Fishing in Southeast Alaska
Nearly all species of salmon, trout, and saltwater fishes common to the northwestern United States and Canada are also found in northern Southeast Alaska. Tackle used to catch a particular species of fish elsewhere will catch fish in northern Southeast. The following fishing tips are general in nature. For more information on a local area, contact the local Sport Fish Division office or a local tackle shop.
King, coho, and pink salmon are normally taken in salt water by trolling or mooching. Trolling involves actively pulling a herring, hoochie, plug, or fly through the water fast enough to provide suitable action of the bait or lure. Medium to heavy-action trolling rods and reels, and spin rods in the 7- to 9-ft range capable of handling up to 8 ounces of lead are used in this fishery. A line of 15- to 40- pound test is usually used. Bait or lures are frequently used in combination with a flasher or dodger. The same gear will take all three species of salmon; however, anglers targeting on king salmon will often troll slower and deeper than when fishing for coho or pink salmon.
Mooching is usually done from an anchored boat or when drifting or engaged in a very slow troll, primarily using the currents to work the bait. Mooching can be quite
effective because it is easier to fish a wider range of depths. Herring is the preferred bait for mooching. Buzzbombs and other jig-type lures will also take salmon in marine areas.
Few marine boat anglers target chum salmon, as they do not take standard baits as readily as other species of salmon, but chum salmon are caught, often being misidentified as a coho salmon. Special gear can be used to entice a chum to bite; one combination rumored to work is a blue flasher about 16 inches in front of a bare blue hook.
Coho and pink salmon can be taken along marine shorelines and in streams by spin casters with a variety of spinning lures. Cohos and pinks can also be taken in salt and fresh water on a variety of flies.
Terminal freshwater and saltwater king salmon fisheries occur in several communities at enhancement sites. In these areas, kings are returning from releases of hatchery-reared smolts, in most instances released to provide additional harvest in the marine boat sport fisheries, as well as freshwater and marine shoreline fisheries. Local Division of Sport Fish offices can furnish the particulars on local terminal king salmon fisheries.
Mature king salmon in terminal areas can be taken on large lures (such as Pixees, Krocodiles, and buzzbombs), and they will also take flies.
Halibut, Pacific cod, and rockfish are usually taken in the period from May through September, although they're available all year long. These species tend to move into shallow water in warmer summer months and to overwinter in deeper waters, usually beyond reach of sport anglers. Most bottom fishing effort is targeted toward halibut.
Bottom fishing tackle consists of a powerful rod and a strong reel capable of holding at least 200 yards of 60-pound test or heavier line. Leader material should be either wire or monofilament in the 100-pound-test class. Shark hooks, flying gaffs, or harpoons are often used to land halibut. At least one of these items is necessary to land really large halibut.
Both halibut and cod are taken on bait and jigs. Anglers who fish for rockfish normally use smaller baits or jigs. The usual bait is herring or other fish, but chrome or colored, weighted jigs are also used.
(Anglers should be aware that the only parts of a sport-caught fish—fish for which there is a bag limit—that may be used for bait are the head, fins, and viscera.)
A depth finder is a necessity for dependable bottom fishing. The best bottom fishing is usually found on underwater ledges, reefs, or in channels, where depths can range from 5 to 40 fathoms.
The Juneau and Haines road systems, as well as more remote parts of northern Southeast, furnish extensive access to both shoreline and freshwater fishing opportunities for Dolly Varden one of the region’s most important sport fish species. Fishing begins for the most part in April and early May, when Dollies begin moving to salt water from overwintering lakes. During the next several months, these fish will move along marine shoreline areas and will be entering the lower reaches of many streams. By mid to late summer returning to their natal streams for spawning later in fall.
Sea-run cutthroat trout have a similar life history, except that they spawn in spring. The abundance of sea-run cutthroat trout is low, compared to sea-run Dolly Varden, and bag and possession limits, as well as size limits are correspondingly more restrictive.
For both Dollies and sea-run cutthroat, good shoreline areas to try are near stream mouths or where there are rocky outcrops. Light to medium weight spinning gear is most commonly used for shoreline fishing. Lures such as Pixees, Krocodiles, Hotrods, and Daredevils work well, both in salt water and fresh water. Northern Southeast has rather limited steelhead trout fishing opportunities. There are runs of spring steelhead, but most are in remote locations, and run sizes are small. In general, peak steelhead trout fishing in northern Southeast streams is from early to mid-May.
Juneau roadside steelhead trout are confined primarily to Peterson Creek, which empties into Peterson Lagoon near Amalga Harbor. Past research indicates that the total escapement of steelhead into this system approaches 200 adults, but there are likely fewer than half this number in the stream at any one time, and the stream is very small and not easy to fish. Landlocked king or coho salmon are available all year long at Twin Lakes on the Juneau road system. These fish can be taken on bait, lures, or flies during the summer and through winter ice.
Northern Pike Fishing