Alaska Visitors Guide

Casting call: Urban and remote Alaska are where fishing dreams come true

Sensational silvers and killer kings. Trophy-worthy trout and fantastically finned grayling. Hearty halibut and rewarding reds. It’s a lineup of Alaska’s finest fishing action, and these spectacular species — and many more — are all within casting distance, driving distance and short-flight distance of Anchorage.

Yes, Alaska’s largest, busiest and most populated urban hub is also a sport fishing fantasy … and that isn’t a fishing tale. Even the most secretive fisherman brags about this fishery, and it couldn’t be kept secret anyway: Anchorage is a mainstay on any “America’s Best Fishing Cities” list.

“We’re very fortunate here in Southcentral, where we have so many diverse fisheries,” said Jay Baumer in a 2022 interview. Baumer is a sports fisheries manager biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game who manages the Anchorage, Prince William Sound and North Gulf Coast regions. He added: “You can go fishing for a wide variety of species and have different opportunities, whether it’s a remote experience or you just want the convenience of something nearby. We’ve got it all here, which is fantastic.”

“You can go fishing just about anywhere in Anchorage,” Dan Bosch said in a 2018 interview. Bosch is a passionate fisherman, now retired from a longtime role at Fish and Game, most recently as regional management coordinator for the Anchorage area. “It’s some of the best fishing around. And the accessibility — it’s so easy. Right at your doorstep.”

For Anchorage visitors, that includes the doorsteps of local lodging. The community is covered in streams, creeks and lakes that are packed and stocked with tens of thousands of fun, fighting fish. And there are seemingly endless fishing options in areas around Southcentral Alaska.

Sportfishing is a year-round activity in Anchorage and Alaska, but the action surges in summer. From May to September, the fish counts are generally high, the midnight sun is warm and bright, and fishermen are giddy.

And after a tenuous 2023 fishing season that saw unprecedented restrictions and closures on sport and personal-use fishing of king salmon around the state’s Cook Inlet region, 2024 angling appears to be back to business as usual. And for fishermen in Alaska, that’s a big catch.


Where should you wet a line? Around Anchorage, practically anywhere there’s water, there are fish. Many of these fishing holes also offer peace, quiet and the natural vibe of wild Alaska. As you cast and relax, it’s easy to forget you’re in Alaska’s biggest city.

Ship Creek — Anchorage

One of Anchorage’s most exciting fishing holes is set in one of the city’s most popular hospitality hot spots — downtown. Ship Creek carves across Anchorage’s northern side, passing by the William Jack Hernandez Hatchery before depositing downtown into picturesque Cook Inlet. It’s a fishing oasis on the edge of Anchorage’s cityscape. Its waters are home to regular runs of summer salmon — kings early in the season, silvers (coho) later — and its banks are usually bustling with fishermen.

“Right downtown you can fish for king salmon and coho salmon,” said Bosch, himself a Ship Creek regular who has worked and fished the Anchorage area for decades. “If you haven’t fished there before, just watch what everyone is doing, if they’re using eggs or spinners, and where they are setting up along the creek.”

In its 2023 Season Summary, Fish and Game noted that “King salmon fishing in Ship Creek was good,” and added that “an estimated 1,326 king salmon were counted in Ship Creek for viewing and natural reproduction below the hatchery.” Coho, or silver, salmon fishing was especially hot, as the area’s bag limit was increased to six in August.

Other urban hot spots

Ship Creek might be the most visible venue, but incredible fishing opportunities abound in every corner of town and every direction of Southcentral Alaska. Anchorage lakes (Campbell, DeLong, Jewel, Mirror, Sand Lake) are loaded, and creeks (Bird, Campbell and Ship) and rivers (Eagle and Eklutna) are jamming with an array of fish: from several freshwater and landlocked salmon species to Dolly Varden/Arctic char and awesome Arctic grayling. Chester Creek runs through the center of town and can be great for rainbow trout (8-12 inches!), too.

Outside Anchorage action: Road trip reeling

Anchorage is also the jumping-off point for fishing adventures all over Southcentral Alaska and beyond. A short drive or quick hike in practically any direction from urban Anchorage adds more casting spots. For next-level groundfish and salmon fishing, drive south for an hour (Prince William Sound out of Whittier) or two (Resurrection Bay out of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula) or five (Kachemak Bay out of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula), or drive north for 30 minutes to two hours (Matanuska-Susitna Borough).

Some of Alaska’s — and the world’s — most exciting salmon fishing goes down on the Kenai Peninsula, a few hours’ drive south of Anchorage, where the Kenai, Russian, Anchor and Kasilof rivers flow flush with fish. This is action-packed angling for Alaska’s salmon species. It can also be combat fishing at its gnarliest. When the fish are running, anglers line the banks, practically shoulder to shoulder, while locals and guides motor boats up and down the rivers, homing in on hot spots. For most, that work is worth it when they land one of Alaska’s bright and hard-fighting salmon, creating photo-worthy only-in-Alaska moments that can be social media profile shots for years.

The fishing is also sweet in port towns like Whittier, Seward and Homer, which are all beautiful drives south of Anchorage. You can cast from their banks for salmon, but improve the odds and options by jumping aboard charter boats to chase the big, barn-door halibut and cruise along salmon runs as they return to their freshwater spawning grounds. Catching a big halibut is tough work, but it’s a different kind of fish fight. Instead of running and splashing like salmon, these flat lunkers are more likely to turn into dead weight as you slowly reel them up from the dark ocean bottom. They sometimes freak when nearing the surface and daylight, but handy deckhands are ready with a net and/or a gaff to snatch the flopping fish.

The port town of Valdez is an even longer drive away, but the roads there are about as scenic (glaciers, mountains, wildlife, waterfalls) as it gets, and once you’ve arrived, the fishing around Port Valdez and Prince William Sound is equally impressive.

Point your vehicle north from Anchorage and you’ll soon have awe-inspiring Denali looming large in your windshield, guiding you toward the glacier-carved and fish-filled Matanuska-Susitna Borough. You’ll find exciting fishing all around the Mat-Su, some less than an hour from Anchorage, some a little farther. When the salmon are running, the region’s rivers are slamming with fish and fishermen, especially the Deshka River, Willow Creek, Susitna Rivers, Eklutna Tailrace and Montana Creek. If you prefer a slower pace, there are dozens of lakes packed with grayling, trout, Arctic char and landlocked salmon; favorites include Nancy Lake, Big Lake, Rolly Lakes and Knik Lake. If you like lakes, consider packing a lunch and your gear, renting a canoe, and soaking up the evening sun and the peace of Alaska’s outdoors.

Outside Anchorage action: Flying fishing

If you’ve come all the way to Alaska to chase fish, you might as well dial up the fun to a once-in-a-lifetime experience by booking a fly-in fishing adventure. From Anchorage, floatplanes, skilled pilots and savvy guides will get you to the fish in high-flying fashion.

You’ll typically take off in a floatplane from Anchorage’s Lake Hood, which buzzes with around-the-clock activity during Southcentral’s warm, bright summers. If you think the lake takeoff is thrilling, wait until the landing! And that’s just the start of the fun. (Of course, more conventional plane rides are available; you could fly commercial to great fishing towns like Kenai, Cordova, Ketchikan, Homer, Juneau, Valdez and more.)

What do you want to catch? A fighting salmon? A plump trout? A vicious pike? All of the above? Your guides have you covered. How long do you want to cast? Half-day, full-day and multiday trips are available.

Want to go really big? Hook up with an outfit that will get you to a remote, fly-in lodge, where you can spend your days fishing until you can’t stop smiling, and your nights recovering like royalty in massive cabins or lodges. This is the ultimate in Alaska fishing experiences.

Fishing factoids

Overwhelmed by the options? Too excited to think clearly? Contact Fish and Game in person, on their Sport Fish Information Center phone line (907-267-2218) or online ( or the Fishing section of for questions about fishing, licenses, regulations or anything else Anchorage or Alaska fishing related. Fish and Game’s We Fish AK and Go Fish AK sport fishing websites are especially helpful and informative for ambitious anglers and families looking for fishing fun.

Fish and Game now has a smartphone mobile app that provides information about licenses, permits, tags and regulations, allows fishermen to record their catches, and even has a sport fish species identifier. It’s available for free download at popular app stores.

The Sport Fish Information Center (333 Raspberry Road) provides up-to-date information on all the fisheries. You can even borrow fishing gear! There are also area fishing blogs and message boards, and friendly fishermen and retailers who are happy to share tips while you shop for tackle or gear.


Lures and lines, rods and reels — the choices are endless. But there’s one piece of equipment fishermen (residents 18 or older and nonresidents age 16 or older) must carry: a sport fishing license. Nonresidents have many sport fishing license options, from one day ($15) to a week ($45) to 14-day ($75) to annual ($100), and other options in between. If you are on a quest for a king, you will also need a king salmon tag, which runs an additional $15 for one day and up to $100 for a year, with 3-, 7- and 14-day stamps also available. For residents, there are numerous license options, including special rates for military, low income, senior citizens, disabled and elderly, so do your research. Savvy shoppers will note that these are great deals, as many license prices dropped from prior seasons following a dip in sales during the pandemic.

Note: You might hear about and see Alaskans dipnetting for salmon to fill their freezers. Yes, it can be an awesome and fruitful fishing experience, but only Alaska residents are legally allowed to do it.

Alaska sport fishing licenses are available at most sporting goods shops, and even grocery and convenience stores, and online, of course. It’s also a fisherman’s responsibility to know regulations, which are easily available in print in most places you can buy fishing licenses or gear, and online. Bosch said the key to figuring it out is to read the general regulations for each region (example: the Anchorage area), then look for site-specific regulations for streams (example: Ship Creek). In other words, know where you are fishing and what you are fishing for. Oh, and always be bear aware — clean your fish and dispose of fish waste responsibly.

If you’re plotting a chartered or guided fishing experience, whether by road, boat or plane, shop around. Most reputable charter companies have years of experience, tout their safety and fun, and are easy to study up on via their websites and social media. Find a perfect fishing fit by being specific about what you want to catch, how long you want to fish, and how much you want to spend.

One charter fishing bonus: It often comes with sightseeing in some of Alaska’s most incredible landscapes and wildlife, including water wonders like whales, orcas, porpoises and countless seabirds. Charter fishing out of Seward is practically overwhelming with the natural and wild wonders of Kenai Fjords National Park.

And don’t forget the bevy of fishing derbies that take place all summer in regions across Alaska. Catching a trophy fish in Alaska is memory making; neglecting to buy a derby ticket and then landing a potentially winning fish is bittersweet, if not heartbreaking.

Baumer recommended that visitors and residents alike spend time on the sport fishing section of Fish and Game’s website — — for updates on everything from hot fishing spots to places to borrow, rent or buy gear.

“Nothing really different or changed over the past seasons, but it is always good to remind people to check for most recent regulations and emergency orders, which are all posted online,” he said, noting the recent COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on tourism and fishing around Alaska, which began a big rebound in 2021. “From the old-time fisherman or someone going for the first time, it’s always good to refresh your memory on that.


“And we’re always here to help with questions, whether they’re planning their trip or there’s a specific detail they’ve got a question about,” he added. “And we’re ready to get people here to go fishing. You can come up and fish, be careful and, like always, do it safely.”

Fish on!