The following is a month-by-month summary of angling opportunities and related activities expected for the season ahead and is based on present and historical information and data. Updates may be issued if conditions warrant it. Scroll down to see what is in store for the respective time frame. Remember, however, that every year is generally slightly different than the year before in respect to exact run timing of salmon and peak fishing times but for resident and saltwater species should be very close to what is forecasted. Only in rare cases may the timing be off by more than 10 days.
APRIL MAY JUNE JULY AUGUST SEPTEMBER OCTOBER NOVEMBER–MARCH
This is a true month of transition, moving the area from the grips of winter into early spring. While stream fishing opportunities may be limited due to the annual spring/early summer trout spawning closure (April 15 through June 14), all area lakes will be open; however, persistent ice is likely to be present in many waterways and generally not considered safe to walk on beyond the second week of the month. Later in the month, look for open leads along shorelines to produce some decent to very good action for trout, char, and landlocked salmon. If still interested in trying your luck in flowing water, check out the rivers and streams along Turnagain Arm for early-season sea-run Dolly Varden but success rates are generally only fair at best. Dip netters may begin seeing hooligan (smelt) along the rocky shoreline of the arm and 20-Mile River starting in mid- to late April. Although a very few king salmon have been caught the last week of April in the tidal area of Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage in years past, these fish usually only appear later on in May most years.
Along with the advent of longer spring days and warmer waters, expect to see the first really productive angling of the season. Most lakes should have shed all ice left from winter (except for higher elevation locations in the foothills and mountain passes), yielding some good to excellent opportunities for stocked rainbow trout, arctic char, and landlocked salmon. Particularly late afternoons and early evenings may see good catches as the surface water temperature has warmed during the day, prompting the bite. The streams down Turnagain Arm can offer decent fishing for sea-run char in the tidewater portions. Indian, Glacier, Ingram, and Portage creeks may be worth a try but anywhere there is clear flowing water entering the silty arm can be productive.
As for salmon, Ship Creek typically sees the first angler-caught king salmon sometime between May 5 and 15 with action picking up substantially as we get closer to Memorial Day weekend. Good fishing is the norm the last few days of the month with peak action on the tides. Nearby Eagle River may have a few kings available as well but due to the silty conditions of the water, success rates tend to be very low; however, a cool spring means a lack of snowmelt which in turn means less turbid water and increased clarity that could spike catches. Take note that Eagle kings are only allowed to be targeted for three consecutive weekends beginning with Memorial Day weekend. While early-run red salmon are present in the Anchorage area starting in May, a lack of seasonal access prevents anglers from effectively targeting them (Campbell Creek and Rabbit Creek, both closed to red salmon fishing year-round).
Dip netting for hooligan peaks during the second or third week of May with excellent catch rates often continuing through the month and on into June. Try incoming, high, and outgoing tides along the rocky shoreline of Turnagain Arm between Girdwood and Portage and the lower 20-Mile River for best results.
This is the best month to target king salmon in Anchorage-area waters. Peak migration into Ship Creek occurs the second and third week of the month with anglers working the tides doing best. Often, the high success rates last through the month with increasing number of fish being caught on low tides as well as the run stabilizes and commits to fresh water. Also, June is a great month for salmon as Ship Creek usually flows low, clear, and relatively warm — perfect king conditions. Eagle River has a few kings present. Do not be surprised to discover other salmon species begin appearing in this area the last week of June with the arrival of a few pinks, chums, and silvers. If access to a watercraft, expect reds to begin trickling into 20-Mile River towards the end of the month.
Lakes continue to see very good to superb angling conditions for resident species but trending towards an early morning and late evening peak bite. Many of the lakes will undergo a stocking of various species this month and the fish tend to be extremely aggressive for a few days to a week or more from date of stocking. This would be a great time to bring kids to the water for fast and frenzied action! ADF&G should have exact or close approximate dates available to the public when and where stocking will occur.
Flowing waters within Anchorage city will have fair to good opportunities for trout and char, chiefly in Campbell and Chester creeks, starting June 15 (season opener). Additionally, sea-run char action will be peaking at the mouths and far lower reaches of stream in Turnagain Arm. Indian, Glacier, Kern, Portage, and Ingram creeks support decent populations of fish throughout the month. Note: Bird Creek is closed to all fishing in June on through July 13.
For those still seeking hooligan in 20-Mile River, dip netting may still be quite productive right up until the season closure on June 14 but the peak has passed most years. The better dipping may be located upstream of tidewater; use a watercraft for access. Dip netters should note that the salt waters of Turnagain Arm closes to hooligan fishing on June 1.
June also marks the month when salmon viewing becomes a distinct possibility. Towards the latter part of the month, look to Ship Creek by the fish hatchery to see kings arriving and both kings and reds will be present in Campbell Creek as well and seen in many of the clear pools of the upper stream sections near Tudor Road. Rabbit Creek at Potter Marsh hosts great viewing of staging kings and reds right from the boardwalk.
This is the month for salmon variety! Kings are still coming into Ship Creek on every tide, albeit in subdued numbers, yet still enough to keep anglers’ interest. In fact, the first week of July can often be very good at times with some very large specimens present and sight fishing possible; however, anglers should note that the last day for kings is July 13. But this should not be an issue as sizable numbers of pinks and silvers begin to show here as well as in other locations down along Turnagain Arm. The season on Bird Creek opens on the 14th and action varies between fair to superb but usually tends to be very good with loads of pinks and chums with a few silvers mixed in. Indian, Glacier, Portage, and Ingram will also hold these species in varying numbers with pinks being the solid mainstay most anywhere. Still, Ship will have the strongest silver run in July with excellent opportunities at hand starting the last week of the month. Decent return of reds will be available in Portage Creek and for those with access to a boat, 20-Mile and Placer rivers will have these fish as well.
Rainbow trout and Dolly Varden will be present in Campbell and Chester creeks in decent numbers, particularly higher up in the drainages as they follow the kings to the spawning beds. For a true adventure, hike into the greenbelt reaches of upper Campbell where the brown bears sometimes seem to outnumber people on the stream! Expect good fishing in a remarkably remote setting. For sea-run char, explore the rivers and creeks of Turnagain Arm, from tidewater way up into the foothills. Wherever there are salmon present, char will be there too. Hot spots include Indian, Bird, Glacier, Kern, Portage, and Ingram creeks.
Salmon viewing in the Anchorage area reaches a peak in July. At the fish hatchery and the lower dam on Ship Creek, onlookers may observe good numbers of maroon kings and the first few pinks, chums, and silvers arriving. The best time to spot kings is during the second half of July while later is better for other species. Rabbit Creek, right at the boardwalk at Potter’s Marsh on the outskirt of town, has great viewing possibilities too, with kings and reds seen all month long along with large numbers of pinks and silvers starting about mid-month. Generally, on an even-numbered year, pinks will be swarming throughout this little clearwater stream from late July well into August. Please note that all fishing is prohibited in these waters to protect spawning salmon. Campbell Creek off Piper Street and Tudor Road will have good viewing of kings and reds along the multi-purpose trail all month long.
Although the king salmon season closed weeks ago in this area, anglers can rejoice in the fact that the silvers will be peaking in numbers during August. Streams that have stocked populations of this species, such as Ship, Campbell, and Bird creeks, tend to experience the peak of the runs the first half of the month. Waters that support natural returns of silver salmon, however, typically see peak returns in mid- to late August and would include all other drainages of Turnagain Arm; productive locations include Glacier, Ingram, and Portage creeks. Boaters can do very well in sloughs and the mouths of clearwater tributaries on 20-Mile and Placer rivers. While pink returns are at their height around the first of August and the following week, the condition of the fish is generally fair at best as many of the salmon will be turning spawning color at this time. The same can be said of chums, although most streams see these fish having longer and stronger staying power than their brethren; yet after mid-month, expect these fish to deteriorate rapidly as well. Similarly to pinks, reds fade quickly as the month progresses.
Resident species remain good and reliable targets in both streams and lakes. In flowing waters, seek out trout and char in the middle to upper reaches where spawning salmon congregate. It is recognized that August is probably the best month in the Anchorage area as fish are aggressively feeding on the glut of much-needed protein. The upper, more remote portions of Campbell Creek can yield some very nice catches for those willing to hike in a mile or two. In Turnagain Arm, upper sections and smaller tributaries of most larger streams and rivers support good action for char, though some productive days can still be had down low at salt water up through mid-month. Lake fishing will only get better later on in August as the weather begins to cool.
To see migrating or spawning salmon, Ship Creek is still a solid bet and those interested are treated to exceptional viewing of primarily pinks and silvers with a few chums here and there. In the upper reaches, around the fish hatchery, there will still be large kings present until mid-month. At Rabbit Creek (Potter’s Marsh), the stream is often thick with pinks and silvers, especially the first two weeks of August. Another great spot to view spawning salmon is Williwaw Creek in Portage Valley, on Portage Glacier Road. It receives heavy runs of red and chum salmon throughout the month on into autumn. The small stream near the Eagle River Science Center also has great viewing of reds and chums. Otherwise, salmon viewing may be had in most any clearwater stream in the area.
With summer days waning into autumn, salmon anglers can expect opportunities to decrease considerably as the month progresses. There will always be a smaller number of chrome silvers arriving in local waters such as Ship, Campbell, Bird, and Glacier creeks but the majority of the fish will be blushed as spawning season nears. However, the glacial drainages of 20-Mile, Portage, and Placer in the Portage area down Turnagain Arm often experience good late returns in this month and anglers are treated to very productive days for at least the first two weeks before these runs also begin to slow down. As for other salmon species, a few fresh red and chum salmon may still be available the first week of September but the pinks will be gone.
Trout and char are generally plentiful through the fall but seem more concentrated in specific areas of rivers and streams; action ranges from fair to superb. Successful anglers search out schools of salmon to find their quarry, usually in the upper or mid-section of drainages. In lakes and ponds, cooler water temperatures spike the bite and good to excellent fishing prevails in many if not most locations with productive catches all day long, particularly starting about mid-month.
Viewing spawning salmon is easy this time of year and most waters will find at least some degree of viewing available. Within the city of Anchorage, Ship Creek offers a look at staging silver salmon near the fish hatchery and a bit farther to the north, the area around the Eagle River Science Center is good for silvers later in the month as well. In the latter location, expect brown bears to be present. Campbell Creek silvers school near the multi-purpose trail off Piper Road at Tudor. Rabbit Creek at Potter Marsh is another silver salmon viewing area. Outside of town, Williwaw Creek in Portage still has reds and chums spawning up until mid-September along with a few silvers later in the month and through October.
As the salmon season has ended in the vast majority of waters in the Anchorage area, anglers will have to scout for places to go in order to find silvers. A few stragglers may still be picked up on the tides in Ship, Bird, and Glacier creeks and the lower sections of Campbell Creek the first week or two of the month but do not count on it as the spawning season has begun in earnest. Portage Creek may in some years have catchable numbers of bright fish through most of the month but largely hit and miss. Boaters exploring 20-Mile and Placer rivers sometimes do reasonably well in October for late-run silvers, particularly near the mouths of clearwater streams and sloughs. Do not be surprised to find the locations in the Portage area still holding a few nice reds.
This is the time of year when resident species in flowing waters begin seeking locations to overwinter, generally in lakes and ponds. Some decent action can still be had for rainbows and dollies in parts of upper Campbell Creek in Anchorage and some of the larger drainages of Turnagain Arm but for good, consistent fishing, hit the lakes for results. Stocked waters often yield excellent late-season angling opportunities for trout, char, and landlocked salmon right up until freeze-up (usually in mid- to late October).
If still interested in watching salmon migrating and spawning, upper Ship and Campbell creeks in Anchorage, Williwaw and Explorer creeks in Portage, and the area around the Eagle River Nature Center offer fair to good viewing through most of the month.
NOVEMBER — MARCH
These are winter months in the Anchorage & Turnagain Arm area and offer very limited open-water opportunities with the majority of angling relegated to ice fishing in lakes and ponds for resident species. An occasional semi-bright to light blush silver may be encountered in roadside waters around Portage through November, however, and if freezing conditions are delayed providing continued boat access to 20-mile River, anglers may be able to find a number of chrome fish available in November and even into December. But for all practical purposes, the salmon season has come to a close.
When area lakes and ponds support enough ice to provide safe access, expect to find superb opportunities for resident species. Rainbow trout and landlocked salmon are ferocious this time of year and stay energetic up until New Year when the bite usually begins to slow and does not pick up substantially until at least March. However, good fishing can still be had, particularly later in the afternoons. Arctic char, on the other hand, are relatively active all winter and can be caught successfully until spring. In fact, some of the largest char of the year are typically caught during the cold months.
Spawning salmon may still be seen through November and into December is some waters.