King Salmon to Steelhead – When to go Fishing in Alaska?

If you come to Alaska from early June through early October, you will be treated to some sort of hard fighting fish. Here is a general guideline to help you choose dates. These months also coincide with the nicest weather of the season and extended periods of daylight. Arrive from early June to late July to catch big king salmon (Chinook). Red salmon (Sockeye) runs are happening from June to late July. From mid-July to mid-August its peak time for pink or chum salmon. Catch silver salmon (Coho) later in the season from late July into September. Trout are available throughout the summer/fall and Steelhead peak in late summer and fall. The below questions may help target you favored time for a fishing trip.

“I’m interested in swinging flies for big fish.”
Mid-June to late-July – The king salmon run peaks at this time, and provides a situation involving king/chinook salmon a few miles from the salt in water that sets up perfectly for swinging flies. It’s like steelhead fishing, only they’re bigger and there are more of them. Bonus: Rainbows are in the rivers feeding on salmon smolt that migrate back to the ocean and its super dry fly fishing for trout, dolly varden, and grayling.

“I want to catch a lot of salmon.”
Mid-July and August – By the fourth of July the sockeye salmon are abundant and the Silver (Coho) salmon run peaks throughout the month of August and consistently provides numbers of fish that will make your back hurt. You can literally catch as many fish as you want. Bonus: The rainbow trout are at their heaviest in August after gorging on salmon eggs.

“I want to catch salmon on topwater poppers.”
August to early September – Silver salmon chase and eat topwater patterns in soft water. This is arguably the most exciting style of fishing. There’s nothing like a big salmon smashing a surface popper out of pure aggression. Bonus: rainbows, dollies, and grayling are focused on salmon eggs so dead drifting artificial egg patterns is very effective.

“I want to throw mouse fly patterns for rainbow trout.”
Mid to late-July – Trout are fairly consistent through the months of late June to August. But fishing big flies that imitate rodents seems to be most effective in late July – when the weather, water levels and relative lack of salmon flesh in the river combine to make trout crazy for mice. Bonus: all five salmon species are in the rivers too!

“I want different species, different water types, and different fishing techniques.”
Late-July – Target king salmon, chum salmon, sockeye salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, rainbow trout, dolly varden and grayling, and whitefish in the right areas. Swing, strip and dead drift flies and eggs. If you want a salmon grand slam – all five salmon species in the same day, this is your time. This represents the best overall fish diversity with great weather and few bugs. Bonus: its on average the warmest month in Alaska.

“I want big chrome steelhead”
September to early October
– Steelhead are known as some of the most powerful fish found in freshwater. For those who love these fish, there is no excitement quite like the hookup of a beautiful sea-run wild rainbows. Bonus: Rainbow trout and a good chance at seeing the Northern Lights.


Contact me at Frontiers to learn more about our Alaska lodges and to inquire about a possible trip.