Catching some of Alaska’s legendary salmon is on many people’s bucket list. You may even be interested in spending the majority of your vacation chasing the salmon and you wouldn’t be alone. Throughout the summer months from about mid-May until the end of September, there’s always something to catch in our rivers, streams, and saltwater. If you’ve got your heart set on catching a specific species or wanting to be fishing at the peak of a particular spawning migration then timing is everything. Alaska Salmon fishing is all about understanding the Alaska salmon run timing.
It’s important to understand your goals and to understand the timing of each of these runs and there are trade-offs. Are you interested in a quick easy halibut trip to catch 40-50 lb fish? Or, are you interested in a much more adventurous and longer trip and a shot at some “barn doors.” Halibut are largely available all summer long and well into the fall. However, salmon definitely have peaks and valleys. Each species of salmon migrates up our rivers at slightly different times. Are you are primarily interested in taking home boxes full of fish for the winter? If so, then you’ll want to really target the main sockeye run in July that comes up the Kenai River. The trade-off is that it is also the most crowded time of the year.
Our fall silver fishery is a phenomenal time of year to fish with lesser crowds and fish bigger than sockeye. There are simply a great number of trade-offs to make. There are also decisions on where to fish. These factors are all dependent upon when you’re coming to Alaska and what your goals are.
Determining the Alaska salmon run timing is actually pretty straight forward. Data is gathered every year down to the single fish. Furthermore, this is done for more than 100 rivers and species of salmon throughout the state. Check out the graphs of King Salmon and Sockeye Salmon runs found on the Kenai, Kasilof, and Russian Rivers.This graph presents really unique view. It is built in a way that each chart starts in mid-May and ends on the same day in September. Constructing it this way allows us to “stack” all the salmon runs that are counted on our nearby rivers and see how the peaks and valleys all lineup.
It’s important to look at the scale of each of these graphs as well. Notice that the biggest day of King Salmon fishing on the Kenai River brings around 600 fish per day at its peak while the Kenai River Sockeye Salmon peak is more than 50,000 salmon per day! Since these graphs are averages of 6 years of data it has actually averaged out some of the 100,000+ days of sockeye salmon that can take place
The number one rule of catching salmon is to show up and fish when the salmon show up. Seems pretty straight forward right?
Notice that there are two runs of King Salmon on the Kenai River, two runs of Sockeye Salmon on the Russian River, a very broad run of Sockeye Salmon on the Kasilof River, and a monstrous July run of sockeye salmon on the Kenai River. While all of these runs overlap slightly each has its distinct peak that is not in alignment with the other rivers and species of salmon. Not shown here are the two silver salmon runs that take place in mid-August and mid-September. These two salmon runs are not shown because it’s not very practical to try and count those fish.
The best thing to do is to give us a call and discuss the variety of options. There is plenty more to consider than what can be described in this short introduction. We will discuss your fishing and adventure goals and what different options exist for the dates that you have available for your trip.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to understand and review the Alaska salmon run timing. Along with that, the best tool available for that is the Alaska FishTopia Mobile App. It’s available on both the app store and play store. We even have an introductory page to it on our website. Definitely take the time to download Alaska FishTopia