Planning for Your First Alaska Fishing trip
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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.
Alaska Fishing License and Limits
If your trip North takes you through Anchorage then you can consider buying your fishing license at the local Walmart or one of the many fish and tackle shops. However, you can eliminate potential headaches by ordering your fishing license online. This is especially advisable if you are flying into your lodge.
Start the process of getting your fishing license online early…they say it takes a couple of weeks to order a license online but it can take up to 60 days. So don't delay.
Talk with your guide or lodge before buying your license…regardless of how you purchase it. You will want their pre-trip guidance in-case you will require special stamps or additional permits based on where you will be fishing. Some guides will hold permits that allow their guests to fish in special locations and, since they don't all have access to all locations, those with special licenses will protect them - so if you don't have the right license, you aren't fishing. If you're working with a quality fishing guide, they will take down your license number and log it in their book. If the Fish and Wildlife Wardens show up, your guide must show them the book and it had best have your license number documented.
Consider species limits…One lesson I Iearned was to expect to limit out and in many cases quickly. On a fly-in fishing trip, the limit for Silver Salmon was two. Bang! Bang! My 8-hour fishing trip was over in 20 minutes (the fishing is that good!) and I was 'stuck' because I was fishing with three other friends on a small river accessible only by plane. It was still a wonderful day of catch-and-release fishing but know what your license options are and what species you're fishing for before you land.
The list of equipment that you need to bring will vary from one location to the next and from one guide to the next. Everyone you work with and every place that you stay will offer something different and provide you with some or none of the tools needed to enjoy your adventure. Have the conversation in advance and know exactly what you need to bring.
On my first trip to Alaska, I lugged all of this nonsense up there. However, I quickly realized after arriving and meeting my guide that I didn't need anything more than a fishing license. I didn't need to bring waders, three fishing rods, spare reels, or 19 pounds of lures - I didn't have to lug any of it up there! However, on my second trip to Alaska, I could have used a lightweight fishing rod. The lodge had everything for Salmon Fishing, but not really everything I wanted for targeting Arctic Grayling.
Learn from my mistakes - My best advice is to check with your guide about what you need to bring and then leave the rest at home. Also, touch base with your lodge about what you should bring or what you can source locally. In places like Cooper Landing, for example, there are places to rent fishing gear, including waders. Save the extra weight in your luggage for bringing salmon back home.
Alaskan Weather Can Be VEXING
The first time I went they had a heat wave and it was 80℉ nearly every day. The next year it was freezing one day but hot the next. It's always possible that you'll be fishing in sun or rain or a cold, freezing, driving wind. Not even the best guide can help here…so, the best approach to dealing with Alaska weather is to plan for it all and dress in layers.
What you will need regardless of the weather is sunscreen, a good hat, and polarized glasses. Many guides will show you how to sight fish and in places like the Kenai River, you will need polarized glasses to see the fish and to protect your eyes from the glare should it be one of those sunny days.
Also, bring clothing that you'll be comfortable in…you are going to do a lot of sitting, standing, and more sitting. It is hard to fish when you are not comfortable.
Know Your Non-Fishing Options
While you're trip may be focused on fishing, know that Alaska offers many more outdoor experiences that you may want to consider - especially if this is potentially a one-time trip. There is plenty of wildlife and nature to see, so take time to focus on a few of those things and truly take advantage of what Alaska has to offer. Alaska is a richly diverse state and you cannot see and do it all in a single trip but you can get a lot in when planned right - check out our overview of Ten Lodges offering adventure options.
If you take one idea away from this, it's to communicate with your lodge and guide when planning your Alaskan fishing trip. They have the experience and knowledge to help minimize any headaches or stress - it's a great, relaxing, fishing trip you are taking…so the planning should be stress-free as well.