Alaska is well-known for amazing scenery and fascinating and varied wildlife. It's a recreational paradise, particularly for fishing. Alaskan waters feature numerous sport fish species, including halibut, arctic char, burbot, northern pike, trout and grayling, among others. Perhaps the most famous are the many salmon species that run up Alaskan rivers each summer to spawn, including king, coho and sockeye. Salmon fishing in Alaska is fun and rewarding, but there are many regulations of which you need to be aware.
Federal, statewide and regional regulations govern salmon fishing in Alaska. Many are quite specific regarding permissible gear, and days of the week and hours during which sport fishing may be done. Some pertain to guides, others to fishing in general, and still others to individual anglers. Changes do occur, so it's important to check for updates before leaving home, especially if you'll be fishing without a guide. If using a guide, she should be familiar with all pertinent regulations and can ensure that you are in compliance with them. Confirm this with your guide well in advance to avoid disappointment.
It's illegal to fish within 300 feet of a fish ladder or weir, to sell/buy or barter any sport-caught fish, to molest fish or impede spawning, to use explosives or intoxicants to catch fish, and to intentionally waste or destroy any sport-caught fish.
Season and limits
In general, salmon season is from May to October. For a helpful chart on timing of fish runs in various regions of Alaska, see the Alaska Department of Fish & Game website. Catch limits vary according to species, region and date. Be sure to check with your guide or the ADF&G website for regional regulations.
License and stamps
Alaska requires all sport anglers over age 16 to have an individual license, which can be purchased by mail or online from ADF&G. The nonresident license is valid for one calendar year and must be in your possession at all times while fishing. If you are fishing for king salmon, you also need a king salmon stamp, which is time-limited (1, 3, 7 or 14 days) and available from ADF&G. Anglers under age 16 do not need a license or stamp, but must complete a harvest record (available free from ADF&G).
Article Written By Peggy Hansen
Peggy Hansen holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from UC San Diego, Doctor of Medicine from UCLA, and completed postgraduate training at Stanford, Duke and Harvard. An award-winning writer and photographer, her work has been featured in Catnip, Herbalgram, Porter Gulch Review, and many online pieces. She's also a commentator for KQED-FM