599 Per Person
FishHound Expeditions
FishHound Expeditions
Guided Single Day & Overnight Fly-Fishing Trips on some of Alaskas' Best Rivers | Choose From Single Day Float, Wade or Heli-Fishing & Multi Day Remote Guided Float Fishing Trips
53 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $4,000 to $5,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $3,000 to $4,000 Per Person
Half Day: $150 to $199 Per Person
Full Day: $150 to $199 Per Person; $200 to $299 Per Person
Package: 6 - 10 Day Float Fishing Trip Fishing Adventure in Western Alaska
Package: Heli-Fishing Trips
Alaska Seaplane Tours
Alaska Seaplane Tours
419 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
Full Day: $500 to $599 Per Person
Ketchikan Helicopters
Ketchikan Helicopters
285 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
Half Day: $400 to $499 Per Person
Alaska Kenai Fishing for Fun
Alaska Kenai Fishing for Fun
232 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
Half Day: $150 to $199 Per Person
Full Day: $200 to $299 Per Person; $400 to $499 Per Person
Tower Rock Lodge
Tower Rock Lodge
200 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $2,000 to $3,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $2,000 to $3,000 Per Person
Orca Adventure Lodge
Orca Adventure Lodge
124 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $2,000 to $3,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $1,000 to $2,000 Per Person
Talon Lodge
Talon Lodge
114 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
4 - 5 Days: $4,000 to $5,000 Per Person
Gakona Lodge and Trading Post
Gakona Lodge and Trading Post
105 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $2,000 to $3,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $1,000 to $2,000 Per Person
Dove Island Lodge
Dove Island Lodge
84 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $6,000 to $7,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $4,000 to $5,000 Per Person
Crooked Creek Retreat
Crooked Creek Retreat
81 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $3,000 to $4,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $2,000 to $3,000 Per Person
Bear Creek Outfitters
Bear Creek Outfitters
58 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
Half Day: $400 to $499 Per Person
Full Day: $600 to $699 Per Person
Kodiak Legends Lodge
Kodiak Legends Lodge
55 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $5,000 to $6,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $4,000 to $5,000 Per Person
Fly Guides - Haines, Alaska
Fly Guides - Haines, Alaska
54 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
Half Day: $200 to $299 Per Person
Full Day: $200 to $299 Per Person; $300 to $399 Per Person
Whaler’s Cove Lodge
Whaler’s Cove Lodge
47 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $5,000 to $6,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $3,000 to $4,000 Per Person
Glacier Bear Lodge
Glacier Bear Lodge
42 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $2,000 to $3,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $1,000 to $2,000 Per Person
Afognak Wilderness Lodge
Afognak Wilderness Lodge
Award-Winning Fishing, Wildlife & Adventure Lodge
40 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $5,000 to $6,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $4,000 to $5,000 Per Person
Package: Remote Fishing & Wildlife Experience on Afognak Island
Silverfin Guide Service
Silverfin Guide Service
38 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
Half Day: $150 to $199 Per Person
Full Day: $200 to $299 Per Person
Deep Creek Fishing Club
Deep Creek Fishing Club
33 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $5,000 to $6,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $3,000 to $4,000 Per Person
Double Haul Fly Fishing
Double Haul Fly Fishing
31 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
Full Day: $200 to $299 Per Person
Larsen Bay Lodge
Larsen Bay Lodge
30 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $5,000 to $6,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $4,000 to $5,000 Per Person
Fish and Sons Kenai Charters
Fish and Sons Kenai Charters
26 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
Half Day: $200 to $299 Per Person
Full Day: $200 to $299 Per Person; $300 to $399 Per Person
Yakutat Lodge
Yakutat Lodge
24 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $3,000 to $4,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $2,000 to $3,000 Per Person
Saltery Lake Lodge
Saltery Lake Lodge
21 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $3,000 to $4,000 Per Person
Alaska Troutfitters
Alaska Troutfitters
21 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $2,000 to $3,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $1,000 to $2,000 Per Person
Half Day: $150 to $199 Per Person
Full Day: $200 to $299 Per Person; $900+ Per Person
Favorite Bay Lodge
Favorite Bay Lodge
16 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $5,000 to $6,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $4,000 to $5,000 Per Person
Fish With Hill
Fish With Hill
13 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $4,000 to $5,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $3,000 to $4,000 Per Person
Full Day: $300 to $399 Per Person
Fireweed Lodge
Fireweed Lodge
12 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
4 - 5 Days: $3,000 to $4,000 Per Person
Fish Kodiak Adventures
Fish Kodiak Adventures
12 Reviews - TripAdvisor® Traveler Rating
6 - 7 Days: $2,000 to $3,000 Per Person
4 - 5 Days: $1,000 to $2,000 Per Person