Nestled among a maze of bays and islands, Ketchikan is a popular stop for coastal cruises and nature lovers looking to explore Alaska’s wilderness. These winding waters are also a favorite haunt of Salmon and Halibut
fishers from around the world. Ketchikan fishing charters can get you on an awesome range of game fish. There are five species of Salmon alone, and plenty of other hard-fighting fish lurking in the cold, secluded depths.
King (Chinook) Salmon
is the most important species in Ketchikan, but you can also catch Silver (Coho), Sockeye, Chum, and Pink Salmon. If you time your visit right, you even stand a chance of bagging them all in one trip. Throw in some record Halibut, a ton of tasty Lingcod and Rockfish, and some awesome freshwater fisheries to top if all off, and you get some of the most productive fishing in the entire state! Ketchikan fishing really is outstanding, but you need someone who knows what they’re doing to get the most out of the area.
There really is no bad place to fish in these secluded northern waters. The best Ketchikan fishing charters will always have their hidden honey holes, but here are a few of our top spots, just to give you a feel for the place.
This sheltered waterway is just 15 miles from town and is a popular spot for “short range” fishing trips. The area is excellent for Salmon fishing, with all five species present in high season.
Just a short hop past Carroll Inlet, Thorne Arm is a protected bay where big fish can be caught in any weather. The Salmon bite may not be as good, but the Halibut and Rockfish more than make up for it.
The waters near Prince of Wales Island are more exposed and can get pretty rough in bad weather. The area’s huge bait stock makes it more than worth the visit on a calm day, though, with Halibut, Salmon, Rockfish, Crab, and Shrimp all present here.
Boca de Quadra
Hidden away on the fringes of the Misty Fjords National Monument, this is about as good as you can get. The area’s staggering beauty is easily matched by its unbelievable fishing, with all five Salmon species plus monster Halibut, tasty Rockfish, and plenty of Crab and Shrimp.
Tongass National Forest
You don’t need to travel far to enjoy exciting Ketchikan fishing excursions. This maze of lakes and creeks offers amazing Salmon, Trout, and Dolly Varden fishing within walking distance of town. Make sure you take a guide, though, you don’t want to get lost out here!
Of course, it’s no good coming all this way just to find the fish you’re after are out of town. You can catch species like King Salmon, Halibut, Lingcod, and Rockfish almost year-round in Alaska, but most charters don’t start running until May. The Ketchikan fishing season runs through the summer, usually ending at the start of October.
Ketchikan Halibut fishing is best from June until August, and Rockfish are also at their best this time of year. Different Salmon peak at different times over the summer. Chinook Salmon arrive first and Cohos turn up last. If you want a chance at landing them all, July is the best month to try. The rivers are at their best in the fall when the spawning runs are in full swing.
Most Ketchikan fishing charters will focus on either Salmon, Halibut, or freshwater fish. These are the top local gamefish and guides have been perfecting their techniques for generations.
Salmon can be caught by trolling or fly fishing. Big, bright flies attract these wide-eyed hunters, while live Herring is best for trolling. Salmon usually lurk in the depths, so you’ll need downriggers to get to them. Otherwise, you can try the Alaskan sensation which is mooching. Drift plug cut herring baits over schools of fish and wait for the rod to start twitching. You may not cover as much ground as you would trolling, but you’ll get just as many fish!
If you’re after Halibut, your best bet is to anchor up and drop some chum down as you do so. Halibut hunt largely by scent, so fillets of Herring or Salmon belly make the best baits. To bring in monster Halibut, many charter captains use whole Salmon heads as bait. You won’t get as many bites this way, but when you do, the fish are huge!
The rivers and streams around town will give you some of the best fly fishing Ketchikan has to offer. Cutthroat Trout can be caught around here in big numbers, as can Dolly Varden, Salmon, and more. Most guides head out on foot to get you to the best spots, with a range of rods and a whole box of brightly-colored flies to tackle this mixed bag of gamefish.
Need to Know
You need a fishing license for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, which are not normally included on local fishing charters. Chinook Salmon require an extra stamp which is well worth buying even if they’re not your focus. This is one of the best Salmon fisheries in the country, and it would be a shame to throw back a 50 pound King just because you didn’t buy a stamp.
A word of caution for solo adventurers: The waters around Ketchikan are highly tidal, and can be dangerous if you don’t plan accordingly. Our advice is to always fish with someone who knows the area to avoid getting trapped by rising tides.