Guided Ice Fishing in Alaska
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One of our regular contributors, Adam of FishHound Expeditions, offers an overview of what to expect when you set out for a day on the water…the frozen water. Ice fishing!
Ice fishing is an amazing way to enjoy Alaskan winters. Our season typically begins in late November and runs through March or the beginning of April. Of course these timelines are based on nature and the stability of the ice. Most ice fishing trips with FishHound Expeditions last around 4 hours starting from when we pick the clients up where they are staying and then drive to the lake. Guests can expect and awesome Alaskan experience. We have a power auger that makes quick work of drilling through thick ice. We provide a portable ice shelter complete with seating and a heater. So it ends up being a very comfortable environment to fish in. All gear and tackle is included…everything but a one day Alaska fishing license which is easily purchased from the state online or at many retailers.
Most of our ice fishing clients are either tourists traveling to Alaska or folks who have just moved to Alaska and want to learn an amazing activity to do during our cold months. Both of these groups are generally of the adventurous sort. All our clients are extremely surprised with how comfortable and fun ice fishing can be. I've found over the years of doing this that a lot of clients expected to be freezing cold out on the bare ice with no protection or heat, and they still signed up for it! They are extremely excited to see an ice shelter with a heater.
How Ice Fishing Compares
The fishing aspect is even easier than warm weather fishing; it is especially easy for kids and ‘un-seasoned’ anglers because there is no casting. An angler positions the tip of the rod above the ice hole and then opens the bail of the reel to drop the offering down the hole. The reels we use are similar to conventional spin or bait tackle just a little smaller to fit the ice rods. At times anglers will jig (move the rod up and down) to give action while other times trying to keep it as still as possible. Reeling the fish in is just like it would be during non ice fishing applications, if you feel the fish run let it run and when you feel it coming in reel it in.
During our ice fishing trips we use an array of tactics, tackle, and bait offerings. Most of the times we utilize home cured salmon roe. These are the actual salmon eggs from salmon that we will harvest during summer months. We use different cures and scents to attract the fish to the bait. Small shrimp can also be a very effective bait that works when fish don't want roe. Using small spoons can be a fun approach too because the fish will strike both on the drop down and on the retrieve. Jigs, both plastic and marabou, can also work great when fish are aggressive and attracted to movement.
Reeling in Your Catch
We catch juvenile salmon, Rainbow Trout, and Arctic Char. Fish range in size from 8-25 inches. We occasionally harvest fish within regulation if guests have a means to cook the fish during their visit. If not, they go back in the lake to be caught again by future anglers. Catch and release principals are about the only job security fishing guides have! Most of the lakes we fish are relatively shallow between 10-20 feet. With these depths guests have the ability to actually see down the ice hole and watch the fish take the bait or lure, yes sight fishing while ice fishing! Where we are located in Alaska most trips start at 10 AM to allow for the sun to rise and provide adequate daylight.
One of the more enjoyable moments of guiding ice fishing trips is seeing the joy and excitement of clients peering down the holes and seeing fish swipe and attack their offerings! Everyone giggles and yells in excitement as if they were kids! People who have never done this would never expect to be able to see so much life through the ice. Another great moment is watching people put it all together and start getting the feel for ice fishing, to watch people learn something new and the sense of accomplishment they get is a great benefit of being a guide. Of course being a guide we love watching people catch BIG fish! On our lakes we catch the occasional monster Arctic Char, these fish are anywhere from 18-27 inches and 3-13 pounds. Catching these monsters on ultra light ice fishing rods is truly an incredible experience in angling.
What the Angler Supplies
In addition to the one-day fishing license, an anglers’ primary concern when hitting the ice with most guides is what they are wearing since shelter, rods, etc will typically be supplied. Guests need to wear warm clothes. A pair of long underwear and pants can work or bibs/ski gear also works. Good warm socks and boots are a must as well as a good insulating jacket. It is better to be too warm and take layers off than be cold and wanting for more. A good warm hat is also important and gloves can help on the short walk across the ice but not necessary while fishing in the shelter.
So…if you’re in Alaska during the colder months and want to try an exciting (and maybe new) experience, consider a guided ice fishing trip!