Alaska is a huge state, bigger than many countries, and the roads and highways here often span hundreds of miles in a specific direction, connecting larger cities with outlying towns and communities. It is along these byways where they cross or parallel lakes, streams, rivers, and saltwater bays that exploring anglers may find a vast richness of fishing opportunities.
The largest city in Alaska is Anchorage, a hectic commercial center of over 300,000 inhabitants located in what is commonly referred to as the Southcentral region. The vast majority of flights connecting the Lower 48 and other parts of the world to Alaska pass through Anchorage and the major roads of the state originate here as well, making the city a natural hub and spoke for anglers to engage in their pursuit of the regions many roadside fisheries.
Significantly different from most anywhere else in the country, Anchorage has only two major highway arteries heading out of town – one going north, the other south. This is mainly because the city is situated on a small protruding landmass of sorts with water barriers to the north, west, and south, and an impenetrable mountain range to the east. Thus, roads fit where they may. However, these two highways – Glenn and Seward – both directly connect to several more important thoroughfares (Richardson, Parks, Sterling, etc.), and as such open up a virtually limitless panorama of places to fish.
While the fairly busy road system and its population centers may instill a sense of security and peace of mind through the availability or presence of common facilities and amenities, such as large retail stores, chain restaurants, full-service hotels, and RV campgrounds, it is important to remember that this is after all Alaska and true wilderness in the form of bears and moose, ice-cold glacial rivers, and nearly impenetrable boreal rainforests are never too far away. In fact, at some points on the road system, heading out in any direction away from the pavement may mean hundreds of miles of pure undisturbed solitude before any sign of human activity surfaces again, if at all. In this perspective, a great deal of respect need be applied as nature and its elements can be very unforgiving to those who find themselves unprepared.
But for anglers wanting to fish the road system instead of flying out to some extreme remote location, Alaska’s highways are just the perfect fit in accessing a very large collection of waters teeming with fish and wildlife. On top of that, rustic campgrounds and cabins, small tackle and fish processing shops, and family-owned guide services are but a slice of what lies await and contributes to why many anglers prefer to fish along the road system. In all, it highlights the human angle, bringing the element of interaction with other people from all over the world, their common interest in fishing, and the charm that goes along with it.
As many anglers traveling the road system soon discover, there is a very prominent natural beauty to the Southcentral region that matches perfectly with the awesome fishing opportunities. The landscape can and does vary tremendously, from lowland marshes and dense spruce and birch forests to alpine meadows and tundra, all the while surrounded by jagged mountain ranges, hanging glaciers, and even semi-active volcanoes. Combine all this with abundant wildlife and it is a trip to remember.
For ease of navigation in deciding where to go in search of one or more of Alaska’s popular game fish, this section divides the roadside territory of the Southcentral region into three main geographical areas. These are the “Northern,” “Southern,” and “Eastern” areas (described in more detail through the highlighted links) that in turn host smaller sub-areas, each with its own unique characteristics in terms of species available, peak timing, geological features of the surrounding landscape, and other distinctions that may appeal to visiting anglers based on various levels of personal interest.
Represented by the vast Matanuska and Susitna valleys, which include drainages of Knik Arm and the mighty Susitna River basin with its near countless tributaries.
Regional Hubs: Palmer, Wasilla, Houston, Willow, Talkeetna, and Trapper Creek.
Main Attractions: Numerous small clearwater lakes and streams, easy for wading and scouting with excellent float tubing and sight fishing opportunities. King, pink, chum, and silver salmon, rainbow trout, and arctic grayling are the targeted game fish in this region with definite trophy potentials. Do-it-yourself float fishing excursions are popular. Stunning views of the Alaska Range, including Mount Denali (McKinley) at well over 20,000 feet. The large glacial rivers and their tributaries support abundant wildlife to match the semi-wilderness.
Features the rich waters of the legendary Kenai Peninsula, including Turnagain Arm, western Prince William Sound, the North Gulf Coast, and Cook Inlet.
Regional Hubs: Girdwood, Whittier, Hope, Moose Pass, Seward, Cooper Landing, Sterling, Soldotna, Kenai, Nikiski, Kasilof, Ninilchik, Anchor Point, and Homer.
Main Attractions: Without a doubt the most visited region and for good reason. A multitude of both freshwater and saltwater species and locations to choose from within close proximity, several of which present great opportunity for trophy catches in magnificent scenic settings. World record-size king salmon and halibut, million-strong runs of red salmon, and fly-fishing for huge rainbow trout are synonymous with the peninsula. Very prolific wildlife in the dense forests and marine waters. Great views of semi-active volcanoes across the inlet.
An immense area that encompasses the relatively little-fished Copper Valley and adjoining waterways, such as northern Prince William Sound and the Upper Copper/Upper Susitna River basins.
Regional Hubs: Glennallen, Gakona, Tazlina, Copper Center, and Valdez.
Main Attractions: This region features a wide range of angling opportunities in terms of both available species as well as scenic surroundings. Whether canoeing the deep lakes for trophy lake trout, hiking in to distant tundra streams jammed with grayling and fish-on-every-cast action, wading or floating expansive forested rivers for king and red salmon and rainbow trout, or surf-casting or boating the briny for pink and silver salmon and halibut, anglers will find plenty to explore. Incredible mountain ranges, including a few of the world’s largest volcanoes.