Fishing in Alaska
Fishing in Alaska is everything you’d expect. Golfing in Alaska is everything you wouldn’t
expect. In both sports, you get to experience the extremes Alaska presents. You can fish for
king salmon in the shadow of the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage. You can schedule a tee time at
midnight in Fairbanks.
If you think golfing doesn’t mix with fishing, explain why Tiger Woods was spotted fly fishing
the Karluk River on Kodiak Island last year. Okay, so he didn’t pick up a golf club while he
was there, but really, do you think he needs the practice?
To narrow down the fishing choices, why not go to the islands? Kodiak, the second largest
island in the U.S. and Unalaska, on the Aleutian Chain, are easily accessible from
Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.
Kodiak Island, an hour’s flight out of Anchorage, is a fishing smorgasbord. Name your piscatorial
passion: salmon, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, halibut or steelhead. In September,
you can walk 250 yards from the airport to the Buskin River and be into nickel-bright coho
(silver) salmon on the second cast.
Run down your list of what kind of fishing you like: roadside stream fishing, ocean fishing,
lake fishing, fly-in fishing and river fishing. Kodiak has it.
Jeff Ruppart of Flyfish Kodiak! has been guiding fishermen on the island since 1992. Some
of his favorite fishing haunts are the many beaches on the island. It’s smart to use a guide
because, according to Ruppart, the fishing can be temperamental and you’ll want to maximize
your time on the water. "What strikes most people is when the light on the water is just
right you can see the schools of fish. They are catching fish, but when they see how many
fish there are, they are amazed," Ruppart said.
Other operators offer charter boats that will get people out in the ocean trolling for salmon,
or fishing for halibut. Rafting the Karluk River takes a short floatplane trip from the town of
King Salmon can be hooked trolling off the island via a 60-minute flight to the Ayakulik
River in southwest Kodiak.
If you fish in Unalaska on the Aleutian Chain, crowds will not be an issue. At least not
crowds of people. There will be crowds of fish you’ll have to contend with, but for fishermen,
it seems a pleasant conundrum
"At one of our hotels while you’re eating lunch or dinner you can watch the fish jumping in
the bay outside the restaurant window," said Mya Renken of the Unalaska/Dutch Harbor
Convention and Visitors Bureau. "People come here because they hear about the big fish,
the small crowds and the experienced, personalized service," she said. "They come back
because they have a good time and they catch good-sized fish," she added.
Unalaska has built its fishing reputation on catching gargantuan halibut. The world record
fish was caught in the waters near here -–459 pounds and bigger than a Buick. John
Lucking, who operates Far West Outfitters, was the guide for that record-breaking fish. He
recalls it took two hours and 49 minutes to bring it to the boat. "People don’t give halibut
the respect they deserve. People are surprised by the sheer resistance they have laying there
on the bottom and what it takes to get them to move," Lucking said.
Trade in the halibut rod for your fly or spin rod to hook into three species of salmon: sockeye,
chum and coho. According to Renkin, one guide promises fish or you get a free trip. "He’s
given three free trips since he’s been offering the deal," Renken said.
Both fishing locales endure the gamut of weather – blue sky and calm to wind driven rain
and sleet. The locals advise visitors to dress in layers and be prepared for anything. After
all, there is no such thing as bad fishing weather, just bad gear.