Alaska is somewhat of a holy grail for salmon fishing. The combination of endless shorelines, pristine rivers, and gin clear waters makes salmon fishing a wholly different experience in Alaska to elsewhere in the lower 48 states.
There’s only one problem. Alaska is all the way up there!
Which for most of us means that we will need to take a special trip to try our hands at pulling in a catch from those pristine Alaskan Waters. And if you are going to make a special trip, you need to know what is the best time to fish for Salmon in Alaska.
There’s no point showing up with your fishing pole in hand outside of the salmon fishing season!
So let’s take a look at when you should go to ‘The Last Frontier’ to make the most of your Alaskan fishing experience.
Best Time for Salmon Fishing in Alaska
Due to the ice cold conditions, the best time to fish for salmon in Alaska is in the summertime. The salmon fishing season in Alaska starts in May and runs through until the end of September.
During these five months you can expect to catch all five of the species of Pacific Salmon that live in Alaskan waters, although the peak period for each salmon species is slightly different. King Salmon fishing in Alaska starts earlier in the season whereas Coho Salmon are late runners and you will take more of these home towards the end of the season.
Let’s take a look at the best to to fish for the different types of Salmon that live in Alaska, which are:
- King Salmon (Chinook Salmon)
- Sockeye Salmon
- Pink Salmon
- Coho Salmon
- Chum Salmon
Best Time To Fish for King Salmon in Alaska
If there is one type of Salmon that draws more fisherman to Alaskan that any other it is the King Salmon (or Chinook Salmon as it is also known).
The best time for King Salmon fishing in Alaska is from Mid-May through to the end of July. In early June you will find peak numbers of King Salmon in the Kasilof River. This river can be quite shallow in places and is not really suited to motorboats, so keep that in mind. But it is the perfect spot for bank fishing!
In mid-July the Chinook Salmon move on to the Kenai River and you should too. This river has some of the largest King Salmon in Alaska and it is easily accessible from the road, it runs right alongside the Sterling Highway for miles.
For a more remote fishing experience head to the Nushaguk River and catch the peak run from mid-June to mid-July. The crowds will be fewer and you will have a more relaxing fishing experience on the Nushaguk.
Best Fishing Times for Sockeye Salmon in Alaska
Although not the main draw-card of the species, Sockeye Salmon are the type of Salmon that you are most likely to catch in Alaska due to them having the highest numbers. The Sockeye numbers (also known as Red Salmon) run into the millions!
The best time to fish for Sockeye Salmon in Alaska is right in the middle of the season from mid-June to mid-August.
The Kenai River is absolutely full of Sockeye Salmon, it boasts the largest sport fishery in Alaska for Sockeye. You will find several million Sockeyes running up the Kenai right through the month of July.
An alternative spot to catch Sockeye Salmon in Alaska is the Kvichak River in Bristol Bay, where the river runs out of Lake Iliamna. This remote location will see you have the river to yourself, just you and a few million sockeye Salmon! The best fishing time at the Kvichak River is in July, and fly fishing is best in the upper section of the river.
Best Time to Fish for Pink Salmon in Alaska
You can be sure that catching Pink Salmon is not going to set you any personal bests for trophy fish. Pink Salmon are the smallest of the salmon species and typically weigh in around 5 pounds.
The best time for Pink Salmon fishing in Alaska is from mid-July to mid-August. But there is a catch!
Pink Salmon have a two-year life cycle. This means that you will only find huge numbers of pink salmon every other year. There will be a year with low numbers followed by a year with huge numbers when the spawning season aligns.
If you want to catch Pink Salmon in Alaska make sure you go in an even-numbered year to hit them at their peak.
Best Fishing Times for Coho Salmon in AK
Now here’s a fish that’s a lot of fun when you get one on the end of your hook. Coho Salmon (or Silver Salmon as they are also known) give the most action out of all the salmon species. It’s not unusual to see Coho Salmon jumping out the water like a jack-in-the-box once hooked.
They put up quite a fight!
The best time to fish for Coho Salmon in Alaska is from July all the way through to September, with the peak being in mid-August.
Ship Creek in Anchorage is one of the best places to go fishing for Coho Salmon. It is both easy to access and full of Coho due to the area being regularly stocked with Coho Salmon smolt.
The Kenai River is also a top choice and you will find two runs of Coho Salmon here. One in late July to early August an a second one in September which typically sees bigger salmon running.
Some of the lesser known areas that are great for Coho Salmon fishing are the Buskin River and Kodiak Island, and you should check these areas out for some more secluded fishing spots.
Coho Salmon tend to school together in deep pools, so if you find one from the banks of the river or from your boat then you can keep fishing it all day long fighting these feisty fish one after another.
Best Time to Fish for Chum Salmon in AK
You might have a hard time trying to track down Chum Salmon. Not because there aren’t any of them, but because everyone calls this fish by a different name!
Dirty Dogs, Dog Salmon, Keta Salmon, Silverbite Salmon. All of these names are just variations of the same fish, the Chum Salmon.
The best fishing times for Chum Salmon in Alaska are from mid-July to mid-August right along the coast.
Whereas you will catch most salmon running up the rivers in Alaska, you will have more luck catching Chum Salmon at the river mouths along the coastline. They prefer deeper channels and slow moving waters near to the rocky coasts of Alaska.
The Last Cast
Alaska is one of the best places in the world to go Salmon Fishing and there’s no better time to go check out ‘The Last Frontier’ than in salmon season in Summer.
All five pacific salmon species can be found in Alaskan Waters from late-May through to the end of September, but the best time to fish for salmon in Alaska is when the peak runs happen in July and August.
Fishing the Kenai River is an amazing experience, but if crowds aren’t your thing then consider finding yourself a more secluded fishing spot like the Kvichak River or Nushaguk River.
And don’t forget to get your fishing license before you arrive to make sure you can catch what you want to catch, where you want to catch it! Sometimes there are waiting periods on licenses and you don’t want your trip to be ruined because you don’t have the right license.
Alaska is a once in a lifetime trip for many anglers, so go at the right time and you will have the best chance of landing a King Salmon worth mounting on your wall.