As you researched fishing trips to Alaska, you likely heard it referred to as the 'fishing trip of a lifetime' and 'bucket list trip' a lot. It's true - the Alaska experience will blow your mind and has the potential to offer amazing fishing. It can also be a bit stressful to prepare for if you let it be…especially if it's your first time planning a trip to Alaska. There are a few things to keep in mind that can limit potential issues and the following are a few tips from my experiences that may help as you prepare for what should be a memorable trip.

Fly Fishing the Kenai River
Fly Fishing the Kenai River

The absolute magical thing about Cooper Landing, Alaska is that it is so perfectly located. As a town of about 300 locals, Cooper Landing offers fishermen an amazing set of fishing opportunities. In fact, the fishing opportunities are so good that during Salmon season, the population of fishermen crests the 1000 person mark. Fishermen aside, this is the upper stretch of the Kenai River and the Russian River is right here too. The Kenai River is world famous and likely the spot where the term "Combat Fishing" became an action verb. That little tidbit is not surprising considering the amount of Salmon that use the Kenai and Russian Rivers as spawning grounds. Also, with only 300 residents there are only so many guides here as compared to larger cities. They book incredibly fast. In this Kenai Peninsula fishing article, we explore why Cooper Landing helps you maximize your Alaskan fishing adventure.

Anvik River Lodge
Anvik River Lodge

The Anvik River Lodge sits in the heart of the middle Yukon, about 450 miles northwest of Anchorage. The nearest town is the village of Anvik which is about a two-hour and fifteen minute, 75 mile boat ride up the Anvik River to the lodge. Relax & enjoy the scenery. The boats are enclosed so you don't have to worry if it's chilly or a little rainy. This initial ride up river really gives you a sense of how truly remote you are. There are few other signs of human inhabitants outside of a couple of rarely used trapper cabins and a fish & game run sonar tent camp (that I'm told runs for only about a month during the summer).

The ride is nice. However, it's the fishing here that draws people. There are five species of Pacific Salmon as well as Arctic Char, Dolly Varden, Arctic Grayling, Cisco White fish, and Northern Pike. This is the land of the midnight sun and with that you can fish as long as you want. The lodge offers a 1:2 guide to guest ratio and some of the finest food you will find anywhere.

  • Fly-fishing is something that brings to mind a beautiful stream with plenty of trees and amazing fishing. These destinations should top every fly-fisherman's bucket list. It is hard to name a favorite because each is like another world. Go. Fish; and fall in love with these outstanding fly- fishing destinations.

  • Argentina - Patagonia River Ranch

    The Patagonia River Ranch Ranch is located near San Martin de Los Andes in Argentina and sits right along the world-famous Chimehuin River, but also within easy access of many of the Patagonia areas best rivers. Guests lodge in the luxury offered by the Patagonia River Ranch, which is five-star to say the least. Vaulted ceilings and rustic wood finishes make the lodging a place you'll long to get back to after a day on the water. The most valuable experience here for fishermen are the guides, which are native Argentinians but who also speak fluent English and are top fly-fishing instructors too. This is a fly fishing vacation that is suitable for beginners and veteran fishermen alike. The fishing here is for German Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout. The rivers are crystal clear with a beautiful blue "glow". They meander slowly through oxbows and offer a lot of opportunities to target trophy Trout.

Katmai Lodge on the banks of the Alagnak River
Katmai Lodge on the banks of the Alagnak River

The Katmai Lodge is one of the most outstanding fishing lodges that Alaska has to offer. That is a bold statement because Alaska has a lot to offer fishermen. A great lodge is comprised of its location, the fishing selection and season, comfort, opportunity, and value. The Katmai Lodge does an outstanding job of providing all of those features and more to its guest.

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.

Early on an Alaskan morning, the cirrus clouds catch the first rays of sunlight as it bleeds across the sky in a kaleidoscope of pinks and oranges. On a slow morning breeze there is a hint of coffee, muffins, and breakfast. The murmur of the river and the activity around camp single the start of the day. The Alagnak area is prime fishing country, and today we fish. The tidal waters of the Alagnak River are a gateway. It is here that the Chinook, or King Salmon enter the river in search of their spawning ground. It is here that both their journey, and yours begins.

Breakfast is no small affair at the Angler's Alibi. Chef Ben knows how to feed a crew of hungry guides and fishermen. Roll out the Eggs Benedict or the Breakfast Burrito's loaded with smoked Salmon, eggs and cream cheese. Chef Ben has your back. This is lip smacking, rib-sticking food that will power your morning. Six out of Five star food is what you get from Chef Ben, and he performs on this level all day every day. Your only jobs of the morning are to eat and fish.

Scott Haugen, Dan Busch, and Will Rice's book: Flyfisher's Guide to Alaska: Includes Light Tackle is an outstanding resource for all fly fishermen, especially the DIY local fisherman or those who are visiting Alaska for a short period. The books strongest feature is the description of the rivers. I am not sure another set of river descriptions of this magnitude exists. Alaska is a huge territory, and there are so many rivers that you could visit each one and never experience all that Alaska has to offer fly fishermen. Explore water bodies with names like Lost Lake, Salmon Creek, Hidden Lake, Engineer Lake and Moose River. The authors make it easy to fall in love with fishing in Alaska. 

The book is rich in details and while written for the DIY fisherman every fisherman who visits Alaska should have a copy of this book. The book is available in paperback for Under $35 via Amazon, and it is also available for $9.99 for your Kindle. The 455 pages are filled with helpful advice and adventure that make this an ideal book for all levels of fishermen. The helpful sections that novice fishermen will enjoy are those about flies and line setup. The authors are patient and explain their methods well. The book includes maps, fish guides, and information about rivers, highways, where to stay and everything else you would ever need to know to make a successful fishing trip in Alaska. 

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 Fishing for Sheefish

In the Northern reaches of Alaska is the Kobuk River. There in the Land of the Midnight Sun, the Kobuk River Drainage System begins it journey within the majestical Gates of the Arctic National Park.  The river stretches for 174 miles over different fishing habitats that range from the Upper & Lower Kobuk Canyon, and West along the Brook Range and out to the Hotham Inlet. It is here that the Sheefish lurks in the clear water flows, ponds, lakes and streams. These aquatic habitats are where your Alaska Fishing adventure begins. and the Kobuk River is the hottest fishing grounds in Alaska for the Sheefish. The Sheefish is a fighter. A cousin of the salmon, it reaches a yard in length. It is an aggressive fish to hunt. It strikes with force and speed. If you are not on your game, it may rip the pole right out of your hand. Your Opportunity for Sheefish Alaska fishing trip begins in June with the start of the Sheefish season and runs through September when the season ends. Peak months are July and August. Alaska fishing guides offer the best knowledge of how and where to catch these exhilarating fish.  

Why fish Sheefish?

If you have fished for salmon then expect the Sheefish to strike like a salmon, unlike salmon the Sheefish is outstandingly aggressive. It is not uncommon for one to simply yank the pole from your grip when they strike. You can expect the fight to play out over 15 minutes to half an hour. The ideal pole setup in a stiff rod with the drag set on a lighter setting. The record Sheefish catch weighed 53 pounds. Imagine something that hits you like a moving vehicle and is capable of yanking your pole right out of your hands. The picture that comes to mind is the same as fishing for Tarpon. These are great food fish and make some of the best fish n chips. 

Homer, Alaska Halibut Fishing Capital

To adequately describe the feeling of trying to land a 200 or 300 or 400 pound fish is nearly impossible. There is, of course, an intense adrenaline rush that is almost immediately followed by the feeling of what do I do now. Once you have landed a good sized Halibut you realize that it is you that is hooked. That is why the Pacific Halibut is such an excellent sport fish. The waters around most of Alaska is rich with Halibut. As you read through this blog, you will find various links to Alaska Fishing Lodges. Those links are there to help you find the best lodge that is right for you. 

The Pacific Halibut is a laterally flattened fish with a very distinct look. The bottom side is white; the top is speckled with light and dark green, brown, and even yellow spots set against a dark brown or gray background. Both eyes are found on the dominate, colored side of this of these massive fish. These fish are linked closely with the geological structures of Alaska. They are flat fish, and they make their home along the flat coastal shelf along the edge of Alaska. Mostly they are found in waters that range in depth between 20' and 1000' along the flat continental shelf. Water temperature plays a part in where you find them. Their temperature zone is 37 degrees F. to a high of 46 degrees F. Depending on their location they can occur to depths that are greater than 3500 feet. Outside of Alaska they have a wide habitat range. But they are always found in flat terrain. 

NOTE: Fishing for Halibut takes some consideration. Alaska offers some of the best Halibut fishing in the world. The locals make a distinction between the massive adults, called Barn Doors and the smaller Halibut called Chickens. Make no mistake about Chickens, they can weigh up to 100 pounds. Barn Doors can weigh more than 500 pounds. The world record for a sport caught Pacific Halibut is 459 pounds. Both Chickens and Barn Doors make excellent eating. 

My Alaska Fishing shares the secrets of the Dolly Varden char. Dolly Varden are in the same taxonomic family as salmon and trout; however, Dolly Varden are char, not trout. What does that mean to sport fishermen? Not that much. Many people refer to these fish as Dolly Varden trout because the look like trout. If you want to know how to differentiate between a Dolly Varden and  trout you simply have to look at the spots. The two fish are completely opposite in coloration. Trout species have a light colored body with dark spots. Dolly Varden have a dark colored body with very colorful spots. The spots on Dollly Varden are often bright red and/or yellow. The bright red and yellow coloring can also be found in patches on their head and fins. They make a very striking fish. Oddly, it is rumored that they got their name due to fashion. In the late 1800's there was a style of dress that was called the Dolly Varden, and it was a sheer top over brightly colored print. When you see a Dolly Varden char, the story makes sense.

Dolly Varden caught at Angler's Alibi Lodge - Alagnak River, Alaska
Dolly Varden caught by Rebekka Redd at Angler's Alibi Lodge - Alagnak River, Alaska
Alaska King Salmon

A guide to understanding the habits of Alaska King Salmon. This guide will help to improve your Alaska Fishing Trips. Find information on where to stay, how to fish, and some of the behaviors of these awesome fish.

King Salmon are also known as Chinook salmon. They are  giants, and are the largest species of Salmon within the Pacific Ocean. Their size is one of the primary reasons that sports fisherman find so much pleasure in fishing for King salmon. Salmon, by nature, are excellent fighters and that ups the sports level for fisherman. Unlike Marlin, King salmon keep their fight contained below the water. Don't expect jumping and breaching from King salmon. They are crafty, stealthy fighters that you must tire out to defeat. King salmon easily average 30 pounds or more. Imagine being the fisherman who landed the record 126 pound nearly 6 foot long fish. That is why sports fisherman flock to Alaska every year. These fish offer a tremendous challenge and thrill. Alaska Fishing Lodges are here to make your adventure memorable. Throughout this article, you will find links to various lodges and Alaska Fishing Guides. Those links will help you plan a successful fishing trip to Alaska.

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.

Alaska Kenai River

The Kenai River stretches from Kenai Lake to the Pacific Ocean where it dumps into Cook Inlet. The river is laid out in switchback bends across the flood plains of the Kenai peninsula. The river offers 82 miles of freshwater habitat for many species of Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden Trout, and Steelhead. The Kenai River is one of the most popular places to fish in Alaska. Alaska is wild, and by that we mean bears. Bears love fishing just as much as you do. Never go fishing alone. In fact, for fisherman who have never fished the Kenai River, we suggest choosing an Alaska Fishing Lodge, or using an Alaska Fishing Guide. The benefits are that the pros know where the best spots to fish are, they often have the best equipment, they always know the best techniques to catch fish regardless of the time of year, and they will help to keep you safe.