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Valdez Alaska, Allison Point
If I had a favorite place on this list, it would be Allison Point in Valdez, Alaska. Have you dreamed of every cast you sling into the water catching a fish? That’s not called fishing, that’s called catching. Or perhaps your not typically a fisherman but looking for a fun outdoor activity that the entire family can join in on, pack your bags and get down to Allison Point during the Pink Salmon run. Have you ever eaten canned salmon from the grocery store? If so, you’ve eaten pink salmon. You’ll find people using all sorts of snatching rigs, but I prefer the tried, the true the Pink Pixie.
While these Salmon won’t actually bite, there are millions of pinks that swarm Valdez returning to the hatchery to spawn and die. Because of the numbers that come in every year, It’s very common to spend more time unhooking your fish than actually fishing. My first trip there, I enjoyed watching a father with his three elementary school daughters land fish after fish after fish. So much so, that he finally gave up on trying to catch them himself and instead spent the remainder of their time unhooking fish that his daughters were reeling in.
There are countless stories, much of them the same everywhere you look.
A solid spincasting outfit for the little ones will work fine, just be sure you’re using 10lb+ test braided line and a solid leader. Just because the average Pink Salmon is only 3 1/2lbs, they can grow to more than twice that size.
Also, if you do bring children down to fish the Pink Salmon run, be sure to get them a derby ticket.
About mid-August as the pinks start to turn into unusable fish, another type of Salmon shows up. My personal favorite, the Alaskan Silver Salmon. Fishing with 20lb+ braid is preferred, along with a steel leader. You will find many different types of bait & lures being thrown but I’ve found the most success with #5 Tiger Vibrax’s, other popular colors include bright pink with a silver spoon, chartreuse body & silver spoon.
Silver Salmon can get as big as 20lbs, although the average for the last three years I’ve gone has been around 8lbs. You are allowed 6, per person and you will find like most fishing locations wall to wall people. Fishing an hour before the high tide up to 2 1/2 hours after the high tide will yield the best results. In all my trips there, I haven’t once been unable to fill my personal limit.
You’ll want to cast out, then move your rod sideways. Let the vibrax sink for 4-5 second count and then retrieve it just fast enough that you feel the spoon rolling around the lure. As the fish strikes, pull in the opposite direction and set your hook. Unlike its counterpart that we discussed earlier, Silver Salmon are very aggressive. You will see them swimming in the water, but by casting further out your chances of success are greater.
Another popular method is a mooching rig with two hooks, a large float and Salmon egg Sacs that can be purchased at most area bait stores. While I’ve never personally used this method, I have seen it done with success beside me. My neighbor was fishing only 4-5 feet out from the rocks and every time a school would come through, he would inevitably hook up. So much so that others were switching to this method. My motto? Come prepared to do both, and do what works.
I should also point out, there is a Silver Salmon Derby as well, if your feeling lucky, grab a ticket!
Fishing low tides can yield some nice sized SOLE, a type of flounder/halibut. While they are small, there isn’t a limit on them and they do eat very well. A bottom fishing rig works best in my limited experience. A 1-2oz weight with a piece of cut herring yielded 6 for me this year.
There are fisherman that will fish from the pier in Valdez as well, although I will caution you. Landing a fish off the Pier in Valdez will require bridge nets. It’s not a place I would take children as there is no railing either. While I haven’t personally fished it like most of the other places on this list, there are people that do. Talking to someone at the local prospectors in Valdez should yield some useful information.
The Olnes Pond campground is a great place for family vacations. Many families from the surrounding Fairbanks area spend summer weekends at the lake, catching the stocked Rainbow Trout & Arctic Grayling. The campground is available year around and has 16 campsites, a reservable picnic shelter, and a public use cabin. It does require a small fee for camping, fishing or using the facilities.
The bait & bobber method works great here. You’ll want ultra-light fishing tackle. Typically salmon eggs & frozen shrimp work best, although if your looking to catch a couple of suckers try canned corn as it sticks on the hook better. The Stocked Rainbow Trout run 9″ – 14″, although Fish & Game does stock a small amount of larger Arctic Char as well.
Over the last several years, fish and game has spent every summer building new 4-wheeling paths, new public cabins and much more. It’s a fantastic location to take your kids for the weekend and get away. It’s also one of those lakes, that when the sun is just right, you see the reflection of the surrounding mountains. Breath-takingly beautiful.
Species Present: Stocked Rainbow Trout, Artic Grayling, Burbot, Suckers
Chena Lakes is another popular desitation on weekends among locals. Stocked regularly by the department of fish & game, it’s a great place to take the family camping for the weekend. You can expect to catch land locked salmon and stocked Rainbow Trout, although these stocked rainbows get quite a bit bigger than the one’s in Olnes Pond. I had success fishing from shore with a white & red mepps, and red rooster tail. I’ve seen others using Salmon eggs with moderate success as well.
Chena Lakes also has 45 individual campsites, as well as 11 pull through spots. There is a business setup on the lake for boat rentals, although they do not come equipped with motors as it is against the law to use any motorized vehicle on the water.
Most locals that don’t fish prefer going for the beach like atmosphere which is rare for Alaska. There is a nice chunk of the shoreline that is covered in white sand. There’s also a playground for children to play on, and clean restrooms.
Additionally there are plenty of picnic tables, and firepits available for use. Now there appears to be a small fee to help recoup some of the maintenance cost. I will warn you, please make sure your fires are out, even if placed in a firepit. Alaska is prone to uncontrollable wildfires, please don’t destroy what the good Lord gave us by leaving a burning fire. There’s an entire lake, use some of the water and fully extinguish your flames.
Species Present: Arctic char, Arctic grayling, Chinook Salmon, Coho salmon, Steelhead, Rainbow Trout
Lower Chatanika River
A little less than 11 miles from the beginning of the Elliot Highway and just past Olnes Pond you’ll find the Lower Chatanika River and Whitefish Campground. Depending on the time of year you’ll find King Salmon, Chum Salmon or Whitefish running through the river. However, there are Northern Pike, and of course Artic Grayling fishing year around. It’s also a wonderful place to do some Berry Picking, as there are 5 different species of berries present.
Fly fishing is a popular activity here, as the Chatanikta has world class Artic Grayling fishing. Northern Pike can be caught when fishing the currents rifts. Head to the boat launch and cast a Vibrax along the current rifts in the river for the best chance of success. I catch a few here every year. Typically catching them on the first or second cast.
Species Present: Artic Grayling, Burbot, Suckers, King Salmon, Chum Salmon, Northern Pike
Upper Chatanika River
On mile 39 of the Steese Highway, you’ll find the upper chatanika river campground. It comes equipped with 24 campsites, drinking water, 4 picnic tables & restrooms. There is a nice gravel bar for camping, a sunday picnic or merely to sunbathe. The same species that are present in the lower chatanika are present at the upper parts of the river. Many locals will launch canoes or rafts and draft from the upper chatanika river to the lower. Fly fishing for Artic Grayling along the way is a once in a lifetime experience. You can catch the same fish from shore while camping with family and friends.
Species Present: Artic Grayling, Burbot, Suckers, King Salmon, Chum Salmon, Northern Pike
There are several fish-able access points to the Chena River depending on where your coming from. A common location to spot the elusive sheefish would be under the College / Geist Rd bridge in Fairbanks. There is also a boat ramp available, and a small picnic area.
You may only use single hooks in the Chena. The Alaskan Fish & Game has banned the use of treble hooks as well as baited hooks under 3/4″. Because of these bans, the Chena River has the best Arctic Grayling, Northern Alaska has to offer.
Species Present: Artic Grayling, Burbot, Suckers, Northern Pike, Sheefish (One or two days out of the year, in late fall.)
To list all of the access points to the Tanana River would take millions of words. There are tons of places as your driving to stop and fish the river. However, two known places that produce fish is the George Parks Hwy bridge that’s a little under 100 miles south of Fairbanks. Every year during breakup the rivers in Alaska shift around, however every year this same spot produces stringers of burbot for me.
I keep the tails, and heads from previously caught fish, and use a simple flounder rig. A lead barrel weight held in place with a splitshot, with a 3/4″ hook about 12″ apart works great. You can also purchase cut bait at most tackle stores and even walmart carries herring.
You can also catch the occasional Northern Pike by throwing a number 5 vibrax into the eddies lines.
It should go without saying. Never fish the open part of the rivers in Alaska. Always look for eddies, think about where your baits scent is going to drift. Fishing with more than one rod is permissible when fishing for burbot. Another popular method is to set line fish. You setup a line or two, and then come back and check it the next day.
Species Present: Arctic Grayling, Burbot, Northern Pike
You can fish from shore during the summer although most recommend a boat for Birch. I wouldn’t expect to catch a limit if fishing from shore, but you can knock it off your list by putting a line in the water. Birch Lake does have a nice parking area, with 17 oversize parking spaces for motor-homes or RV’s. However, there is only 5 tent sized camping area’s. This lake is also stocked annually by the department of fish and game, predominately with rainbow trout.
Rooster Tails work extremely good during breakup, fishing the edges of the ice-pack as it recedes. During the winter months jigging a 1/32oz jighead tipped with frozen shrimp will yield better results than using just Salmon Eggs.
Species Present: Stocked Rainbow trout, Hatchery Stocked King and Silver Salmon , Artic Grayling, and Arctic char.
At Quartz Lake there are 16 campsites in the loop and 87 parking and camping sites in the parking lot development. Facilities also include two boat launches, a handicap accessible fishing dock, picnic sites, a picnic shelter, a swimming area, a beach volleyball court, water, toilets & a boat rental facility.
Fish near the boat ramp, too much grass and garbage in the other places. The BEST time to fish it, is during breakup, as the ice starts to thaw the rainbow trout school near the boat ramp. It’s typical to go and catch your limit in a few hours. Most of the time you don’t even need an ice auger, others have already dug out plenty of holes and they are typically open. Just kick the ice through, or scoop it out and reuse holes that have already been drilled. DO NOT DRIVE ON THE LAKE at this time.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocks Quartz Lake annually with over 300,000 fingerling rainbow trout, and coho salmon. By the end of their three year life cycle, coho salmon can reach up to 13 inches in length. Rainbow trout reach up to 18 inches or more in five years. In 1980 a trophy rainbow trout was caught which weighed 8.3 pounds and measured 25.5 inches long. Quartz Lake is also stocked biennially with sub catch-able size Arctic char and catch-able size Chinook salmon.
In order to avoid the plants growing in the water while fishing from shore, fish near the boat launches, from the fishing dock, or along the rocky shoreline.
It should be noted if your new to Alaska that the stocked Silver salmon in Quartz Lake only grow to 14″ or so.
Species Present: Arctic Char, Rainbow Trout, Burbot, Stocked Silver Salmon
Not my favorite place in the world. However, it made our list because of the monsters that are pulled out of here every year. While there aren’t a lot of them, when you do hook a fish in Harding, you’ve really hooked something. Known for monster Northen Pike but you can’t catch/fish/keep any of them. If your caught fishing near the shoreline with lures/spoons you will be ticketed by game officials for Northern Pike Fishing. Signs are posted, what seems like every 10 feet on the shoreline.
It definitely has fewer fish than it’s two counter parts Quartz and Birch Lake. However, the fish you do catch in Harding are a lot bigger. Only time to realistically fish it without a boat is during winter. Best way to find fish on the ice is to drill holes and drop a portable fish finder. It takes patience and skill to bring up a 30lb Arctic Char. However, once you find them, they can typically be enticed to bite.
Species Present: Arctic char, Lake Trout, Burbot, Arctic grayling, Northern Pike, Coho Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Steelhead, Rainbow Trout
Many anglers only dream about hooking the elusive Lake Trout. However, during ice out, when the ice is melting and moving further and further out, the Lake Trout, Whiting, and Arctic Grayling are plentiful when shore line casting. Throwing rooster tails Size #0 – #1 or jigs will yield the best results. Fishing with lighter tackle will ensure you enjoy every hookup. Walk along the ice line casting until you come to a school of them. Although most years, you can see the water bubbling/popping as they come up to feed on insects. Many fishermen will also use a fly rod, floating insects towards the edge of the pack.
Lake Paxon does have a nice campground, which comes equipped with well maintained restrooms, and ample pull through parking. You can bring an RV or rough it with a tent. There is a higher than average eagle count in this area as well.
It should also be noted that Lake Paxon has several rivers flowing into and fishing near those riverheads for Salmon is illegal. You will see signs posted. However, if your a fan of catching Arctic Grayling every cast, this is where you’ll want to be. At times, you’ll swear the water is boiling as the salmon runs begin. Arctic Grayling, Rainbow Trout and other species that feed off salmon eggs will run up to spawning Salmon here and bump them for a withdrawal from their egg pouches. It’s estimated that more than 50% of spawning Salmon eggs are destroyed with this method.
Species Present: Lake Trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic Grayling, Northern Pike, Steelhead, Rainbow Trout
Summit typically doesn’t start losing it’s ice until further on in the Alaskan Summer around the same time that Paxton Lake loses it’s ice. However, fishing this lake the same way that we fished Lake Paxson yielded solid results. An alternative method to fishing with flies, jigs or rooster tails is floating a bobber a foot or so from the ice pack with shrimp or salmon eggs.
This lake can be hit or miss, as reported by multiple anglers. One day you’ll catch 30+ 5lb Lake Trout, the next you won’t even see them. Lake Summit is also known for the crystal clear water and surrounding scenery. When you do check it out, be sure to take in the sights, as it is drop dead gorgeous country.
There is a couple of pull offs available, fishing one area for 30-45minutes and then moving onto the next one yielded a 3lb Lake trout to finish out my daily bag limit. Patience, and persistence is key. Typically if fishing from shore you’ll want to fish this lake in early June – July.
Species Present: Dolly Varden, Lake trout, Chinook salmon, Rainbow trout
Many anglers first time in Alaska get the Klutina River ‘do what?!’ look of shock when they hear what’s needed to fish for some of the most expensive fish on the seafood market. Were so used to spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on fishing tackle, then this method of fishing comes up. Fishing for red salmon is as easy as a mooching rig, a medium action rod and a little bit of yarn. Leave the tackle boxes at home and fish on the cheap. There’s a pretty even split between fly anglers and those that prefer the more traditional spinning and baitcasting tackle. Campgrounds are abundant, although I will warn you to pack your own food. The little grocery store that’s there, does charge extortionist prices for their goods.
While there are dolly varden and arctic grayling in this river, no one fishes for them. Most prefer instead to fish around the salmon runs. Klutina River Reds are quite famous in the stores and bring upwards of $20 per lb. Be sure to check with Fish & Game during your trip for bag limits, as they do change annually. Additionally, Fish & Game has been known to increase the daily quotas of Red Salmon depending on the sonar count which can be checked here. Look at the Copper River counts.
While Red Salmon can be caught from any of the numerous and well packed shorelines, King Salmon are typically caught by paying a guide service. The rates are fair, and the service is good. Each campground has a couple of on board guides to get you on the King Salmon if that’s what your after.
You will see guides rafting down river, and you will also see jet power boats. It should be noted that the Copper River & Klutina River are two of the most dangerous rivers in the entire state of Alaska. Every year the rivers change, while there is ample boat launching opportunities, if you aren’t experienced with fast moving rivers. DO NOT pilot a boat here.
Timing your Trip?
Check the sonar count from the link above and then plan your trip 2 weeks after a decent amount of Salmon have been counted. I normally don’t go until the number is above 25,000 for a particular day.
How do you fish the Klutina River for Red Salmon?
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Home to some fantastic hikes, rainbow trout, dolly varden & gorilla king salmon. The Gulkana seems to be every fisherman’s dream come true right? It wasn’t for me. Sailors Pit has been updated since my last visit but is still lacking. The river does slow down enough to fish for smaller species like Rainbows and Dolly’s in some bends and eddys, but I didn’t have much success. I’m told the shape of the river does change annually, but I only visited this once. Many anglers find walking on the winter paths to yield the best results but I would caution you away from doing so as this land is owned by Native Corps. There is a dropbox to pay a small fee for parking, fishing, and camping. Make sure you bring your own toilet paper!
The most popular fishing spot amongst locals and tourist alike in Anchorage. If you’ve ever wondered what combat fishing was really like, go there in late may to mid july when the king salmon are running strong. Hip boots are helpful here as well, and the best times to fish are a few hours before and after a tide shift. While you can catch fish without fishing in these time slots, it’s not recommended.
Species Present: King Salmon: Late May – Mid July, Silver Salmon: Late July – Early September, Rainbow Trout
Lures: Using the same color patterns from above, you’ll want to use bright colors. Either #5 Vibrax, Tiger/Chartruese/Pink or a # 7-8 Pixie of the same color pattern. When you arrive at ship creek odds are you won’t be fishing alone if salmon are in fact running. Observing what the locals are using will tell you the color pattern of the day.
Bait: Bait is considered by many the best way to catch salmon in Ship Creek. Some use herring, but for the most part salmon roe is used. Bait typically works best at high tide, fishing a sack of salmon roe 2-3′ between the bobber and bait. Another alternative is fishing with your bait on the bottom with a pyramid sinker.
Additionally, you can catch rainbow trout by going upstream a little more than a mile. Most fish with fly rods, although spinning tackle is still a viable option when fishing for rainbow trout at ship creek.
There are two different fishing spots in Homer, Alaska. Many of the locals refer to the first as ‘The Lagoon’. Fishing the Lagoon offers a large variety of possibilities. Using the same vibrax that we target Silver Salmon with can yield you a king salmon. While most of the king salmon caught here aren’t monsters, they are 10lb+. Throwing a pink vibrax yielded a 12lb king for one retiree from San Diego. Many locals told me the trick to fishing the lagoon for Salmon is hitting the tide right. I didn’t at the time I went, but I did catch several sea run Dolly Varden to fill my belly.
The reason I drove all the way to Homer was to try a different type of fishing that isn’t really talked about by anyone. I’m not a rich man so paying hundreds of dollars to go out on a charter to land a couple of halibut isn’t what I call cost effective fishing. However, I had heard that you can catch halibut and other flatfish from shore at the end of the Homer Spit, near the hotel. I started at low tide and landed my first 9lb Halibut.
I was using a large 14′ surf rod with a 4 oz pyramid sinker and a standard bottom fishing rig with cut herring. I also caught quite a few pollock, and long tooth flounder. While the pollock and Halibut eat extremely well, I’m not a fan of the taste of long tooth flounder, my father had warned me to release them, I guess the morale of the story is, even when your parents are old, listen to them.
What is your Alaskan Fishing Story? Where have you been? Answer in the comments below!