An Outdoor View: Fall fishing

Author’s note: This column first appeared in the Clarion 21 years ago, but what it says about fishing is as true today as it was then. — LP


Nothing against hunting, but the season for it is all wrong. It’s during the best time of the year to be fishing.

In August, silver salmon start their spawning runs up the Kenai, Anchor and Swanson rivers, all of which offer different scenery and a variety of fishing challenges and opportunities.

At the same time, some of the best saltwater fishing of the year occurs in Kachemak Bay, where trollers off Bluff Point never know what they might pull in — silver salmon, king salmon or halibut. On a good day, people come in with limits of all three. August and September are the best months for feeder kings, says Scott Ulmer, a Homer fishing addict who has caught them during every month of the year.

Don’t forget Resurrection Bay in August and September. While the weather may be somewhat iffier than in June and July, the fishing can be spectacular. On a nice day, even small boats can travel the short distance from Seward necessary to reach large schools of silvers. Catch one of these schools in a feeding frenzy, and you may never go back to hunting. Often, all it takes to catch a quick limit of six silvers is a spinning outfit and a No. 5 Vibrax spinner.

Don’t forget charterboat fishing. It doesn’t end when the tourists head south. In fact, fall is a good time to ask for special rates. It’s a time when charterboat owners have more time, when they can take you to places they don’t ordinarily go. A good captain can put you on halibut, lingcod, rockfish and silvers, all in a one-day trip. They can also combine hunting and fishing. Some boats have on-board eating and sleeping accommodations.

Kodiak Island offers great fall fishing for steelhead and silver salmon. In recent years, several lodges have been built in secluded bays, where both freshwater and saltwater fishing can be unbelievably good.

Fall fishing in peninsula lakes can be excellent. Just before freeze-up, fish in lakes feed voraciously. This is a good time to paddle a canoe around, trolling a spinner, dragging a fly or drifting a salmon egg. The fall colors are beautiful, and you’ll see lots of birds flying south. Often, you’ll find yourself the only one on a lake.

Fishing in any coastal Alaska stream picks up after the salmon have spawned and died. Rainbow trout and Dolly Varden char are fat, and still in a feeding mood. Flyfishers love this time of year. Some will fly to the Bristol Bay area and camp near a stream, braving foul weather and bears to experience some of the best trout fishing of the year.

Finally, when your friends have moose on their minds, anchor up at your favorite spot on the Kenai River and fish for silvers. You probably won’t be alone, but at least the hunters won’t be there.

Les Palmer can be reached at