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Best Time to Fly Fish in Alaska

Alaska is the land of endless fishing opportunities. Choosing what fish species to pursue is the first decision to make before determining when the best time to fly fish in Alaska is! Grayling, pike, rainbow trout, dolly varden and arctic char are some of Alaska’s resident sportfish, meaning you can catch them anytime of year. However, some periods during the fishing season are better than others for targeting these resident species. As for salmon fishing in rivers; 

  • Kings are available from the end of May through July
  • Chums show up in late june and can be caught through august
  • Sockeye prime time is June and July
  • Pinks are more prevalent in even numbered years, but can always be caught in July and August each year
  • Silvers begin trickling in at the end of July and can be caught through October
Photo courtesy of Gregory Houska

Fishing in Alaska in June

June is a good month to come fishing in Alaska! It is our kick-off into summer as the temperatures stabilize and the midnight sun allows anglers plenty of time to fish. Not to mention the excellent fishing options. In rivers that see runs of king salmon, mid to late june is prime time for finding chrome fish. Sockeye begin to trickle in with the kings and really start pumping through by the end of the month. 

June trout fishing in Alaska can be great across the state. The trout are back on the feed after completing their spring spawning and are eager to eat! Sculpins and mice are guide favorites this time of year. On rivers such as the upper Kenai, rainbows are frequently caught on nymphs such as tungsten weighted pheasant tails, prince nymphs, and caddis pupa (nymphers be aware of Alaska’s single hook regulations!). If fishing Bristol Bay this time of year, you will likely hear about the famous ‘fry busts’ around the lodges. Each spring, millions of salmon fry begin their out-migration from the freshwater, and trout key in on this heavily!

Fishing in Alaska in July

July is quite possibly the most comfortable month to fish in Alaska. The mosquitoes are in peak season but the wildflowers are in full bloom and the fish are hungry! Besides having the best weather of the summer, July also provides the opportunity to catch all five species of Pacific salmon in one day, otherwise known as the Alaska Slam. 

The beginning of July is typically the last window to see good pushes of fresh king salmon entering their natal river systems. Depending on the fishery, Alaska Dept of Fish and Game often shut down sportfishing for king salmon the third week of July – but again, these closures vary from river to river. 

Sockeye salmon fishing is in its prime in July. As of the summer of 2022, Bristol Bay saw its largest returns of sockeye salmon on record. With sockeye returns trending better and better there is no reason not to fish for them in July.

While chum salmon get a terrible rap in the salmon fishing world, we are strong believers that they are, in fact, the hardest fighting salmon pound for pound. Especially, when they are chrome and fresh from the ocean! July is undoubtedly your best month to tango with a scrappy chum salmon.

Trout fishing picks up steadily through July as early sockeye begin to spawn and rainbows begin to key in on salmon eggs. Bead fishing is widely used across Alaska this month. For best success, make sure you have the right size and color of beads. These two factors are critical in some of the state’s fisheries that receive more pressure.

August Fishing in Alaska

August is one of the best times to fly fish in Alaska, but depending on the weather it can often be the wettest month. On the plus side, the bugs are on the downwards trend and by the end of the month some early fall colors begin to show as the daylight hours shrink. For those who do not mind a bit of weather, this is a favorite month for the anglers who want to catch lots of fish. Fortunately, this is when silver salmon really push into the rivers and the trout begin to bulk up for the winter ahead.

Sockeye are still trickling into the rivers, but not nearly as substantially as July. Chums can be found in their spawning colors and are as aggressive as ever, although they fight more like bulldogs at this time of year. 

Silvers are the real salmon prize during August. In rivers with strong returns of silvers, this is a great time to catch them on pink poppers. When topwater action eventually slows, stripping weighted pink flies will keep you even busier. 

Rainbow trout fishing in August is prime time. You can catch them using a variety of methods from mousing, flesh flies, trout beads to even trout spey. With the days growing shorter the resident trout begin to eat whatever they can to prepare for the long winter ahead.

Fishing in Alaska in September

September is without a doubt the most scenic month to go fishing in Alaska. With the deciduous trees roaring to full colors during this month and the bugs disappearing by the day, it’s hard not to call September the best month to fish Alaska. Besides that, the crowds begin to disappear after Labor Day too! Rainbow trout fishing is at its peak, the silver salmon fishing is great, and there’s even the elusive Alaskan steelhead to be found.

Silver salmon are really the only salmon fishing opportunity this late into the season. While August is the most popular month for silvers, most rivers see a second distinct run in late September – which can mean even more productive fishing with two runs of silvers in the river. 

September trout are fat, and in some cases already stuffed from too much food! By this part of the season the chums, pinks and sockeye have spawned and mostly died (by the thousands). This means the rivers are full of salmon eggs and chunks of salmon flesh – so the trout have no shortage of food options. This is the month that a 5 pound trout becomes an 8 pounder! You have to see it to believe it. 

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