For the visiting angler, fly fishing Ketchikan has many opportunities to catch trout, salmon and steelhead depending on the time of year. The Tongass Marine Highway crosses a variety of creeks, lakes and rivers, providing easy access. More adventurous anglers often plan fly-out trips or get water taxis to more remote areas. Ketchikan is also the hub for catching the ferry to Prince of Wales Island.
In the summer months, salmon can be caught along the creek and river inlets as they enter freshwater. King salmon, coho salmon, pink salmon and chum salmon are all commonly targeted. In the late fall through spring, steelhead are present and targeted by anglers practicing catch and release. In the lakes, coastal cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, dolly varden, and brook trout can all be caught year-round.
Fly Fishing Ketchikan’s Road System
Ketchikan, Alaska is located on Revillagigedo Island with around 32 miles of the Tongass Marine Highway along the western island. The highway is split by Ketchikan itself, with the north and south road systems both providing fly fishing opportunities.
Ketchikan Creek Fishing
Ketchikan Creek and Schoenbar Creek are accessed in the town of Ketchikan itself. The “library hole”, behind the library, is widely known as a good spot. The creek is open to fishing from September 15th through May 31 for single hook artificial flies and lures only.
Ward Creek and Ward Lake can be accessed at the Ward Lake Recreation Area around mile 7.1, north of town. Ward lake has resident populations of dolly varden, brook trout, and coastal cutthroat trout. Steelhead can also be caught in this system and are required to be quickly released. Ward creek has good populations of coho, pink and chum salmon in the summer and can be readily caught with the best flies for silver salmon (pink weighted flies like starlite leeches).
Lake Harriet Hunt is stocked annually with rainbow trout. Take Revilla Road 10.1 miles to the Harriet Hunt Recreation site where there is a small landing area to launch canoes and small non-motorized boats. Woolly buggers and leech patterns work well.
Beaver Falls is a tidal marine fishery that provides opportunities for sockeye, silver and pink salmon. Dolly Varden are commonly present as well. To access, drive south from town to the end of the road. The best access is at low tide as there is private property that makes access difficult during high tides.
Fly-Out Fishing Trips in Ketchikan
Ketchikan serves as a great hub for accessing remote corners and rivers of southeast Alaska. Offering a handful of small charter flight companies, you can easily get off the beaten path to your own private lake or stream.
Fly-outs from Ketchikan can be booked with local air services such as Family Air Tours, Seawind Avaition, or Taquan Air. All of which operate float planes to access waterways around Southeast Alaska. Each flight tour company has top notch safety ratings! Additionally, some of these air services even include half day fly fishing guide options!
Another unique opportunity is to book a remote US Forest Service cabin that ranges from $35 – $70 a night. These cabins are strategically placed around southeast Alaska and have good fishing options available for DIY anglers. The aforementioned flight services are all available for charter flights to these locations.
What to Bring for Fly Fishing in Ketchikan
Ketchikan is a small town, with a an average yearly population of around 8,000 people. When a cruise ship docks, the town’s population doubles. This means that there are not a ton of fly fishing specific amenities. So plan ahead and bring your own gear!
The Tongass Rainforest is, well, a rainforest! Anglers fishing the area need good quality rain gear to stay dry – and stay fishing. This is particularly important for anglers showing up to fish for spring steelhead, as it is during Ketchikan’s rainy season. Summer months are much nicer, but come prepared!
Waders & Boots:
A well fit and waterproof pair of waders is essential for fly fishing in southeast Alaska. We recommend bringing a pair that is comfortable enough to hike with. Much of the river access requires anglers to be in the water – this is not a destination to stay dry!
Fishing with barbless flies is always a good idea! Not only for the fish, but in case you hook yourself or someone else. Hemostats or pliers help crimp hook barbs and remove hooks from fish.
The majority of rivers and lakes around the Ketchikan region are clear water. Some are stained with panic colors, but for the most part anglers can do some sight-fishing!
Fly Rods & Reels:
For most pacific salmon and steelhead, a standard 9 foot 8 weight rod will be fine! If you are chasing cutthroat, brook trout, Dolly Varden or rainbow trout, bring a standard 6 weight rod. Any matching reel for each rod that has a good drag will work.
For spey anglers, we recommend sizing down the length of your rods to sub 12 feet in length. 7 and 8 weight short spey rods are ideal. Rainforest rivers are tight with overhanging branches!
Leaders & Tippet:
15-20 lb Maxima ultragreen is all you need for leader and tippet!
We’ve complied a list of our favorite Alaska Steelhead Flies and some of our favorite Alaska salmon patterns. Beyond that, bring a box of beads in size 8-12. Dollies and trout love any bead you can throw down here!