Alaska Salmon Fishing E-mail
Written by Allen Bushnell   
Saturday, 23 June 2012 00:04

Alaska. When discussing salmon fishing that single word is often enough to say it all. Sport anglers travel from around the world to test their equipment and skills in Alaska's saltwater and river systems. The commercial and sport fisheries remain robust and while there's never a guarantee while fishing, going for salmon in Alaska is about as close to a sure thing as we can get, especially in the kayak. With hundreds of bays, fjords and islands, the state provides innumerable protected areas that can teem with any of five salmon species.


Chris Mautino AK Salmon

Angler: Capt. Christopher Mautino
Location: Seward, AK
Events: I'm putting together a couple of kayak mothership trips focusing in some very productive water in Alaska. Dates are TBD.

On the Kenai peninsula our spring Kings can be caught as early as April and the Silvers historically arrive sometime mid-July. We are fortunate to have all five species of salmon in our local waters in addition to great fishing for halibut, rockfish, pacific cod, black cod and even a few salmon sharks for those that want to test their skills.

The Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary for South Central Regions alone is 64 pages for 2012. Regs are crazy up here and you better have a copy in your back pocket if you want to stay legal. On Resurrection Bay where the Liquid Adventures Kayak shop is located we are allowed 2 Kings per day and 2 in possession from May 1 to August 31; and 6 salmon per day with 6 in possession for all other Salmon including Coho. That is, unless you happen to be fishing south of the line from Aialik Cape to Cape Resurrection, in which case you need to adhere to the North Gulf coast exception: 3 fish per day and 3 in possession. However, you better not have any lingcod in your boat if you are south of the line because lingcod fishing is illegal in those waters. Have fun with that ...

When I am in Alaska during the summer months we typically target Chinook and Coho. Although most salmon fishing in Alaska takes place in the river system, all of our salmon fishing via kayaks takes place in the salt when these fish are dime bright and super spunky.

Most of the fishing we do is done close to shore and around small islands in 20-200 feet of water. We are usually fishing deep in the fjords so there little or no surf, no swell and plenty of daylight. The water is cold and full of nutrients that attract super-sized salmon. For the Kings (Chinook) and Coho (Silvers), we typically use two techniques- trolling and/or mooching with hoochies or cut plug herring. The hardware for trolling or mooching consists of a banana weight. I like 2-3 ounces. Weight color probably isn't important, but I use yellow. For trolling include a small flasher and then a two-three foot leader tied in-line above the hooks. There are two hooks, size 3/0 or 4/0 snelled about 3 inches apart but adjustable based on the size of the bait.

I prefer to mooch because I have a bad wing and pulling around trolling gear all day makes me grumpy. Lately, I have had very good luck vertically jigging for Salmon when I find them suspended mid water column. I use a Mega Bait style metal spoon on the bottom and then tie on a soft plastic bait 18" inches above the jig. The Gulp Crazy Legs Jerk Shad is deadly. I use a Palomar knot to tie the hook for the plastic with the hook pointed upward (drop shot style). More often than not, I hook two fish on the rig, one on each hook. It's a killer technique and you save the hassle and mess of using bait.

I always try to catch fresh herring when I find it on the meter. I use Sabiki rigs and Chum up the bait with cat food. AHI USA makes the coolest Sabiki Sticks around and will keep those ultra sharp bait catching hooks contained and eliminate frustrating tangles.

If you are using store bought herring from the freezer, I suggest looking through the box for baits without any burn. I also brine all of my herring prior to fishing. The brine preserves the brightness of the scales and firms up the meat so it doesn't tear. Before brining, I remove the head so the inside cavity toughens up. The head is sliced off at a compound angle to improve the action.

I'm sure there are hundreds of ways to rig herring but I really believe the simpler the better. So, I'm very basic in my rigging techniques, as I believe the quicker my herring is back in the water, the more fish I catch. One detail that I think is paramount for success is the roll of your lure. In nature, wounded herring roll in a tight spiral, almost like a drill bit. To obtain a perfect roll with my herring, I bend the bait and then insert a toothpick along the backbone after I have inserted the hooks.

I prefer my Salmon RAW! (served sashimi style), but if you prefer to grill I will share my go-to marinade:

1/3 cup fresh Orange Juice
1/3 cup Soy Sauce (low sodium)
3 tbsp. Olive oil
3 tbsp. Catsup
1 tbsp. Honey
1 tbsp fresh Ginger
2 cloves Garlic
4 Salmon Steaks

Put all ingredients in glass dish, cover and marinate 1 hour. Grill 5 minutes, turn and cook another 3 minutes. Watch it carefully and Don't Overcook!!!


Howard McKim Salmon Angler:    Howard McKim
Location: Ketchikan AK
Events:    Eco-paddling tours, local and long-range wilderness fishing tours

Snagging. The word alone puts most anglers on edge, with many considering it an improper way to fish. I used to be one of those people. Then I tried it. After my first attempt at snagging King salmon from a kayak, I declared it "the toughest fishing I've ever done". 

I can only speak for my own region, but our snagging is in open salt water to depths of over a hundred feet. Hatchery born Kings that spent their life at sea return in abundance each year, and after enough fish have returned to sustain hatchery operations, the area offshore is opened for locals to gather fish for winter. In this specific case, snagging the big Kings is not only legal, but encouraged for sustenance fishing.

The fish milling off the mouth of the creek in Herring Cove south of Ketchikan are darkening and single-minded. They do not have eating, only spawning, on their minds. Traditional fishing methods of trolling and mooching don't work very well since the kings are not feeding at this point, and only an occasional reaction bite can be expected.

Open water snagging is the perfect blend of hunting and fishing. No longer asking the fish to bite, the kayak angler heads out with his only weapon, a weighted treble hook and seeks to connect it to one of thousands of salmon roaming the area. As schools of huge fish boil the surface, speedy paddling and precise casting skills are critical.

Casting just beyond the school, the weighted treble hook is pulled through the school with a hard and fast sweeping motion of the rod, followed by intense reeling to take up the slack, and repeat until all line is in. When your hard pull is met with equal resistance, your adventure is just beginning. Hooked this way, King salmon jump repeatedly and make long runs for the bottom just the same. Catching fish this way is extremely difficult, a bit like throwing darts in the dark. But ,when you hook a 40 pound sea run King salmon in the tail, you're in for a serious sleigh ride.

Equipment for such a venture is simple. A rod in the ten foot range, with a flexible tip but strong backbone is ideal. The best reel is the one you can cast the most accurately with, preferably with a fast retrieve. Braided line in the 30-pound range should pull in any fish out there. Have two setups ready to go because the last thing you want to be doing is tying knots when the mayhem begins.

Snagging King salmon in southeast Alaska will leave you exhausted and covered in more fish mess than you ever imagined, yet with a twisted smile showing that you have somehow just tapped into the more primitive interaction of man and fish. In an age of endless fishing gadgets and technologies, there is something very pleasing about heading to sea with just your weighted treble hook and your abilities. Many Alaska natives consider snagging to be a minimalist, low cost way to utilize an abundant resource. So if you're up for the craziest, dirtiest, most challenging fishing around, give snagging a try.



You must be registered to post a comment.



Subscribe here to receive FREE email issues of Kayak Fishing Magazine.

Most Popular

Choosing a Fishing Kayak
Like many kayak fisherman, my first fishig kayak was a mistake and I only used it a few times.  There wasn’t a lot of information available.  Things have...
Effective Trolling With Your Kayak
  While trolling is a mainstay of saltwater fishermen and also popular for targeting suspended fish in deepwater lakes of the northern US and Canada, it’s not the way most...
Electric Kayaks – an in Depth Look
Bassyaks, Torqeedo and Torque I have been living with electric kayaks (EK) since July of 2009. I have done so in order to get a much better understanding of their potential,...


Kayak Fishing For Peacock Bass
After a few months of another “old time” winter in Wisconsin and not having fished open water for over three months I was getting a severe case of cabin fever. The first week...
New England Stripers
  If you look at a map of the Massachusetts coastline, you’ll see it’s perfect for hunting feisty stripers, with over 1500 miles of tidal shoreline. Gregg Crisp has...
California Kayak Stripers
Striped bass are not indigenous to the West Coast. They are such an adaptable species that fish brought to California in 1879 quickly established a foothold in the San Francisco...

Latest Kayak Reviews

Native Watercraft Mariner 12.5 Propel Anglers
Hobie Mirage Outback
Pelican Castaway 100
Stealth Pro Fisha 575
Field and Stream Eagle Talon
Feelfree Moken 12.5
Pelican Castaway 100
Ascend FS10
Sun Dolphin Excursion 10
Santa Cruz Kayaks Raptor SOT
Old Town Predator 13
RTM Kayaks Tempo Angler

Latest Equipment Reviews

Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max
Body Glove 3T Barefoot Warrior
Body Glove 3T Barefoot Warrior
Columbia Drainmaker
Sperry SON-R Sounder Shandal
Garmin VIRB Elite
Polaroid XS100
Backwater Paddles Assault Hand Paddle
Backwater Paddles Assault Hand Paddle
Stohlquist Piseas
Wheeleez Tuff Tire Kayak Cart
Boga Grip