Fishing in Alaska – Where and When Should You Go?

Published: March 22, 2023

Fishing in Alaska is a fantastic experience, which is why many Alaska visitors plan part, if not all, of their journey to our state around some angling action.

Few Alaska activities provide the thrill of having a fish hit the hook and successfully reeling it in, especially when the fish on the end is a hard-fighting salmon. But you don’t have to be a fishing fanatic outfitted from head to toe, and reel to pole, to get into some serious Alaska fishing. There’s something for everyone, from the constant casters and frequent fly fishermen – to weekend warriors, and even to those wetting a line for the very first time. But where should you go, and when?

When to Go Fishing in Alaska

Ambitious fishermen can technically fish in Alaska year-round – even in the dead of winter, infatuated anglers get into lively ice fishing across the state and a hearty handful chase rare runs of winter salmon in Homer’s Kachemak Bay. However, summertime is the peak of fishing activity and accessibility – not to mention Alaska’s warm summer sun – making the months of May-September the best time to go fish. Within that window most species of fish are in a feeding or breeding frenzy, and when salmon, Alaska’s most wanted catch, make their annual salmon runs across bays, rivers and creeks.

two people fly-fishing from a small boat on a lake while a third person steers

Fishing for salmon on Big River Lakes from Redoubt Bay Lodge.

How to plan your fishing trip in Alaska is really up to the fisherman depending on what they want to catch and how much time and money they want to invest. A guided fly or tackle fishing trip or sports fishing charter can increase the odds for best catch results, especially for novice fishermen or those trying to maximize their Alaska time. Shore fishing in Alaska can be both more affordable and allows anglers more flexibility in choosing the timing and location for their fishing fun. And half and full day tours offering fishing combine both knowledgeable guides and shorter duration opportunities. Just choose the Alaska fishing experience that meets your budget, timeframe and style!

Where to Fish in Alaska

Where to fish in Alaska? Well… there’s almost TOO MUCH choice! If there’s a natural source of water in Alaska – whether a deep-water bay, a serene lake, or a knee-deep creek – there are likely fish swimming around it.

Fishing Fun Near Anchorage

In fact, Alaska has many urban fisheries that are just short walks or easy drives from hotels and other accommodations. A prime example is Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city and travel hub. And there are literally dozens of other rivers, lakes and creeks in the Anchorage-area where you can catch a full array of Alaska fish, from grayling to rainbow trout to salmon. Travel north for an hour or more to Talkeetna or south for around two hours to the Kenai Peninsula and there are even more fishing options. And many fishermen who pay for fly-in fishing trips via cool floatplane usually take off from Anchorage. No wonder Anchorage is often listed among America’s best fishing towns.

the cityscape of Anchorage, Alaska with a bridge over a creek and people fishing

Ship Creek near Anchorage. (Frank Flavin/Visit Anchorage)

The Best Wilderness Fishing Destinations in Alaska

Now if your vision of Alaska fishing includes quiet wilderness spaces surrounded by towering mountains, glaciers and wildlife, far away from the buzz of the city and many other fishermen, you can also easily cast from the shore of a river or lake or arrange for a guided boat ride out on the open water.

In particular, the quaint port towns sprinkled across Southeast Alaska all offer phenomenal fishing opportunities, from on-shore to on-water, guided and solo. And the hottest of Alaska’s fishing hot spots are found on the Kenai Peninsula in South Central Alaska. The Kenai River is king for world-class salmon runs and river fishing. But that’s not the only spot for rabid river fishing on the Peninsula: there are many other river running options, and guides ready to assist, that run from Soldotna to Kasilof to Cooper Landing. Guides based out of the Southcentral Alaska port towns of Homer (Kachemak Bay), Seward (Resurrection Bay), and Whittier (Prince William Sound) take anglers out on the water in their trusty boats for day trips to hook huge halibut, exotic ling cod and sizzling salmon. Valdez, while not on the Kenai Peninsula, also offers some similar amazing deep-water and on-shore fishing in Port Valdez and Prince William Sound.

A great catch on a guided fishing trip on the Kenai Peninsula.

And in Interior Alaska, serious Arctic char and lake trout fishing action can be found in the northern end of the Brooks Range, grayling and burbot in Fairbanks’ Chena River, and just about everything in Quartz Lake located south of Fairbanks.

Alaska Fishing Guides: Worth the $$

Guided fishing trips – whether full- or half-day – are perfect companions and trusted advisors for all levels of fishermen. Boat captains and their crews provide all the necessary fishing gear and instructions, know how and where and when to find the best fish runs, give you tips when the fish are hitting, and even clean and package your fish for you after your fishing fun. There are also guides who offer river rides on the Kenai River, getting their clients away from the occasionally “combat fishing” shore fishing on the riverbanks, to other salmon hot spots. The same goes for the Copper River in the Interior and the Susitna River in the Mat-Su Valley and in Talkeetna.

A guided fishing trip might land you a nice King salmon.

No matter when and where you fish, do check the fishing regulations for the area, make sure to buy appropriate fishing licenses, and also maybe consider spending a few bucks on regional fishing derby tickets. Catching a big fish is memorable; catching a tagged derby fish is memorable and lucrative. Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game has all the information you need on rules and regulations, as well as where the fish are running, and even offer loaner fishing gear.

Alaska Fishing Lodges: Drive Up, Boat In, or Fly In

Of course, if you’re traveling to Alaska in a fishing frenzy, you can also choose to spend multiple days devoted to your passion and using an Alaska fishing lodge as your base of operations. Some lodges you drive to, some you boat to, some you have to fly in to, but all offer classic Alaska fishing excitement by day and warm Alaska hospitality and comfort by night. One special spot in Alaska’s hotbed of salmon fishing on the Kenai Peninsula is Kenai Riverside Lodge, with private log cabins, gorgeous river views and delicious Alaskan cuisine.

Kenai Riverside Lodge campfire.

Beyond the Fishing: Wildlife, Kayaking, Local Alaskan Dining

While the fish are the main event on most fishing trips, a big-time side bonus is being surrounded by some of Alaska’s most amazing natural beauty, from mountains and glaciers up high and sea life like otters, whales, seals and puffin in and on the water. Fishing trips to quirky and cool Homer for example often include lots of other unique Alaska experiences, from kayaking to dining on fresh seafood, of course.

crab legs with seasoning and a side tray of melted butter

Crab at Seven Glaciers (JodyO.Photos/Visit Anchorage)

Wherever and whenever you choose to go fishing in Alaska, you’ll come back with some great stories. Just make sure to (mostly) stick to the truth