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Hooligan fishing peaks along Turnagain Arm

  • Author: Alaska Dispatch News
  • Updated: May 16
  • Published May 16

No bag limit, no permit needed.

Hooligan fishing, legal in salt water through May 31, is peaking now at the mouth of the Twentymile River, just south of Girdwood. It requires only a resident sport fishing license before you can start filling your bucket.

Best of all, hooligan signal the Southcentral sport fishing season is ramping up.

Long-handled dipnets are anglers' weapons of choice. Good timing helps, as hooligans' return to freshwater to spawn can happen almost any time in May. Typically, an incoming or flood tide is best.

A greasy smelt-like fish sometimes called candlefish, eulachon, cigar fish or candlefish (because sometimes you can light them and they'll burn), they're prized for their oil.

Along the Twentymile River, the hooligan fishery is among the most diverse of any in the state. On any given spring day, you may encounter Alaskans who moved from the Pacific Islands, Asia or northern Europe crowding the banks of the river to fill 5-gallon buckets with the wriggly little fish.

Among the first fish to arrive in Pacific coastal waters in the spring, hooligan were also known as "savior fish" because they were among the first fresh-food-hungry Native residents could find after a long winter. Today, most people use the fish for a quick snack or as bait. Many are smoked, canned or fried.

— Mike Campbell, Alaska Dispatch News

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