If you’re contemplating visiting Alaska to do a little salmon fishing, you’ll be in good company. Each year, millions of tourists and hundreds of thousands of fisherman visit Alaska each year to enjoy sport fishing. A significant number of these anglers are lured by the salmon.
Fishing is big business in the state; in 2007, non-resident anglers spent $653 million and supported 9,437 jobs in Alaska. As a result, a wide range of services are available to help you plan and carry out your expedition, including guides, charters, boats and even helicopter or plane passage. Before contracting with a service for your salmon fishing outing, make sure it has the proper licenses. You can check with the Better Business Bureau or local Chamber of Commerce if you have questions about any service.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) identifies the five main species of salmon available in Alaska as King (Chinook), Coho (Silver), Chum (Dog, Keta), Pink (Humpies, Humpback) and Sockeye (Red).
King salmon, Alaska’s most sought-after sport fish, are available year-round, although they run from May through July. An abundance of this variety – the largest of the Alaska salmon -- can be found from the state’s southeastern panhandle to Yukon. They are fished vigorously in the Cook Inlet/Kenai Penninsula and Southeast areas, and the Kenai River is famous for particularly large king salmon.
Coho salmon can be found in most accessible bodies of fresh water – in the Yukon River and in coastal waters from Southeast to Point Hope. This variety is fished in fresh water as well as salt water July through September.
Chum salmon are common in Alaska’s arctic, northwest and interior areas. They are often caught in the process of fishing for other varieties of salmon.
Pink salmon are the smallest salmon in Alaska. Many are found in coastal areas in August and September.
Angling for Sockeye during their return to the Russian River on the Kenai Peninsula is highly popular, although many enjoy fishing for them on the Kasilof River and rivers around Bristol Bay, as well.
With so many options, you are sure to find a time, location and variety that appeals to you. Note that just because fish are running does not necessarily mean it is legal to catch them. Check regulations for the specific fish and location(s) you have in mind before planning your trip.
Remember, too, that you may not fish without a valid license. To make obtaining one even easier for non-residents, sport fishing licenses may be purchased online (in addition to at sporting goods stores or in person or by mail through the state’s Department of Fish and Game) via www.admin.adfg.state.ak.us/license/buyonline.html. Licenses can even be bought as a gift for someone else.
See the state of Alaska’s web site for more information about catch records and special permits that also may be necessary. For example, you must purchase an additional king salmon tag to fish for that species. You also must keep a “harvest record” for each king salmon you land that is 20 inches or longer.
If you think you’ve caught a fish of notable weight or length, you may be eligible to receive a Trophy Fish Certificate. See the Fish and Game web site (www.sf.adfg.state.ak.us/Trophy) for minimum size qualifications as well as a listing of state record holders. Maybe you’ll be the one to beat the longstanding 97 lb. king salmon record!