Alaska Fish Species
Here are a few of the most common Alaska Fish Species
Most of Alaska’s abundant, remote, and predominantly pristine freshwater fish habitats are largely unexplored and undocumented. Fishing in Alaska is the angler’s dream come true. Alaska’s oceans, rivers, and lakes are teeming with huge runs of record breaking Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Arctic Char, Halibut and many other challenging sport fish. Alaska, home to five species of Pacific Salmon, holds the world record for the King Salmon. Alaska Freshwater Fish awaits you in the most spectacular setting on earth.
Cutthroat Trout occur as sea-run or resident (non-sea run) forms in streams and lakes along the coastal range from lower Southeast Alaska to Prince William Sound and are the most common trout species in the region. Sea-run cutthroat are usually found in river or stream systems with accessible lakes, mostly south of Fredrick Sound.
The rainbow trout is one of the most respected and sought after of Alaska’s native game fishes. Serious anglers from the world over are drawn to Alaska to experience the thrill of challenging this hard fighting salmonid in the state’s wilderness waters. Rainbow trout occur as both freshwater resident and sea-run races. Sea-going rainbows are known as steelhead trout.
Steelhead (Sea-run Rainbow Trout)
Imagine catching wild Steelhead – Alaska’s sea run Rainbow Trout – not hatchery fish. Alaska’s trophy-class lunkers are typically in the 29-37 inch range. These are powerful, fierce fighters that will have your rod pulsing and straining to meet the water.
Arctic Char/Dolly Varden (Saltwater Too)
Dolly Varden are plentiful in Alaska’s lakes and streams, providing year-round excitement. Most Dollies range from 10-21 inches. These tenacious trout leave no shortage of action – you may find yourself catching and releasing till your arms give out.
For most sport fishers in America, the Arctic grayling is a rare freshwater game fish symbolic of the clear, cold streams of Alaska. The Arctic grayling is an elegantly formed cousin of the trout. With its sail-like dorsal fin dotted with large iridescent red or purple spots, the grayling is one of the most unusual and beautiful fish of Alaska.
Without a doubt, the northern pike is a voracious predator — consuming three to four times its weight during the course of a year. Besides smaller fish, its diet includes frogs, crayfish, small mammals, and birds — almost anything within range. Northern pike inhabit protected, weedy bays. After the spring ice melts, they move further into the shallows and marshes to spawn. They retreat to deep, cool waters in summer.
The sheefish is found only in arctic and subarctic North America and Asia. In Alaska, it is most abundant in the Kuskokwim and Yukon river drainages and in the Selawik and Kobuk drainages of Kotzebue Sound. A few are found in the smaller rivers of Norton Sound. Its tremendous size, fighting ability, and fine eating qualities make the sheefish one of the most unique fish in North America.
Alaska salmon swim wild throughout the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska and are quite plentiful. Every year between 100-150 million salmon are commercially harvested in Alaska.
King Salmon – Chinook
Lightly spotted on their blue -green back, King salmon live from five to seven years, and weigh up to 120 pounds. Known also as Chinook salmon, they have the highest oil-content, which is what gives a salmon its rich flavor. The king is the largest of all salmon species, and the most desirable to sport fishers.
Red Salmon – Sockeye
Blue-tinged silver in color, sockeye salmon live four to five years. They weigh up to 7 pounds, and are the slimmest and most streamlined of the five species of Alaskan salmon. Known to fishermen in Alaska as reds, the sockeye is historically our most valuable fish because of its high oil content and ability to hold its bright red flesh color.
Silver Salmon – Coho
Bright silver in color, coho salmon live three years, weigh up to 15 pounds, and are a popular game fish sought by sport fishers. Coho are known as silvers when caught before full maturity. They are the most popular game fish of the salmon family, as well as one of the most valuable commercial species.
Pink Salmon – Humpies
These are the smallest and most abundant salmon in area waters. Pinks have a two-year life cycle and average 3-5 pounds. Upon entering freshwater streams, pinks develop a dorsal hump, thus their nickname “Humpy.”
Halibut are by far the most popular bottom fish inhabiting the waters of Alaska. The Pacific Halibut is a toothy flatfish that is normally caught on or near the ocean floor. As with the majority of bottom fish, drifting or anchoring with bait are among the most preferred means of enticing these monsters, which can literally take hours to land. The largest Pacific Halibut ever caught while sport fishing, tipped the scales at 495 pounds.
Ling Cod (Southeast Alaska)
Like Halibut and rockfish, Lingcod are usually found on or near the bottom, most often over rocky reefs in areas of strong currents. These fish are extremely aggressive predators, often growing to over 50 pounds in weight and 4 feet in length. These feisty fish usually range from 10-40 pounds and are abundant throughout Southeast Alaska’s fishing season.
One of the most desirable of the North Pacific Ocean’s groundfish, the Pacific cod is also known as grey cod, true cod or P-cod. It is similar to the Atlantic cod, with a belly shading grey to white, and has the typical chin barbel of the cod. The Pacific cod ranges the entire coast of Alaska and is harvested year round by trawls, longlines and pots.
Rockfish is a term used to describe over 35 species of light-fleshed bottomfish, including the yellow-eye (red snapper) rockfish and black sea bass. Most rockfish weigh between 1-6 pounds, with the yellow-eye being the largest, averaging 6 pounds. Rockfish are long-lived, and depending on the species, may reach ages of 30-100 years. Good rockfish fishing occurs during the warm summer months.
If salmon are so plentiful, why is there a limit of one a day? If you intend to catch and release is it allowed to catch more than one?
There are 5 species of salmon. The pink, red, silver, and chum are plentiful, but the chinook salmon is in short supply. They are usually the only one with single fish limits. Catch and release of salmon isn’t allowed in many places since it stresses them too much.
The limit is determined by the escapement count for that particular river/stream/creek. The whole idea of making salmon fishing sustainable and a growing industry is to ensure enough salmon make it up the rivers to spawn. When the escapement numbers are low for a particular river/stream/creek they will limit the number of salmon caught, or even sometimes close the river to fishing completely. The fishing regulations change daily, and it is incumbent upon the fisherman to keep up-to-date on the current regulations for that river/stream/creek.
It may seem overly excessive, until you look at the history of such regulations. When Alaska became a State in 1958 there were approximate 5 million salmon in Alaska. As a federal territory Alaska was raped of its fishing resources by Oregon and Washington State fishermen. Since these State of Alaska Department of Fish & Game regulations have been in place there are now approximately 25 million salmon in Alaska, and those numbers are still growing.
I live in Louisiana on the gulf coast. We do some fishing. But after watching Life Below Zero, I would love to go to Alaska and fish my heart out. I love to eat fresh fish and around here we can’t get even frozen fish from Alaska waters. The information I read on your web site has even me a bigger desire to make a vacation to go up there. I’m just not sure where I would like to go. After watching the life before zero I would really like to go to a small village that is self sustained. I just don’t know how I would be able to because there are no hotels or motels that I’ve seen or heard about. If you know of some place I’d appreciate if you could email me the information. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for the info about the fish.
Bethel is the place to go if you want to see a good sample of rural Alaska. Flights daily from Anchorage and at least one great hotel. Great people out there too.
Dennis I live in Ketchikan Bethel sounds nice, we’d have to visit there sometime. I’ve seen Juneau in some magazines and it looks (although I haven’t seen) that it has the bluest/tealest waters
Another good place to go is Ketchikan Alaska. It is a wonderful small community, lots of beautiful mountains and islands to see and lots of fish whales and wildlife.
I am also from “the Boot” and go fishing every year in Alaska. It is very possible to salmon fish on the cheap. Have you made a trip up there? I rent a cabin on Prince of Wales Island every year and pay $40 a night. Gets even cheaper when you invite friends to come along. You can do the entire trip for less than $500. email me back and Ill tell you how to do the whole thing. This year will be my 4th year in a row that I go up to Alaska.
The Tongass National forest is known at the “Salmon Forest”. There are forest service cabins you can rent for as little as $25 a night. Most of them are right on the water, I mean 25-45′ from the river. We sometimes wade into the water and catch salmon by hand. I go back every year because deep down inside I never really want to leave the forest.
Chef My family is planing a RV trip From just soulh of San Antonio to Alaska and everyone want to fish for
Halbut but would like to fish for Trout as well. Any add vice would be greatly apprecaiated. I was told to buy a
Thanks for putting this info on Internet. Greatly appreciated
I visited Alaska a couple years ago. The best bet is to book an RV. You can find a place to park nearly everywhere. I recommend a Milepost Book which shows everything. Fishing is available everywhere but check for seasons when fish are most active per species. Along the coast a day trip for halibut is a must and was very reasonable. i spent 24 days there and wanted to stay longer.I carried a lot of gear with me but it may be easier to buy it there. People are friendly and helpful. Trip of a lifetime.
Thank you for this very detailed guide. I loved fishing in Alaska but never really knew in-depth what I was catching. With this guide, I’ll be more prepared for my next fishing trip!
I live on Woody lake in Houston Alaska city limits and i have discovered little minnows, but the weird thing is that they are blue. I did research but couldn’t find anything maybe you can shed so light on the situation.
No idea but that sure sounds interesting.
Are there catfish in Alaska?
Nope. Too cold in the winter.