Stories from Alaska

An insider's journey through Alaska's best kept secrets

Day Fishing Trips in Alaska: What You Can Catch in Our Waters

If you’re itching to add fishing to your jam-packed Alaska schedule of must-sees and must-dos, you can write your own great fishing story in just a day, half day or even a few hours. No matter how long or brief your Alaska stay, and no matter which part of the Great Land your travels take you, there’s almost always easy-to-access world-class Alaska fishing nearby.

Alaska boasts world-class fishing for a variety of species in both fresh and saltwater.

Of course, some people plan their entire Alaska trips around angling; there are plenty of fish in the sea, lakes, rivers, creeks and other wonderful waterways to keep even the most fanatic fishermen constantly casting and catching. But for most visitors who want to squeeze in as many Alaska adventures as possible, fishing day trips are a perfect fit.

Your time might be short, but your fishing options abound. You can still go big by hopping aboard a charter boat out of most port towns or along the hottest inland salmon runs. Or go even bigger, and venture where few have fished before by hiring a flight to a remote locale. You can keep it simple and still catch big fish by driving to a local hot spot. Depending on where you are, a short walk from your accommodations can find you casting in fish-packed waters.

Here are just some of the day trip options and fantastic fishing finds available across Alaska.

Sensational Salmon Fishing

Salmon is what people come to Alaska to eat and catch. This fish is famous around the world for its deliciousness – when people think of Alaska cuisine, a succulent salmon filet served simply or creatively isn’t far from anyone’s minds. And when it comes to real-deal rod-and-reel action, salmon are also Alaska’s sportfishing superstars: they’re crafty, flip-flopping fun for first-time fishermen and the most experienced angler.

Catch a wild Alaska salmon on a guided fishing trip.

Kings, reds and silvers are the most popular salmon species of the five Pacific salmon when it comes to the taste-and-tenacity combo. Kings live up to their regal names. The average weighs in at around 15 pounds, is burly and ready to give any angler a good fight. While reds run smaller, their meat is renowned for its red hue and rich flavor. Silvers might be the best pound-for-pound fighters, making them sought-after adversaries; their mild meat is appetizing, too.

All summer long in Alaska (and all year long, in some regions), hundreds of thousands of salmon run in the seas, sounds, coves and bays, along coastlines, up rivers and creeks, and even around lakes. And that includes urban areas. In the heart of the Kenai/Soldotna area are the Kenai and Russian rivers, which run thick with salmon all summer and mark the epicenter of Alaska salmon fishing. In fact, all five Pacific species swim these peninsula rivers. Same goes for the Talkeetna area, where the species are all represented and plentiful. Salmon literally swim into downtown Anchorage up Ship Creek. And the picturesque port towns of Homer, Seward, Valdez, Whittier, Cordova, Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Yakutat and Kodiak are all surrounded by salmon.

Check into Chartered Fishing Trips

Want to maximize your time and get the best bang for your fishing buck? Let someone else do all the work while you catch all the fish! When you hire a charter or guide and their crews, they will take care of just about everything: taking you to hot spots you can’t access without a boat, supplying the gear from rod to reel to lures, baiting your hooks, giving you pro tips, untangling the lines, and even fileting the fish. This makes charters perfect for day-long and half-day fishing trips.

Nice catch brought in on a full day halibut charter from Homer

If there’s fishing in the area, there’s likely an armada of professional charter captains and crews waiting to take anglers of all ages and skill levels to where fish are biting. Most offer full-day trips, and many offer half-day ventures. And when it comes to catching and affordability, you’re likely in luck: because it’s a competitive business filled with proud professionals, most charter captains and guides aren’t happy if a chorus of “Fish on!” isn’t heard aboard the boat and their clients aren’t spending their day reeling in fish.

Shop around and find an outfitter that best fits your fishing desires. Deep water boat service targets hulking halibut and the current salmon runs; on-river charters troll spots and banks for salmon, trout and more; serene lake fishing peruses a variety of fine-finned fish; even artsy fly fishing is an option, with specialists who will take you where fly-biting fish are hungry.

For those who go out on the open water, there’s even a bonus: marine wildlife sightings! Your captain and crew will point out whales, orcas, porpoises and anything that might make Alaska visitors smile and grab their cameras. When the boat gets back to the docks after a day of fishing, they’ll also point you in the right direction for fish flash-freezing, packing and shipping, if you so choose.

Take a walk. Have a chat. Make the drive

If you’re a savvy fisherman who brought your fishing gear to Alaska, or purchased some upon your arrival, you can pretty much point your feet or your vehicle in any direction and find some fishing. And there’s a depth of information about Alaska fishing online and in books so you can study up before your casting cram session.

Unsure about your next fishing move? Visit with local outfitters when you’re shopping; chat up fishermen who are casting in local waterways; and track down Fish & Game officials, who are human computers hardwired with fishing facts and ready to download. While fishermen are known to be a secretive sort, most are actually friendly to their fellow fish chasers, especially visitors. Anyone who’s logged serious angling time here knows that there are plenty of fish for everyone.

Fly fishing for salmon in an Alaska stream.

Some urban areas have excellent fishing right in town, probably not too far from your accommodations. No, really! Just ask your host or someone working the front desk. Or follow all the folks walking around town with fishing rods or carrying a string of fish. In Anchorage, it’s destination Ship Creek for salmon runs, a major factor in Field & Stream magazine listing Alaska’s largest town as one of America’s Best Fishing Cities. From Anchorage or Fairbanks, drive in just about any direction for any amount of time for great fishing. If you’re staying in or within driving distance of a port town, you’re in luck. Fish and fishing options are everywhere, including the banks for the towns.

Flying (for) fish

If you’re seeking a special or even a once-in-a-lifetime Alaska fishing experience, don’t take to the water: take to the air! Across Alaska, there are fly-in fishing operations that transport clients deep into Alaska’s wilds for half-day, full-day and multi-day trips to the most pristine places for the most amazing fishing.

The commute is an adventure in its own right; aboard a float plane, you’ll take off from and land on water, and in-between you’ll have a unique perspective over stretches of Alaska that few get to see. Tundra. Mountains. Waterways. It’s all there, stretching out seemingly forever just below you. You may even spy wildlife!

Upon landing and docking, your pilot will outfit you with gear and then the reel fun begins. You’ve landed on lakes loaded with lunkers that are primed for biting and fighting. Or maybe you’ll walk to a nearby river, where they salmon are slamming. Wherever you land, it’s likely a fishing paradise that you’ll never stop reminiscing about.

Fly-out adventures from Winter Lake Lodge include guided fishing trips

But telling fishing tales is for later. These fishing settings are surrounded by natural wonders and unexpected peace. It’s just you, your rod and reel, your pilot and perhaps your partner, family member or best friend. Often, the only movement you’ll notice is an eagle perched atop a tall spruce watching you catch the fish they crave, or maybe even an occasional curious beaver or bear. The only disturbance in the tranquility is the sudden fight of the furious fish that just struck your lure, and the celebration of triumph that follows reeling it in.

Don’t want this Alaska fishing dream to end? Who can blame you! Make the trip a multi-day stay by flying into a fishing lodge, many of which are the farthest thing from roughing it. You work hard all day, slaying those fish, so you’re welcomed back by gourmet chefs, rustic but well-appointed accommodations, the best in Alaskan hospitality … and, of course, a comfy bed where you can spend the night dreaming of another day of endless fishing.