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Alaska Fishing Guides - Looking Forward to the 2021 Season

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The fish in Alaskan waters may not have realized what was happening on land in 2020 but the fishing season was, like everything, much different last year. With non-essential travel limited, we wanted to check in with some of the Alaska fishing guides we know to see how the 2020 season was for them, their guests, and what they expect in the 2021 season.

Dealing with Covid in the Summer of 2020

All four of the guides we checked in with were open and active in 2020. Interestingly, one of the guides, Cooper Island Fishing Guide, actually expanded their guide service by adding a new guide and lodging options. Another one had a slow start due to travel restrictions and had to reduce the number of guides they had, fortunately they did end up having a good year.

All of the guides said that the state safety protocols for travelers were able to be met without issue. The requirement to submit safety plans to the state helped them look at the situation and realize what they needed to do in order to stay open during the season. While some visitors were concerned about the state timeline for negative tests none were affected to where they had to delay or cancel their trips.

It was our theory that the fishing would be better for the anglers that did get a line in the water because less tourists would mean less fishing pressure. Overall, that is what these guides saw but as Adam from FishHound Expeditions noted, more in-state anglers showed up on the water than normal years because they had more free time and could travel within the state less restrictively. Despite that uptick in residents fishing, it seems like the overall lower number of anglers resulted in better fishing for the travelers that could make it there – and less anglers last year does have these guides optimistic that the fishing will be solid for the 2021 season.

Beautiful Alaska Rainbow Trout caught with FishHound Expeditions near Willow, Alaska
Beautiful Alaska Rainbow Trout caught with FishHound Expeditions near Willow, Alaska

Lessons Learned in 2020 Will Help Make the 2021 Season a Success

When considering how the lessons learned during 2020 will help them prepare for the 2021 season, they noted that it will help them to keep pushing forward while being prepared for anything. Like many businesses, the guides were hit hard in the start…one seeing over 100 cancellations before the season started…but they all worked through those uncertain times, pressing on, and know they can handle what comes next. As Rob from Aniak Air Guides noted, they had to be ready to punt at any given time by having a plan A, plan B, and plan C for everything.

No matter what comes at these guides during 2021, they are all prepared to continue meeting safety protocols and are already seeing a lot of interest from anglers. The travel industry as a whole should see people with 'cabin fever' ready to see the sites of their choosing and a couple guides have already noticed the pent-up interest anglers have for getting on the water. George, of Denali Angler, is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season…he still expects more elbow room than a truly ‘normal' year but noted that could change as vaccinations increase (so, they do suggest looking into trip options and bookings sooner than later).

Alaska always allows travelers and anglers the chance to get a bit more remote than normal. That's a benefit no matter what the year is but is an extra benefit during times like these because once a traveler safely gets to their lodge they will hardly be open to the virus. That remoteness is also interesting in terms of fishing because some remote rivers were closed off from access in 2020 because they are close to native villages – so those normally good, remote Alaska fishing spots haven't been fished for an entire year! That could lead to some really solid days on those waters.

We'll all appreciate some aspects of ‘normal' days a bit more in the future and anglers that get out on the Alaskan waters (or any) will certainly appreciate those days even more. It's good to know that these Alaska fishing guides (and others) will be ready to safely help anglers appreciate those days.

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