Southeast Alaska Fishing

Southeast Alaska Fishing

Southeast Alaska fishing grounds are exciting because of the wide variety of fishing options in the streams and ocean. Salmon, halibut and other species are plentiful in this area. Prince of Wales Island offers plentiful fishing as it is third largest island in the United States (Hawaii and Kodiak are larger) and is at the southern entrance to the Inside Passage. The Island is one of the major land masses migrating salmon and halibut encounter on their way to the Alaska Inside Passage.  What an ideal location for Alaska fishing!

This page includes information for planning your Southeast Alaska fishing vacation in the including traveling to Prince of Wales Island, other activities in Southeast Alaska, the geography and history of Southeast Alaska and Prince of Wales Island.

Prince of Wales Island is very interesting as most of the island is public land and part of the Tongass National Forest. It is the largest national forest in the country and also the largest remaining temperate rain forest on earth.

The east side of Prince of Wales Island, including Thorne Bay, is protected by the island and offer a calm, salt-water ocean experience in the Inside Passage.  Fresh water fishing on the Island is excellent with rivers and lakes accessible by road and fly-out fishing.  Most fish species are in the waters nearly year around and the charts below show the best times for Southeast Alaska Fishing.

Southeast Alaska fishing chart

The Prince of Wales Island fishing areas are large and locations may have different times and not all fish may be available at every lodge.  Our article “What is Your Favorite Alaska Fish Species?  A Difficult Decision” adds our personal views about our favorite fish to catch and course for our menu.

Southeast Alaska Fishing on Prince of Wales Island

The Inside Passage map shows why Southeast Alaska fishing is some of the best in the world.  Prince of Wales Island is part of the Alexander Archipelago.  Migrating salmon and other fish encounter the island and then migrate into the Inland Passage through Sumner Strait. Sumner Strait is on the north end and Clarence Strait on the south end of Prince of Wales Island.   Salt water fishing in the Inside Passage side of Prince of Wales Island is ocean fishing in calm waters because the island is a barrier from the open ocean.  Salmon swim back from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Prince of Wales rivers and lakes and in other Inside Passage rivers and streams.

Southeast Alaska fishing lodges have excellent fresh water experiences as fish also migrate up streams and rivers on Prince of Wales Island.  There are several river systems on the Island with the Thorne River being the largest.  There are hundreds of smaller rivers and streams on the Island.  Most of the waterways are accessible by logging roads which means you rarely lose a stream fishing day to weather.  There are fly out fishing options as well.  Southeast Alaska fishing rivers are smaller on Prince of Wales Island compared to waters farther north.  Streams are just a few miles long and the ecosystem changes quickly from upstream rain forest to water flowing into the sea.

map of alaska inside passage

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How to Get to Southeast Alaska and Ketchikan

Prince of Wales Island is at the southern point of the Alaska Inside Passage and state border.  Southeast Alaska fishing vacations start in Ketchikan.

float plane flying Over Tongass Rainforest

Alaska Airlines flies direct from Seattle to Ketchikan and there are also connections through Anchorage.  There are no roads to Ketchikan or Prince of Wales Island but if you are really adventurous, you can take the ferry system with your automobile.  From Ketchikan, you take a float plane to your lodge on Prince of Wales Island.  If you’ve never ridden in a float plane now is your chance!  They are really fun and landing on the water is a very smooth experience. Our article “Flying in Alaska Is a Way of Life” explains how to plan Southeast Alaska Fishing vacation flights and contains information to make your trip comfortable and worry free.


On an Alaska fishing vacation, you come home with much more baggage than you take.  Pack as lightly as you can.  We recommend each person bring only a carry-on bag if possible.  Remember you will be returning with boxes of frozen fish as checked luggage.    What you need to bring is one of our most frequently asked questions as well.

Documents & Licensing

Alaska vacations do not require a passport or any other additional documents. The same identification document for air travel(e.g. your driver’s license) is all you need to travel to Alaska.  Alaska does require a sports fishing license if you are over sixteen and the license is easy to obtain.  Local sporting goods stores, the Alaska Fish and Game department and many lodges sell licenses.  You can also purchase fishing licenses on line.  Licenses are included in many packages offered by Alaskan lodges so be sure to check with your lodge host first before purchasing a license.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance should be considered for Alaska fishing trips.  As with many places in Alaska, this area has periods with fog and wind which may impede travel.  Typical airline insurance does not cover your cost for many issues that can arise on a trip to a remote destination – especially cancellation fees. A quote is easy to receive with a quick call to us and you can travel with additional peace of mind in the event there is a hiccup in your travel.

Prince of Wales Island

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Southeast Alaska Activities

Southeast Alaska and Prince of Wales Island activities revolve around the water and the diverse geography of the area.  Prince of Wales Island has nearly a thousand miles of coastline on the main island and hundreds of smaller islands.  The terrain has dense forested mountains with valleys and salt water bays and straits, rivers and streams that are the result of glaciers that covered all of Southeast Alaska in the past.   There are nearly endless wildlife and nature hiking opportunities from the beach to the mountains in Southeast Alaska.  Canoeing and kayaking tours are also a popular way to explore and for whale watching.
The Anan Wildlife Observatory is a world-class bear viewing site.  Anan Creek has the largest southeast Alaska fishing run of pink salmon which helps support the large number of black and brown bears in the area.
Air tours are available to the Misty Fjords National Monument and remote waters.  There are guided eco-tours of rain forest, Kassan Totem Indian village, and the El Capitan Caves, the largest caves discovered in Alaska.

Take your pick of great adventures:

  • Wildlife and Nature Hiking
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Bear viewing
  • Misty Fjords National Monument tours
  • Rain forest eco-tours
  • Kassan Totem Indian Village visit
  • Explore El Capitan Cave


Southeast Alaska Geography and History

Southeast Alaska geography is dominated by the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the US and the largest temperate rain forest remaining on earth.  More than 80 percent of Southeast Alaska is in the Tongass.  President Theodore Roosevelt designated the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve in 1902.  Today the Tongass National Forest is 16.9 million acres stretching from Prince of Wales Island northward approximately 500 miles and from the Pacific Ocean to ice fields near British Columbia.  Prince of Wales Island is at the southern end of the forest and of the Inside Passage.  There are several hundred miles of roads that have been built over the years to support the southeast Alaska fishing industry, logging, and mining.  The first European exploration of the area was by the Spanish in 1775.  Captain James Cook visited the area in 1778 and Captain George Vancouver documented the geography of the area in 1790.   People have lived on the island for thousands of years.   Native people living on the island today are descendants of the Tlingit people in the north of the island and the Haida people in the south.
As the words “temperate rain forest” would indicate, the area has relatively mild temperatures and large amounts of rain and snow in higher elevations in the winter.