Fishing the McArthur River in Alaska

Fishing the McArthur River in Alaska
The McArthur River flows through the south central portion of the state and provides many opportunities for fishing. Kings, silver, and pink salmon run into the river each year, and there are Dolly varden, and arctic grayling found in the waters. The McArthur is a remote river, and requires a bit of forethought, planning and knowledge to fully maximize time spent fishing. The river is governed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and you need a valid license to fish.

Five Species of Salmon

The McArthur River enjoys five different species of salmon running in the waters and the runs vary. Look for kings in mid May and running until mid-June, with a second late season run taking place in late July. Silvers run in mid-June through July, with chum and sockeye running into the river in mid-May through mid-August. Pinks run every other year, during even numbered years, and run in great volume. During runs, fly-, bait-, and lure casting is permissible to catch salmon.


Fly Fishing - Dolly Varden

Fly fishing is possible for species other than salmon along the McArthur. Dolly varden and arctic grayling run the river and fly fishermen enjoy the sport species challenge. As these species are smaller and weigh less than salmon, try using a seven to nine foot rod rated four to five weight. Use flies that mimic the insect bloom taking place along the shores during whatever time of year you are fishing. Be aware while fishing the river, and carry bear spray and know how to properly use and employ it.

River Access

Due to the remote nature of the river, fly-in or jet boat access is needed to get to choice fishing holes and spots. Air charters are available at the Willow, Wasilla, Palmer and Anchorage airports. Be sure to bring a map, compass, GPS unit and satellite phone if you head in without a guide. Arrange a rendezvous point with your air service and be prepared to spend a few extra days should weather prohibit the airplane from flying in to pick you and your fishing party up. In addition to the fishing gear you bring, take extra clothing, food, water filter, tent and sleeping bag should you need to stay longer than anticipated.


Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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