A trip to Alaska is sure to be one you won’t soon forget. The most important thing you’ll do is prepare for the trip and ensure that you show up in the right place, at the right time, with the right gear.
Alaska hunting and fishing bring a lot of people to this area of the country and this guide should help you narrow down the criteria of a perfect trip.
Choosing Your Destination
One decision you’ll have to make before even considering an Alaskan adventure is where you plan to hunt and fish. Are you going to trek it North into the tundra in search of caribou, elk, and moose? Or, are you more interested in staying closer to the water for smaller game, waterfowl, and bears?
All the locals will recommend that you take to the saltwater along the southeast portion of the state. This is where the best hunting and fishing is and it’s home to some of the best salmon fishing on this side of the hemisphere.
Now, if bear hunting is what brings you to the area, to track the bears, you want to track the salmon. To do this, you’ll have to understand the migratory pattern of the salmon. They move from the freshwater as a juvenile and travel out into the open water where they feed and grow before retreating back to the river to spawn as adults. There are a variety of factors that come into play here.
The number one factor is the migration of the baitfish that they feed on. The number of baitfish in each location determines which ones are more favorable than others. Three of the top places to fish in Southeast Alaska are Juneau, Sitka, and Prince of Wales Island.
Planning the Trip
As you’re thinking about the location in Alaska that you want to fish and hunt, you’ll want to prepare yourself for the trip by bringing along the most essential gear. Bear hunting season runs during the Spring and Fall so if you’re looking to kill two birds with one stone, you’ll want to come during those times.
That said, depending on what species of salmon you’re trying to catch, you’ll want to cater to the peak season. Coho Salmon season is better during the fall while Chinook Salmon season is better during the spring and summer. Regardless of what season you come, you’ll be able to find fish either way so I would recommend planning around bear hunting season first.
Now let’s talk about gear.
If you’re traveling on an unguided hunting trip the first two essential pieces of equipment are a framed backpack and a folding saw with a bone blade. These are required for all unguided hunters.
Hip boots, binoculars, knives, flashlights, and plenty of backup clothes are necessary as well. If you’re hunting with a .357 magnum, keep in mind that your shot needs to be right on the money to take down a grizzly. Always keep in mind that just because you see experts take down grizzlies with a .357 magnum, doesn’t mean you’ll have the same luck. If possible, you might want to step up to a .44 if you find yourself out there with a handgun.
I also recommend bringing a separate fishing backpack because you won’t want to carry all your fishing gear in the same framed backpack with your hunting equipment. If you’re traveling with another person, one of you can carry each bag.
For fishing, you’ll want to bring a portable rod, some casting spoons, flies, and diving plugs. If you can find salmon eggs, they make the best bait for Chinook Salmon.
Where to Fish
As I said earlier, there are three areas in the southeast section of Alaska where you’ll clean up best. Juneau, Sitka, and Prince of Wales. These are the three top locations but your chances of success differ based on the season you fish and what you’re targeting.
The top fish to catch in Juneau is the Coho Salmon. You’ll have the best chance of catching these in the late summer and early fall months between August-September. In fact, Alaska has the highest catch rates of Silver Coho Salmon. The regulations for catching these fish have not changed in quite some time and there are no annual limits; just a six per day per person restriction.
Chinook King Salmon are the target here and this is one of the most sought-after places to fish anywhere on the planet. The record for Chinook Salmon is 126 pounds and that record has stood since 1949. If you’ve ever wanted to add something to your bucket list, this is it.
Prince of Wales
This area is one of the southernmost portions of Alaska and it brings about great halibut fishing. They’re great tasting, they grow to unbelievable sizes, and they’re not that hard to catch if you can understand the regulations.
Where to Hunt
If you’re targeting brown bears you’ll be able to find them anywhere but Prince of Wales. They’re classified the same as grizzly bears so when we say “brown” we mean “grizzly.”
Keep in mind that season dates change dramatically by location but for the most part, you can hunt bears from early fall all the way through to early summer. There are also restrictions based on your location that limit how many bears you can kill each year.
In the event that you are in danger, you are allowed to shoot and kill a bear if you feel that your life is threatened.
There are many different rules and regulations that apply and they vary based on what type of bear you’re after and where you’re hunting so be sure to read up on all the finer details.
If a life-changing Alaska hunting and fishing trip has been sitting on your bucket list for a while, it’s time to finally cross it out. As you trek through the majestic landscape that is the last frontier, keep your gun handy, and your trigger finger ready.