It’s every anglers dream: a trip to Alaska. Just the thought of bouts with salmon and halibut near breaching whales and soaring bald eagles stirs the soul. Alaska’s phenomenal bounties of wildlife and sea life beckon; here are six options to turn that dream into a reality. Although you could, in theory, explore 6,640 miles of Alaska coastline — more than all the other 49 states combined — the best fishing experiences happen along the state’s southeast and southwest coasts from May to mid-September. North of the Arctic Circle, you’ll find a dearth of fishing lodges and elements more severe; most traveling anglers find it far more satisfying to base fish fights out of lodges where a cozy bed, good eats and experienced guides can tip a trip into the unforgettable zone. Another coastal benefit is that salmon migrate up rivers to spawn, allowing bountiful inshore fishing for them as well. To help with the challenge of selecting a premier Alaska fishing experience, the following lodges (listed alphabetically) offer a mix of locations that aim to please. (Note: Always check before booking for current rates and seasonal specials; unless otherwise noted, all meals are included. Keep in mind that posted rates are often negotiable.)
#1 Alaska’s Boardwalk Lodge
At the southernmost entrance to the Inside Passage is Ketchikan, with Alaska’s Boardwalk Lodge 35 miles to the southwest, in the lush rainforest on Prince of Wales Island.
• Access: Most flights reach Ketchikan from Seattle, and from there, a scheduled floatplane or ferry gets you to the lodge.
• Accommodations: Eleven rooms, up to 22 guests.
• Sport-Fishing Fleet: Five 28-foot cabin cruisers, each with twin 150 Mercury outboards.
• Tackle and Baits: Shimano 700 reels with Shakespeare Ugly Stik rods. For salmon, double-hooked sets with herring, two downriggers for kings, two flat lines for silvers and a fifth line with a flasher.
• Distance to Fish: Halibut 8 to 10 miles; salmon 10 to 15 miles; all usually within a 20-minute run.
• Season: Kings early May to early July; silvers early July to mid-August and scattered through September; pinks and chum July to late August; halibut, lingcod and rockfish June through September.
• Rates: $5,000 per person, double occupancy preferred but not required for two days fishing and three nights; $8,200 for four days fishing and five nights; cost of floatplane or ferry from Ketchikan included.
• Comments: The calm, protected waters of the Inside Passage make for typically comfortable fishing conditions. The lodge features three culinary-school-trained chefs.
#2 Elfin Cove Resort
Elfin Cove, with a picturesque protected harbor, provides direct access to the Gulf of Alaska and is also close to the fishy waters of Icy Strait and Glacier Bay.
• Access: From Juneau, Elfin Cove is about 100 miles to the west and -reachable only by floatplane or boat.
• Accommodations: Sixteen rooms hold up to 32 guests; Fishmaster’s Inn next door is also owned by Mike Legowski.
• Sport-Fishing Fleet: Six boats (five are -catamarans) from 30 to 36 feet, with the 34- and 36-footers powered by Yanmar diesel engines.
• Tackle and Baits: Shakespeare Ugly Stik rods, Shimano TR200 and Tekota 500 reels for salmon, and Shimano Tekota 700 reels for halibut. Mainly fishing cut herring for halibut, lingcod and rockfish; for silvers, a flasher in front of a hoochie lure; and for kings, yellow spoons with pink polka dots.
• Primary Fishing Grounds: It’s usually a run of 10 minutes for silver salmon, a max of 35 minutes for kings, and varies from 10 to 40 minutes for halibut, rockfish and lingcod.
• Targeted Species: Salmon, halibut, lingcod and yelloweye rockfish.
• Season: Kings best May to June; silvers mid July to September; lingcod and yelloweye rockfish midsummer.
• Rates: Three days, two nights with one day of fishing, $1,695; four days, three nights for $3,695 provides two and a half days of fishing; five days, four nights with three fishing days for $4,095; six days, five nights and four days of fishing for $4,695; all rates per person, double occupancy, and includes floatplane from Juneau.
• Comments: Elfin Cove, on the northern section of Chichagof Island, possesses the largest population of bears per square mile in the world. The view from the lodge of Brady Glacier and the Fairweather Range is captivating.
#3 Goodnews River Lodge
This off-the-beaten-path destination on the southwest coast of the mainland serves up privacy and plenty of shots at trophy-size king salmon.
• Access: A two-hour flight from Anchorage goes directly to the lodge.
• Accommodations: Fifteen cabins cater to a max of 24 anglers, with choices of single or double occupancy.
• Sport-Fishing Fleet: Thirteen guides utilize 15 jet boats and three drift boats from 17 to 19 feet equipped with 115- to 150 hp outboards.
• Tackle and Baits: Spin gear matched to quarry sizes and a full complement of fly rods and reels. Preferred spin lures include Jr. ThunderSticks, Brad’s Wigglers and Razors; fly patterns include a variety of streamers and surface poppers.
• Primary Fishing Grounds: Goodnews Bay, where the Bering Sea meets the Goodnews River, and upriver within three minutes of the lodge.
• Targeted Species: All five salmon species plus grayling. King salmon frequently run more than 40 inches.
• Season: Kings, reds (sockeye) and chums end of June to mid-July; pinks third and fourth week of July; silvers fourth week of July through mid September; trout and grayling year-round.
• Rates: $5,250 to $6,950 per person per week, which includes the DC-3 flight from Anchorage.
• Comments: Due to its remote location, these waters are seldom fished by anglers other than lodge guests, and there’s no commercial fishing in the area. Lodge owner Mike Gorton says, “We get huge numbers of kings — as many as 40 to 50 a day, even on fly — and they tend to run large due to the absence of commercial-fishing pressure.”
#4 Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge
Luxurious cabins, remote splendor and excellent fishing are hallmarks of this upscale resort near the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula.
• Access: If not directly to the lodge by helicopter or floatplane, typical arrivals involve a flight or car trip from Anchorage to Homer. Guests are picked up at Homer Boat Harbor for the 30-minute run across Kachemak Bay.
• Accommodations: Five cabins take 10 to 14 guests. The lodge can accommodate up to 16 if the group’s together.
• Sport-Fishing Fleet: A 17-foot Boston Whaler with a Honda 90, two 21-foot Boston Whalers with Honda 135s, and two 22-foot aluminum Hewescraft boats with a 150 Yamaha or 200 Suzuki.
• Tackle and Baits: Various brands of 10- to 20-pound spin gear, all provided, though fly–fishermen must bring their own tackle. Artificial baits only, for all species, particularly Vibrax Blue Fox spinners, and spoons including the Pixee, Krocodile and Swedish Pimple.
• Primary Fishing Grounds: Fishing from shore or by boat near the lodge and Kachemak Bay. Trips on separate charter boats can be arranged for fishing Cook Inlet.
• Targeted Species: King and silver salmon, flounder, halibut and various rockfishes.
• Season: Early summer for kings; August to early September for silvers; halibut, flounder and rockfish all summer.
• Rates: Two nights, $2,100 per person; three nights, $2,900 per person; five nights, $4,500 per person; included is the lodge’s boat for pickup in Homer; scheduled floatplane or helicopter additional.
• Comments: It’s been family-owned for three generations and features beautiful ocean and mountain views from every cabin. The lodge is popular with celebrities; Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg recently visited.
#5 Kodiak Raspberry Island Remote Lodge
Kodiak is well-known for excellent king salmon and halibut fishing on an island also famed for massive brown bears. Lodge owners Tiffany and Birch Robbins serve as hosts.
• Access: Most guests fly from Anchorage to Kodiak, and a launch transports guests to Raspberry Island and the lodge.
• Accommodations: Five cabins with queen and twin beds, with an average of 12 guests per week.
• Sport-Fishing Fleet: Custom-built 30- and 37-foot aluminum catamarans equipped with 500- and 600 hp engines, respectively.
• Tackle and Baits: Bottom jigging for halibut and lingcod with Accurate reels and TFO Voo-Doo Daddy rods; trolling for salmon with Accurate reels and Edge rods; fly-fishing for salmon in rivers with Scott and Sage rods and Ross reels; mooching bait or deep jigging with TFO Voo-Doo Daddy rods and Penn reels. Common baits include herring and octopus.
• Primary Fishing Grounds: Forty-five minutes to one hour from lodge.
• Targeted Species: Halibut, rockfish, lingcod and all five salmon species, particularly reds, kings and silvers.
• Season: Reds late May to early June; kings late May through early August; silvers mid-July to mid-August in salt water and late August to mid-September in rivers; halibut late May through mid-September; lingcod July; rockfish late May to mid-September.
• Rate: $3,134 per person for four nights; $4,658 per person for six nights. Transportation to the lodge (mostly by boat, sometimes by floatplane) from Kodiak City included.
• Comments: Non-fishing activities are available, including sea kayaking, hiking and fly-out bear viewing.
#6 Port Ashton Lodge
The lodge is on a remote island on the outer fringes of Prince William Sound in Sawmill Bay, close to excellent fishing in waters bordering the Gulf of Alaska.
• Access: There are no roads to the lodge; the village of Chenega, with a state-maintained airstrip and ferry service, is 2½miles away. Guests often arrive by floatplane or can be picked up by boat at Chenega Bay to make the short run to the lodge.
• Accommodations: Five cabins total, four of which can handle up to six guests.
• Sport-Fishing Fleet: The lodge does not have its own fleet and instead arranges fishing excursions with charter-boat operators.
• Tackle and Baits: For kings, Capt. Andy Mezirow, of Crackerjack Charters, favors Seeker downrigger rods with Accurate Valiant BV2-500N reels for trolling and 11-foot TFO rods with Islander reels for mooching. For king and silver salmon lures, Mezirow prefers Pesca spoons or Arctic Fox trolling flies. He also trolls with cut-plug herring behind 11-inch flashers.
• Primary Fishing Grounds: Passages near the lodge in Prince William Sound, or a 30-minute run to Montague Island.
• Targeted Species: King salmon, silver salmon, halibut, lingcod and many species of rockfish.
• Season: June is prime for kings; silvers and schools of lingcod show up in increasing numbers then as well; halibut and rockfish all summer.
• Rates: One or two guests in one of the cabins for $312 per night, and up to seven in three larger cabins at $156 per person. Catered meals are extra, as are charter fees for fishing.
• Comments: Dockside fish-cleaning station, limited Wi-Fi, saltwater hot tub.
More fishing from Prince William Sound here:
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