If you are planning for fishing in Alaska, the safe bet would be to know the territory. Just as you would plan your route and budget it is most important that you know what to expect, especially here. Alaska is the absolute largest state in the Union added to the fact that it is 13.77% water and you will see why it is a fisherman’s paradise. Alaska has 34,000 miles of shoreline but not much of it is sandy beach front property and most is in uninhabited areas. The Federal Government of the United States out-rightly owns the majority of the land in Alaska. They own and manage 68% of the landmass and it is public land comprised of national parks, national forest and wild life refuges. The Arctic National Wildlife refuge is the largest in the world and coves astounding 16million acres. It is in these last bastions of untamed wilderness that most fishing excursions find their destinations. That is why learning about the climate and types of animal life other than fish is so important. Although you may be on a guided excursion you are still in the wild and everyone is vulnerable there.
Alaska has been divided into four zones and each has its Beauties and Hazards. The climate varies greatly in each zone, rather in every region. The weather itself can be a deadly foe in the wilds of this State.
(1) Southeast Alaska
Contrary to popular myth, Alaska is not freezing every where all the time. The Southeast panhandle and the capital city of Juneau have what is called an oceanic climate because it is reminiscent of the climate in the Mid-Atlantic. This is the only section of the state that has temperatures above freezing at all times during the winter months.
Caution is required at all times in and outside the cities’ limits. There are bear here, the black, grizzly and brown, and they can be dangerous. Any wild animal should be given a wide berth. If your fishing excursion includes outdoor camping be aware that the squirrels in Alaska are fierce little critters. So much so, they even have a bounty on their heads.
Southeast Alaska is the heaven for anglers, as the streams, and the shore waters here are impregnated with salmons and halibuts nearly throughout the year. Rainbow, brook, cutthroat, and steelhead trout too contribute to the freshwater fish abundance. What’s more, shrimps, crabs and a miscellany of bottom fish too are in plenty. Amongst salmons, Chinook salmon, titled as Alaska’s state fish, forms a major catch. Being anadromous fish, they are fished both in fresh and salt water, using lures and salmon eggs in fresh water and trolling with rigged herring being the most preferred method in salt water. Coho and pink salmon are other favorite species. If you prefer to visit this region in summer, you may be lucky enough to get dry and warm climate, though being prepared with layered clothing, raingear to withstand the obstinate rains, and a positive attitude to catch the best fish, even in an unfriendly weather, will be wise.
Salmons and halibuts lead in the commercial fishing too, in southeast Alaska. All the five varieties of Pacific Salmon are harvested from this region and make 30 to 45% of the total salmon harvest of the state per year. Halibut forms average 70%. From July salmons start migrating in the panhandle and reach the peak in August, majority of them are harvested from purse seiners. Trollers target high quality fishes like Chinook, Coho and other high-quality salmons and gain handsome prices for them.
South Central Alaska
This area has a climate that is considered mild compared to most of the rest of the state. Being so close to the coast gives it that effect. Although it gets more snow the days are generally clear. Anchorage is located in the South Central part of the state. This city is sub-Arctic even without much snowfall because of its short cool summers. Salmon and trout favor these waters as well.
Again be cautious, as there are 5 large land animals in the area all three types of bear, Caribou (in the deer family), Moose (deer family), Dall Sheep and the Musk ox. Although not as easily provoked as the bear extreme caution is advised as these are herd animals and spooking them could get you run over. Be aware that mothers in the wild are fiercely protective of their young and leave the kids alone, no matter how cute.
The region presents widest scope to both saltwater as well as inland fishing. Rainbow trout is abundant in the Bristol Bay, along with which Arctic Char and Dolly Varden too are found in many water bodies. Tremendously varying and spectacular salmon runs are found in some areas, which include Chinook, sockeye or red salmon, chum, Coho or silver salmon, and pink salmon. Halibut are found in large quantity but only during the season in Gulf of Alaska, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound waters, so also a variety of bottom fish. Grayling and burbot are seen in some streams, while lake trout and pike are common in southcenrtal lakes.
In Prince William Sound too, all the 5 species of salmon are harvested, but pink salmon is the most prevalent one, forming 90% of the catch. And the popular methods used for fishing are purse seine, set net and drift grillnet. On the other hand, in Cook Inlet, sockeye harvesting is prevalent. King salmon too are harvested on a large scale with set nets.
The Alaskan Interior
The interior is where you begin to get into the truly sub-Arctic temperatures. Strangely enough both the highest and the lowest temperatures can be recorded in or around Fairbanks. It gets as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and as cold as a mind numbing –60 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. You can expect to catch your fill of the Dolly Varden or Sockeye salmon as well as Cod.
The farther north you go the greater the danger as you will have just entered free-range wolf territory. The three bears (no pun intended) are ever present Moose and Caribou are also present.
This region too is a heaven for anglers as they get tremendous variety of fish, including all the five species of Pacific salmon, and northern pike as well as some of the world’s largest sheefish, as big as of 60 pounds of weight. Arctic char, lake trout, grayling and Dolly Varden too are in plenty. Best season for fishing is summer, as there can be satiated fishing during the pleasant sunshine and warm days. Even the winter cannot hinder full-hearted ice fishing enthusiasts as they can get burbot in river ice, so also trout and land-locked salmon.
The Northern Extreme
This is real arctic, the truly frozen tundra; the land that only melts a little, but otherwise is always cold. There is summer here, but it lasts for only a very short time and even in July the temperature is a balmy 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Fishing excursions here are normally scheduled in the spring and summer months. The waters are freezing, so you better stay in the boat. This is a trip for the true adventure seekers and some of it is done right through the ice.
All you have to do now is add the polar bear to your list of usual suspects from above and your picture is complete. Oh, there may be a snow fox or two, but hey they usually run at the sight of something larger, unless they have something to fight for say a cub or two.
It is helpful to mention that these animals generally sleep during the middle of the day and unless you are out and about in the wee hours of the morning you may never see any. Here is where you get the latest in-depth information on all things pertaining to fishing in the great state of Alaska. Now that you are familiar with the territory you can begin to visualize what you will be up against. It won’t be just another fishing trip in Alaska. It is always an adventure. Here are the types of fish you can hope to find in the Alaskan waters.
Major drainages in this region include the rivers, Colville, Sagavanirktok, Kuparuk and Canning, which provide home for the diadromous Beaufort Sea Dolly Varden. There are hundreds of lakes which are too shallow to support fish population, but there are also dozens of other lakes which have lake trout, Arctic char, burbot and Arctic grayling in them, but these varieties grow very slow and so can only be harvested on minimal quantities.
Each type of fish has its unique tackle needs for instance the King Salmon is best fished with a light-weight rod that is able to cast far. The bait should be spinners, eggs or flies on a 20-40 pound test line. The Red and Sockeye Salmon is fished with fly rods 7-8 weight outfits work best. You will also be able to catch them on spinners with an 8-10 pound line. This depends on the size of fish you wish to catch. The other species are all caught using different techniques.
This is just a start but what a wonderful start it is. I’m outta here and “Gone Fishing”