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Angling for Anchor River Steelhead

The run of Anchor River steelhead has long been popularized in fishing magazines and by social media. Fortunately, steelhead returning to the Anchor are all naturally producing wild fish! To keep the fishery intact, no retention of steelhead is allowed and all fish must remain in the water and be released immediately. 

With our seasonal experience of fly fishing and guiding the Anchor for steelhead, we’ve become intimate with this river in the fall. While you won’t have this river to yourself, it’s a gorgeous place to fly fish for steelhead and worth checking out.

Please bring your best steelhead fishing etiquette and pack out your trash! And of course, handle each fish with respect and keep them wet!

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Anchor River Steelhead Fishing Access

The town of Anchor Point, Alaska sits on the bluff above the river just north of  Homer, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula. With nearby amenities and convenient road access, the Anchor receives heavy pressure, espeacially for the size of the river. 

The entirety of the  Anchor River meanders roughly 30 miles before pouring into the Cook Inlet. About 2 river miles above the Cook Inlet, the North Fork tributary joins the mainstem river near the Old Sterling Highway bridge. These bottom two miles below the junction receives the heaviest pressure from anglers. It also has the best access with multiple parking lots and campgrounds. 

Other access can be found from the Sterling Highway at multiple parking areas where the river comes close to the road. Anglers looking for solitude should consider driving up the North Fork Road to the public access boat launch.

Anchor River Steelhead Regulations

The North Fork of the Anchor River is closed to steelhead fishing most years. Be certain to read and understand the ever-changing ADFG regulations prior to fishing.

The Anchor River is closed to all fishing from January 1st – May 20th to protect over wintering fish.

For Rainbow/Steelhead trout, the Anchor is closed to all retention throughout it’s entirety. In fact, all Rainbow/Steelhead trout must be released immediately and kept in the water. This practice maintains the healthy wild catch and release fishery that we all cherish.

Steelhead Fishing Anchor River Alaska

Steelhead fishing the Anchor River in Alaska has continuously increased in popularity the last couple decades. There is concern from local anglers that the river is becoming over-trafficked and loved to death with it’s steelhead notoriety.

However, the notoriety is also increasing demand for better catch and release practices across the state! This is something that cannot be understated. Alaska has great fishing, but most of the fisherman are fishing for their freezers in the state. Better fish handling education increases the longevity of non-freezer fish everywhere!

Fly Fishing the Anchor River

The most popular method, and the most productive method for steelhead fishing the Anchor is fly fishing with beads! Fishing to steelhead with beads is very similar to bead fishing for trout anywhere else in Alaska. However, steelhead are not typically as picky as resident trout in regards to bead size or color. Just remember to keep your hook within 2 inches of your bead as required by ADFG!

The second most popular method is spey fishing for steelhead on the anchor river. While catching a steelie on the swing is undoubtedly the most rewarding way to do it, it can be difficult to find your own section of river that is big enough for spey casts! We recommend short-spey, or switch rods! Come prepared with a handful of Alaska steelhead flies in various sizes too!

Fisheries Data on Anchor River Steelhead

Little is known about the historical abundance of steelhead in the Anchor. In 2020 Alaska Department of Fish and Game began leaving up a sonar site for part of the steelhead season. It’s better late than never to begin monitoring the returning population of this pressured fishery. While the accuracy and timeliness of the sonar is spotty at best, the average modern-day return likely falls between 600 and 1,300 steelhead. 

A prior study by ADFG was completed in 1981 concentrating on steelhead smolt numbers in various areas of the watershed. The study also used radio tracking, scale samples and creel surveys to learn about mature Anchor River steelhead. From the isolated year of research, a few estimates were made about the population. 

The rough data points showed that most smolts were collected from the North Fork. This is likely the main spawning tributary. The radio tracking showed that the fish stayed within certain areas overwinter and didn’t move much. The creel surveys estimated that anglers harvested 600 to 1,500 steelhead annually from the Anchor in the late 1970’s (ouch!). Additionally, the study estimated that 11.1% of returning steelhead in the Anchor are repeat spawners and of which, are the largest.

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