February 29, 2024

Hardcore Game Fishing

Game Fishing News

The Complete Guide To Ketchikan Fishing

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Nestled in the fiords of southeast Alaska, Ketchikan is the perfect destination for any sportfishing enthusiast. It has everything an angler needs – from the abundance of marine life to lush rainforests, mountains, and the surrounding wilderness. Fishing in Ketchikan is all about natural beauty and the thrill of the catch.

Wherever you go, there’s always a place that practically calls you to check what’s biting. Here, you have the clear, cold waters of the mighty Pacific Ocean along with nearby rivers and streams. Ketchikan is based in the heart of the “Inside Passage,” a rich network of waterways that runs along the coast of British Columbia and southeast Alaska. The passage is home to a diverse selection of fish species that make the local waters even more special.

In this guide, we’ll help you learn as much as possible about all the wonderful angling opportunities the area has to offer. We’ll talk about the top Ketchikan species and where to find them and we’ll discuss the seasonality and some of the local techniques. Let’s get started.

What can I catch while fishing for Ketchikan?

The Ketchikan fishing menu is so generous there are five species of Salmon alone. And that’s, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. These winding waters are home to plenty of hard-fighting and delicious fish that you can hunt in the secluded depths.

In this section, we’ll talk about some of the favorite species you can find at the end of your fishing line. Note that the list is far from exhaustive. This post would need a part two and even a part three to cover all the fish in Ketchikan!


This photo was taken by Alaska Affordable Adventures

A lot of anglers come to Ketchikan exclusively for Salmon. As we mentioned earlier, you can come across all five species of Pacific Salmon, including Chinook “King,” Coho “Silver,” Chum, Sockeye, and Pink Salmon. All of these are challenging and especially rewarding catches for recreational anglers.

Salmon are migratory fish, so you can find them in various waterways in the area at specific times of the year. Depending on when you’re fishing, you might be looking for Salmon in the ocean, rivers, or streams. In general, the fish hang out in colder, oxygen-rich water.

King Salmon are more active during the summer months, while Coho bite best in fall. Sockeye’s runs peak in the summer and fall, while Pink, the smallest of the gang, peaks in odd-numbered years. It’s always a good idea to consult a guide before you head out to look for a specific Salmon.


A group of happy male anglers each holding a freshly-caught Halibut while standing on a fishing boat, Ketchikan, Alaska
This photo was taken by The Alaska Catch

Ketchikan’s fishing pedestal is also shared by Halibut. These Flatfish species are famous for their delicate meat and impressive sizes. Halibut prefer the deeper waters of the open ocean off the coast, as well as the bays and inlets. Which, in turn, makes them a number one target on any bottom fishing trip.

However, bottom fishing isn’t the only method to land the fish in Ketchikan. Some anglers opt for trolling and can sometimes use downriggers, divers, and planers. Others prefer jigging, both from a boat or from the shore. The best method depends on various factors, which you can discuss with your guide.

Come May, both locals and visitors jump on their boats to look for Halibut. The season goes through September, peaking in July and August. In general, warmer water temperatures and longer days are the perfect time to fish for Halibut.


A male angler with a Rockfish in his hands sitting next to a young smiling angler, while on a boat, Ketchikan, Alaska
This photo was taken by Reel Alaska Fishing Charters

Alaska is home to over 30 species of Rockfish, and each has its own unique features. Out of the three dozen species, only about a third are pursued by sportfishermen. These include Black Rockfish and Yelloweye. Some anglers mistakenly refer to them as Black Seabass and Red Snapper, although neither Seabass nor Red Snapper can be found in Alaska.

Rockfish are a common catch in Ketchikan, especially in the shallow waters around rocky outcroppings. As bottom-dwellers, these fish are also popular targets on bottom fishing trips. Black Rockfish tend to live in schools, numbering in the hundreds. However, this doesn’t mean they’re an easy target: Rockfish are exceptionally strong fighters!

Depending on which Rockfish you’re after, the seasonality varies. Some species can be caught year-round, while others have more specific seasons. Overall, the best fishing tends to be during the warmer months.


Two anglers on a small boat posing with a trophy-sized Dolly Varden.
Two Alaskan anglers with a freshly caught Trout

Last but not least, Ketchikan is also home to a variety of Trout species. The local rivers and streams hold Dolly Varden, Brook Trout, and Cutthroat Trout. In addition to that, anglers can fish for Steelhead/Rainbow Trout. Steelhead are sea-run Rainbows that migrate between saltwater and freshwater. Just like other Trout, you can find them in the rivers and streams throughout Ketchikan.

When fishing for Trout, look for oxygen-rich waters. These fish bite best in the early morning and late evening, although it doesn’t mean that you won’t find any Trout during the afternoon. Depending on which species you’re after, you can try fly fishing, spinning, and bait casting.

In general, you can fish for Trout pretty much all year round. Rainbow Trout bite best from May through September. Dolly Varden and Cutthroat Trout are most active in the late spring and early summer, while Steelhead peak from September through November.

Where can I go fishing in Ketchikan?

An aerial view of Misty Fjords National Monument in Tongass National Park with clouds rolling into the valley on a fall day in Alaska near Ketchikan

Perhaps the best part about fishing in Ketchikan is that there’s really no bad place to wet a line. These secluded northern waters hold numerous fishing spots to choose from. Here’s a quick list of locations in and around Ketchikan you might want to explore:

  • Ketchikan Harbor: The harbor is located right in the heart of the city. Numerous local fishing charters launch from there in search of Salmon, Halibut, and Rockfish.
  • Clover Pass: This spot is located just outside of Ketchikan. Anglers come here for some Halibut and Rockfish, as well as strong runs of Salmon.
  • Pennock Island: If you’re looking to catch Halibut and Rockfish, head to Pennock Island, which is located in the Tongass Narrows. It boasts clear, cold waters and good angling opportunities.
  • Gravina Island: This island is located just across from the Tongass Narrows. Similar to Ketchikan Harbor, the Gravina is home to charter boats that offer guided trips for Halibut and Rockfish.
  • Kasaan Bay: The bay is based on the eastern side of Prince of Wales Island, just a short boat ride from Ketchikan. Anglers value this spot for its Trout fishing and lush rainforest.
  • Clarence Strait. If you’re fishing in Kassan Bay, consider paying a visit to Clarence Strait. Make sure the weather is calm, though, so you can get your hands on Halibut, Salmon, Rockfish, Crab, and Shrimp.
  • Klawock River: This river is located on the southern end of Prince of Wales Island. It’s home to good numbers of Salmon and Steelhead. In addition to that, you can also fish its small tributaries.
  • Carroll Inlet: This sheltered waterway is located 15 miles from town. Anglers use Carroll Inlet for “short-range” Salmon fishing.
  • Thorne Arm: If you take just a short hop past Carroll Inlet, you’ll arrive at a protected bay of Thorne Arm. The main angling attractions here are Halibut and Rockfish.
  • Boca de Quadra: Locals say that Boca de Quadra is about as good as it gets. It’s hidden away on the fringes of the Misty Fjords National Monument, offering all five species of Salmon plus Halibut, Rockfish, Crab, and Shrimp, as well as a good full-day adventure.
  • Stedman Creek: Stedman Creek is located just outside of Ketchikan. The creek itself, along with its small tributaries, offers good Salmon and Trout fishing.
  • Tongass National Forest: This maze of creeks and lakes allows you to fish for Salmon and Trout within walking distance of town. Note that it’s pretty easy to get lost out there, so make sure you head out with a guide.

When can I go fishing in Ketchikan?

Two male anglers posing with young anglers in front of a large haul of Salmon and Halibut on a boat in Ketchikan, Alaska
This photo was taken by The Alaska Catch

In short, fishing in Ketchikan is productive throughout the year. There are high levels of annual rainfall which supports the ecosystem and keeps the waterways clean. The best time to explore the waters is actually influenced by several factors, including your targeted species, the water conditions, and the spot you’re fishing.

Salmon, Halibut, and Trout fishing typically begins in May and goes through September. Obviously, each species has its own specific season. For example, different Salmon peak at different times over the summer. King Salmon arrive first, while Cohos turn up last. Rockfish tend to bite best in the summer and fall months.

However, there’s always something biting, no matter when you come. You can find Rockfish, Lingcod, and Halibut pretty much year-round, but the majority of fishing charters don’t start running until May. If you’re looking to book a trip with a local guide to have the most productive experience, consider coming to Ketchikan during the summer months.

How can I go fishing in Ketchikan?

A group of six anglers posing in front of a large haul of Salmon and Halibut on a boat in Ketchikan, Alaska
This photo was taken by Alaska King Charter

Most Ketchikan captains and guides have been perfecting their fishing techniques for generations. Their exact method usually depends on the species they’re targeting, although most charters normally focus on either Salmon, Halibut, or freshwater fish.

Salmon lurk in the depths, so anglers catch them by trolling with downriggers or fly fishing with big, bright flies. Mooching in the open ocean is also a popular method among locals, which involves naturally drifting bait over schools of fish. This technique requires a medium-to-heavy rod and reel, as well as a good understanding of current patterns.

Fly fishing also works for Trout fishing, especially if you’re after Dolly Varden and Rainbow Trout. Locals often use plunking when fishing for Steelhead, which includes casting a weighted bait or lure into a specific spot and allowing it to sink to the bottom. Similar to mooching, you’ll need a medium-to-heavy rod and reel combo.

If you’re after Halibut, consider packing fillets of Herring or Salmon heads or bellies as bait. Anchor up and drop some chum down and off you go. These Flatfish hunt by scent, so you’ll have more chances to lure one in with such a delicious choice of bait.

Fishing in Ketchikan FAQs

Do I need a license to go fishing in Ketchikan?
  • Every resident angler aged 18 or older, as well as non-residents aged 16+ need a valid Alaskan fishing license to cast a line anywhere in Ketchikan. Note that you may also need extra stamps depending on your targeted species.
Are there any fishing tournaments in Ketchikan?
  • Ketchikan isn’t known for sportfishing events and tournaments. However, you’re welcome to check out the neighboring towns and take part in other tournaments throughout the state.

Fishing in Ketchikan: Every Cast Is a Chance

The view of Icy Strait Point in Alaska on a sunny day

As you might’ve already gleaned, fishing in Ketchikan is world-class. A remote destination in the heart of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, Ketchikan is a truly amazing place. From rich Native American history and a thriving arts community to stunning natural beauty, there’s a myriad of reasons to visit. But don’t just take our word for it – see it yourself!

Have you ever been fishing in Ketchikan? What’s your favorite spot in the area? What about the top species? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Ketchikan Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Ketchikan Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/ketchikan-fishing/
Published Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2023 17:53:00 +0000

Share This