Alaska Fishing: Anchorage Local Fishing
Anchorage is the hub of the entire state of Alaska. With over half the population of the entire state, and a diverse mix of ethnic groups, it is often referred to as "the largest native village in the state". Because of it's status as the major population center, road-accessible fishing opportunities are abundant and quite good. Expect company on most popular areas, but even with the number of people here, it's still possible to get away from the crowds and enjoy some solitude.
How This Section is Organized
Because the Anchorage Management Area offers diverse freshwater fishing opportunities, and because it serves as a base camp or "jump-off point" for fly-out or road-based freshwater and saltwater angling opportunities elsewhere, we’re breaking it down for you. This page focuses exclusively on freshwater fishing available directly in the Anchorage Management Area. Other pages in this section discuss how to access the numerous road-based and fly-out angling opportunities available if you base your trip in Anchorage.
For information pertaining to specific species, including recommended gear and techniques to catch them, refer to our species pages, our fishing methods pages, and our fishing gear pages.
About Fishing the Anchorage Bowl
Fishing in Anchorage is truly a taste of both the urban and the wild, all mixed up together in a way that could only be possible in a wild land like Alaska. You'll find all five species of Pacific salmon here, along with freshwater species such as rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, grayling, lake trout and more. All of the popular fishing areas are in places you can drive to, and many of these places offer amenities such as barbecue / picnic areas, restroom facilities, wheelchair access, clean water, and even camping. At the same time, you can find moose, black bears and grizzly bears along the shores, or perusing the banks of the streams much as a shopper cruises the aisles of a supermarket in search of tonight's dinner. It's tame and it's wild at the same time!
This page discusses two fisheries. The first is the city of Anchorage itself, with it's lakes and streams, and the second is the military base just north of us, right across Ship Creek. JBER, for "Joint Base Elmendorf / Ft. Richardson, is a combined Air Force / Army base. The base lands contain many lakes and a handful of streams of interest to anglers. This page includes two maps. The first map shows the fishing locations in Anchorage, and the second shows the fishing locations on JBER, and in the surrounding areas near Eagle River and Chugiak, north of Anchorage.
Caution: The mud along the shores of Cook Inlet is comprised of very fine glacial silt. Walking along the outlet streams that drain directly into the Inlet is extremely treacherous, and a number of people have become trapped in the mud and, unable to free themselves, drowned when the tide came in. Cook Inlet tides are some of the highest in the world, and water moves in and out very quickly. Do not walk on the tide flats!
Anchorage Fishing: What to Expect
Anchorage offers some excellent freshwater angling opportunities. Because the city sits on the shores of Cook Inlet, anglers unfamiliar with the area are sometimes surprised to learn that saltwater fishing opportunities are nonexistent in the area. This is due to a number of factors. First, Cook Inlet splits into the Turnagain Arm and the Knik Arm at Anchorage (Anchorage sits on a wedge-shaped peninsula that projects into the inlet). Both arms of the Inlet contain a lot of freshwater content from river systems draining into each arm, making the water undesirable for most marine species. The Inlet also carries a heavy load of glacial silt, which is many feet thick and is stirred up into the water column with every tide change. The water in the upper inlet is therefore completely opaque, and fish do not come here to feed. The Inlet does see runs of all five species of Pacific salmon, but these species are targeted only in the clearer freshwater streams when they return to spawn.
A NOTE ON STOCKED FISH: Many of the stocked lakes in the Anchorage bowl and on base are sterile (unable to reproduce). This is done in an effort to avoid disrupting natural balances in our lakes and rivers over time. Sterile rainbow trout are referred to as "triploid" trout. King and coho salmon are also stocked in a number of lakes, and are referred to as "landlocked" because of their inability to migrate to the ocean.
Available freshwater species include rainbow trout, grayling, burbot, blackfish, Dolly Varden, landlocked king and silver salmon, and limited northern pike opportunities. All five species of Pacific salmon are available, but there are no steelhead.
INVASIVE SPECIES NOTE: The Anchorage Management Area is host to several invasive species, including northern pike (esox lucius) and blackfish (dallia pectoralis). These fish occur naturally elsewhere in Alaska, but have been introduced into the Anchorage area either unintentionally, or by intentional "bucket biologists"; individuals who, for whatever reason, have transplanted these fish into our waters. Both species prey upon salmon fry and smolts, along with rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. The Alaska Fishing Regulations expressly forbid individuals from releasing non-native fish into any body of water.
Notes on Ice Fishing
Ice fishing is a very popular winter activity in Anchorage, and the area lakes provide excellent opportunities. Note that motorized vehicles such as snowmachines, ATVs and highway vehicles are not allowed on Anchorage lakes during the winter months. Gas-powered ice augers are allowed. Check with the Municipality of Anchorage for specific regulations and additional details.
Anchorage Run Timing Chart
Fishing Anchorage's Road System
The primary means of accessing this fishery is via highway vehicle, and many of the locations mapped below offer other amenities such as rest rooms, fresh drinking water and picnic facilities. Some campgrounds are available, and parking permits are required in some areas. Most lakes do not allow the use of outboard motors, though electric trolling motors may be allowed. Most lakes do not have boat ramps, so generally your best option for fishing lakes in the Anchorage area is to use an inflatable boat, a canoe, or small car-topper that can be carried to the water. Many of the lakes are ideal for float-tube access, but not all of them allow shoreline access all the way around the shoreline, due to private property or vegetation.
Popular Lakes and Streams in Anchorage, Alaska
Key to Amenities
Wheelchair / ADA Access
There are two primary highways exiting Anchorage; the Parks Highway extends north of town and the Seward Highway makes its way southward along the Turnagain Arm to Portage and on to the Kenai Peninsula.
NESTING LOONS: Many of the lakes in the Anchorage bowl and on JBER contain pairs of nesting loons. Loons are very protective of nesting sites, and anglers should back off if loons are encountered and displaying aggressive or defensive behaviors.
The Anchorage Bowl
The city of Anchorage offers a number of lakes and rivers of interest to anglers. Some of these areas are in neighborhoods and others are bordered by greenbelts or by parkland, where access may require a short walk from your vehicle.
1. Ship Creek. Species: King salmon, silver salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon (below the dam), rainbow trout, Arctic Char (upper reaches). Chums and pinks are caught occasionally, but the big attraction is the king salmon run and the silvers. An annual king salmon derby is held on Ship Creek, as a benefit for the Downtown Soup Kitchen. Derby winners in past years topped the 40# mark. The derby takes place during the month of June, with prizes going to largest fish, tagged fish and daily prizes. Salmon fishing takes place below the dam in the lower river, while most rainbow and char fishing occurs above the dam. The area above the dam is closed to salmon fishing. Parking is available in several lots in the lower river, however fees apply. Portions of the land in the lower river belong to the Alaska Railroad, and trespass is illegal. Remain on designated pathways or along the river. Finally, lower Ship Creek is tidally-influenced, and the river is bordered by thick glacial mud that can trap anglers. Avoid fishing alone and if you become trapped in the mud, seek assistance immediately, as the tide can rise suddenly, as much as 30 feet in a tide cycle. Ship Creek is the most popular fishery in the Anchorage bowl.
2. Chester Creek. Species: Silver salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, Dolly Varden, rainbow trout. Note that salmon fishing is prohibited in Chester Creek, to protect spawners.
3. Lake Otis. Species: Dolly Varden, rainbow trout.
4. Goose Lake. Species: This lake has not been stocked, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is considering it for future stocking. There are a few anecdotal reports of northern pike being caught here, so if stocking were to take place, the likely first step would be to rotenone the lake first.
5. Cheney Lake. Species: King salmon (landlocked), rainbow trout (stocked).
6. Waldron Pond. Species: This lake has not been stocked, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is considering it for future stocking.
7. University Lake. Species: Silver salmon, rainbow trout (stocked lake).
8. Campbell Point Lake (Beer Can Lake). Species: King salmon (landlocked), Arctic char, rainbow trout (stocked lake).
9. DeLong Lake. Species: King salmon (landlocked) Arctic char, rainbow trout (stocked lake).
10. Sand Lake. Species: King salmon (landlocked), Arctic char, grayling, rainbow trout. Note: Sand Lake had invasive northern pike in it, and the lake was killed off with rotenone in 2009. It has been subsequently restocked with several species.
11. Jewel Lake. Species: King salmon (landlocked), Dolly Varden, rainbow trout.
12. Campbell Lake. Campbell Lake is bordered entirely by private land. Land holders in the area were approached some time ago regarding public access. They were opposed to public access, so the lake has not been stocked, and fishing is prohibited. It is likely that the lake contains rainbow trout and Dolly Varden.
13. Campbell Creek. Species: King salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden, rainbow trout.
14. Taku Lake. Species: King salmon (landlocked), rainbow trout (stocked lake).
JBER: Joint Base Elmendorf - Fort Richardson
Anchorage hosts two military bases: Elmendorf Air Force Base, and Fort Richardson, a U.S. Army base. Collectively, these bases are referred to as "JBER" (Joint Base Elmenforf / Richardson). The two bases allow recreational access to military personnel and civilians, however anyone interested in fishing the lakes and rivers on the bases must register and pay an access fee. Registration procedures have changed in recent years, so allow yourself enough time to go through the process well in advance. Registration is handled exclusively online through their "iSportsman" system (in the past you could register at the gate, but that is no longer the case). Keep in mind that some areas may open or close on short notice, depending on the needs of the base. Visit their site for details. Here is a map of most of the popular fishing areas on JBER and in the surrounding area north of town.
Popular Lakes and Streams in the JBER Area
1. Beach Lake. Species: King salmon (landlocked), grayling, rainbow trout (stocked lake).
2. Edmonds Lake. Species: Rainbow trout.
3. Upper Fire Lake. Species: Rainbow trout, northern pike. Access: The majority of the lakeshore is private land. Park at Hatchery Road and walk the power lines to the lake. Bring a small canoe or raft to access the fishing areas.
4. Lower Fire Lake. Species: Rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, grayling, northern pike. Access: The majority of the lake is bordered by private property. This lake is most effectively fished from a small boat.
5. Clunie Lake. Species: King salmon, coho salmon (both salmon species are landlocked), Arctic char, lake trout, rainbow trout. Clunie Lake is the largest lake on Fort Richardson, and is a very popular recreation area.
6. Waldon Lake. Species: Rainbow trout. Waldon Lake receives much less fishing pressure than nearby Clunie Lake. Access: Because the lake is bordered by vegetation most of the way around the shoreline, the best access is via canoe or inflatable raft.
7. Thompson Lake. Species: Rainbow trout.
8. Eagle River. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, chum salmon, sockeye salmon, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, grayling. Eagle River is glacial in origin and carries a heavy load of glacial silt for its entire length. Concentrate your efforts at clearwater tributaries. Bait is more effective than lures, but check the regulations governing the use of bait on the river. Spinners and spoons are most effective, flies are not as effective as they are on clear streams.
9. Gwen Lake. Species: Rainbow trout, rumors of northern pike. The lake is only about six feet deep, which means that during the winter, oxygen levels fall to levels low enough to kill most of the fish. On the other hand, the resulting biomass provides nutrients for scuds, an amphipod similar to a freshwater shrimp. This forms an excellent forage base for rainbow trout that are stocked the following spring and summer. Fish in Gwen Lake grow quickly due to the abundant food supply. Fly fishermen should bring along a few scud patterns in size 12 and 14 for best results. The best colors are pale pink and pale green.
10. Otter Lake. This lake historically contained natural runs of pink, chum, and sockeye salmon, before becoming infested with northern pike. The lake is slated for rotenone treatment in the fall of 2015, and may be re-stocked with triploid rainbow trout. Boat rentals and cabin rentals are available on Otter Lake. Otter Lake is one of the most popular lakes on base.
11. Sixmile Creek. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, chum salmon, sockeye salmon, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden. Fishing is restricted to the outflow into the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet. A cable across the river is the marker; fishing is prohibited upstream of the cable.
12. Sixmile Lake. Species: King salmon (landlocked), rainbow trout.
13. Spring Lake. Species: King salmon (landlocked), rainbow trout.
14. Green Lake. Species: Silver salmon (landlocked), rainbow trout.
15. Hillberg Lake. Species: King salmon (landlocked), rainbow trout.
16. Fish Lake. Species: Rainbow trout.
17. Triangle Lake. Species: Rainbow trout.
18. Ship Creek. Species: King salmon, silver salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon (below the dam), rainbow trout, Arctic Char (upper reaches). The area above the dam is closed to salmon fishing. The upper river can offer some good rainbow trout and Dolly Varden fishing both early in the season and after the salmon are spawning.
19. Dishno Pond. Species: Rainbow trout.
Alaska is bear country! Anglers must be aware of the possibility of encountering bears along any salmon stream. and some people are surprised to discover that brown bears are relatively common even in the heart of Anchorage. This is particularly true along any of the four salmon streams in Anchorage. The upper reaches of Ship Creek, and extending west of Reeve Blvd. can contain occasional bears, especially in brushy areas above the Ship Creek Dam. Chester Creek and Campbell Creek flow through the heart of Anchorage, and each is bordered for much of its length by a brushy greenbelt that provides cover for bears looking for salmon in mid to late summer. Rabbit Creek may also harbor bears, but this stream is choked with brush and not as commonly fished. Take the following precautions:
- Make plenty of noise while hiking or fishing.
- Don’t give bears a reason to associate people with food! Keep food and your catch in a backpack on your back.
- Protect yourself! Bring a pepper spray to use as a deterrent. The discharge of firearms within city limits is prohibited, though you are allowed to carry a firearm with you. Alaska's firearms laws are very liberal, though there are some places in town where you are prohibited from carrying a gun. Check the local regulations or contact the Anchorage Police Department for clarification. If you choose to use a firearm as a primary bear defense weapon in town, first consider the risks of discharging a weapon in circumstances where brush and vegetation may obscure the area near or behind the charging bear, creating a risk of injury to others in the area.
Elsewhere in this Section
We've broken the Anchorage Management Area into smaller pieces, so you can focus on your particular area of interest. Here's an overview:
This section deals with some of the basic information you need to know about this area; a brief history of the area, the layout of the area, safety concerns (including dealing with the local wildlife), and available services.
Fishing The Anchorage Bowl (this page)
This page deals with fishing opportunities in Anchorage itself, and JBER, the military base just north of town.
There are a lot of places to fish on the road system north and south of Anchorage. This page lists them in detail, along with available species and amenities.
The Seward Highway South to Ingram Creek
Beginning at Potter Marsh, a popular wildlife viewing area on the south end of Anchorage, the Seward Highway extends southward along the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, to Portage and on to the Kenai Peninsula. The highway forms a narrow border between the steep, rugged Chugach Mountains and the treacherous tidal flats of the Turnagain Arm. There are several good fishing areas in this zone, which are covered in our "Anchorage: Just out of Town" page.
The Parks Highway North to Eklutna
The George Parks Highway begins at the north end of Anchorage, and extends northward 350 miles to Fairbanks. But the Anchorage Management Area extends only to the Ekutna River, which is covered in our "Anchorage: Just out of Town" page. Check it out!
Lots of people base their fishing adventures out of Anchorage, either driving or flying out to adventures in other parts of South-Central Alaska or beyond. This page will get you started!
Classic Alaska Charters offers excellent overnight custom cruises aboard the “Saltery C”, their fully-outfitted 40’ live-aboard Bayliner Explorer Motoryacht. Each trip is an adventure customized to your requirements. Meals prepared by the onboard chef are unequalled in the business, and include healthy entrees such as fresh Alaska seafood and delicious desserts. Activities include fishing (freshwater and saltwater), kayaking, wildlife viewing, photography, crabbing & shrimping, hiking and just relaxing along the spectacular waterways of Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island and Misty Fjords National Monument.
Need More Information?
Check out our other Anchorage Management Area fishing pages!
If you’re looking for other areas to fish in Southcentral Alaska, check out our pages for the following areas:
If you’re interested in hunting opportunities in Southcentral Alaska, check out our hunting pages at the following links:
Rules and Regulations
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is responsible for maintaining the sport fisheries across the state of Alaska. Their website provides a wealth of information about our sport fisheries as well as the regulations you need to know. Additionally, the Department issues Emergency Orders throughout the season, that have a direct bearing on last-minute changes in bag limits, openings and closings of seasons and much more. Fishermen are responsible for knowing the regulations, including these Emergency Orders. You can find all of that information and more at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s website, or at the regional office in the area where you are fishing.ADF&G Sportfisheries DivisionAnchorage Office:
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
333 Raspberry Road
Anchorage, AK 99518
1 (907) 267-2186