When deciding on whether to book a guided river and fishing trip in Alaska, take into account several things. Having the proper equipment, from the rafts themselves to all the camp and kitchen gear, is a cornerstone of any river trip, let alone one in Alaska. Booking a guided trip reduces the need and worry of having or acquiring all the gear and food. Guided trips also offer the local knowledge of the guide. The proprietary information gained from a local whose trade is floating and fishing the river is worth more than gold. Local guides typically have contacts with smokeries and fish houses, so your catch can be filleted, smoked, packaged and shipped right to your home with no hassle. A good guide on an Alaskan river will know what flies to tie and use, what the fish are hitting on, and where to find hidden pools with salmon.
If you are an experienced boatsman and have all the needed gear, opting to float the river without a guide is an attractive option. Before heading out on the river, take the time to speak with outfitters and locals in the area, as well as consult the National Weather Service and other land and waterway management agencies for river volumes, obstacles and recent wildlife activity. Good resources for Alaska river volumes are in the resource section. Take time to learn of the salmon runs, what species is running when, and regional and local laws for keeping the fish. Carry your fishing licenses in easy-to-access pockets in case a fisheries warden approaches your boat on the river and asks for proof of license.
Rivers and Regions
Alaska is a big place with lots of rivers. Research what region of the state you wish to float and fish and make your plans accordingly. Great rivers of southeast Alaska, also called the panhandle, are the Stikine, Tatshenshini and Alsek. Portions of these rivers are glacially fed and not the best for fishing. Make sure you understand the glacial run-off prior to floating to maximize your fishing.
The Kenai Peninsula is home to the world-famous Kenai River. Legendary king salmon have been taken in the mighty Kenai and is considered one of the best rivers to float and fish in the state. Also on the Kenai are the Russian, Cooper and Six Mile rivers, all worthy of a few days spent fishing and rowing.
If you are heading into the interior or Denali region, the Talkeetna and Chulitna rivers provide fantastic opportunities for fishing, floating and wildlife viewing.
For the truly adventurous, taking a river and fishing trip in the Arctic is a once-in-a-lifetime affair. The Sheenjek, Kobuk and Firth rivers are grand experiences filled with fish, caribou and mosquitoes (bring lots of DEET).
Boat and Gear Rentals
If choosing to go the route of self-guided float and fish, and you do not wish to fly everything to Alaska, there are outfitters in Anchorage and Fairbanks that rent rafts and supplies. Refer to the resource section for a list of links.