When you think of Alaska fish species when you go fishing in Alaska, the most popular fish are salmon and halibut. What is the key to your favorite fish?
The fish size and challenge of the catch combined with what you love to eat are important considerations. The most important factor is the timing of your luxury fishing vacation trip. Salmon and halibut are great fish but there are several other Alaska fish species that are fun to catch and have an excellent taste. Most of my friends would say halibut is their favorite Alaska fish species and I said that as well before my first Alaska fishing vacation. Over the years, I have learned to appreciate the challenge of catching Alaska rock fish species and their delicate taste. Your luxury fishing vacation for your favorite fish starts with finding the best time to catch them.
Salmon Species–When They Are Running
Depending upon the waters, Alaska fish species are in season at different times. Fishing grounds may not have all species and we can help you find the best lodge for your luxury fishing vacation package. The chart below summarizes information for the five Alaska salmon fish species:
The king salmon is the largest species of Pacific salmon and lives from California to the Arctic Ocean. Early summer is the best time to catch kings but there are a few around most of the year. King salmon is the “steak of salmon” with a dense, oily meat. The meat is excellent to smoke at home as the oil keeps it moist and tasty.
Silver salmon are aggressive fish that migrate in August and September. Silvers are more plentiful than kings during their run. Silvers are a popular Alaska fish species as limits are higher and the migration to the spawning grounds more certain. Silver salmon is a very popular menu item in restaurants and at home. King and silver salmon are caught trolling with down riggers using artificial lures.
Red salmon runs occur at different times depending upon the river the fish migrate up to spawn. There are early and late runs of red salmon depending upon the area. Adult red salmon move up river and spawn along lake shores and streams. Spin anglers catch this smaller Alaska fish species salmon on light tackle and fly fishers use various combinations of tackle, lines, and fly patterns depending upon water conditions. Red salmon is the most popular menu fish for many people.
Pink salmon are very plentiful but not a popular Alaska fish species for sports fishers. Fishing for pinks is an excellent way to teach youngsters about salmon fishing. Lightweight spinning or bait casting gear or a 4-5 weight fly rod provides an exciting fight and learning experience.
The Alaska halibut (Pacific halibut) is the largest bottom dwelling flatfish and can weigh several hundred pounds. This Alaska fish species lives in the cold waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Each winter, halibut migrate great distances from coastal waters to deep sea spawning grounds. They return to shallower waters to feed each spring. The halibut’s brownish color camouflages it against the sea floor.
Halibut season runs from May through November. Halibut are caught in coastal waters down to 300 feet on rock piles or near ledges where they feed. Bait includes herring or other fish parts and also artificial jigs. Bait is dropped to the sea floor and then “jigged” up and down to attract the fish. You reel up all Alaska fish species that feed on the bottom by winding as you bring the rod down and then pulling up and winding down again in a steady motion with constant pressure on the line. “Get your tip up” is the key to constant pressure. Everyone has their favorite halibut fishing hole.
Halibut is a favorite menu entrée with a delicate meat and soft taste. I also like smoked halibut and many ethnic dishes can be prepared with halibut.
A New Favorite Alaska Fish Species—The Rockfish and Lingcod
Recognize the Alaska fish species above? From left to right there are the black bass, yellow eye, and lingcod. These are the common Alaskan names and the fish are known by many other names as well.
The lingcod is a bottom dweller with a large head which is why it is also known as the “buckethead.” Lingcod live in rock crevices or on ledges but it is not a rock fish. Males are seldom larger than fifteen pounds and live to fourteen years. Females can reach weights exceeding sixty pounds and may live decades.
Lingcod are one Alaska fish species that does not migrate and stays in localized areas. Lingcod are in season staring in July in most areas through the end of the fishing season. Lingcod limits are low. If an area is overfished, the population may not rebuild. Lingcod and halibut are similar Alaska fish species and fishing techniques are similar. Lingcod has a mild, sweet flavor and is a firm meat that many people use to make fish and chips. You may experience a “ride along” where a lingcod will grab a fish on another line and follow it to the top. If you pull the lingcod’s head out of the water, it will release the fish but experienced fishers are patient and can land the lingcod.
Yelloweye are one of the largest Alaska fish species of rockfish in the north Pacific approaching twenty-five pounds. They are also one of the oldest fishes and can live up to 120 years. Yelloweye are often caught while fishing for halibut as they come to a feeding area before the larger flatfish arrive. Yelloweye are another Alaska fish species that does not migrate and stays around its local rock or ledge structure year around. Yelloweye are caught throughout the fishing season and limits are very low for these long lived and slow growing fish. There are many other rockfish that have the same lean, moist and mild flavor.
One of the more abundant Alaska fish species is the black bass also known as the black rockfish and by several other names. Black bass can live up to fifty years and can grow to eleven pounds and over two feet in length. Black bass are very aggressive and will attack jigs and bait as it drops to the bottom. Black bass are a prime Alaska fish species with a high reproductive rate compared to the Yelloweye. Black bass are caught throughout the fishing season and are my favorite fish to use in many recipes.
Alaska Fish Species in the Rivers
Steelhead begin entering fresh water streams in early September. Steelhead are the sea going cousin of the native rainbow trout and both can grow to large sizes. Steelhead in rivers are usually under ten pounds. Both of these Alaska fish species are tremendous fighters. The catch and release season runs through November.
Dolly Varden is an Alaska fish species often confused with trout but it is actually a char. Dolly’s migrate out to saltwater in the early spring and then in mid-July through October they migrate back to freshwaters to spawn and overwinter. Dolly’s are a small fish with a beautiful color that can weigh up to six pounds. They are an exciting fish to catch on light tackle.
Below is a chart of popular Alaska fish species where you can see sizes and seasons at a glance:
Alaska Fish Species That Make The Best Hand Bags
At the beginning of an Alaska fishing trip, we and our friends usually put some money in a pool for the largest salmon and halibut caught on the trip. A few years ago, we were with a large group and the pot was substantial. Lisa caught the largest of both fish. In fact, until just recently Lisa had caught the largest fish of every Alaska fish species in our family. Lisa has many wonderful qualities but a gracious winner is not one of them. She really gets excited out-fishing all of the guys. A few weeks later, we got together again and Lisa produced an expensive Coach hand bag She began walking around telling all the guys how wonderful the bag was and having them touch it. They agreed the bag was beautiful. Then she laughed and told them she had used her winnings to buy the bag. So the Alaska fish species that make the best handbags are king salmon and halibut in Lisa’s view.
Your Favorite Alaska Fish Species Will Not Wait. What Are You Waiting For?
To go fishing in Alaska and the vacation of a life time takes planning and staring early. You don’t want to miss your favorite fish. Call your luxury fishing vacation expert Lisa Montgomery at 1-855-711-7773 or complete a request on our contact page.
- Get your copy of a Kodiak Island detailed guide for all Alaska fish species including seasons, fishing techniques, tackle and more
- Find more information and facts about salmon
- Visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game fishing site