Alaska Fishing: Sitka Management Area (Marine Fishery)Southeast Alaska fishing; Sitka area

Tucked in the seaward edge of virgin spruce rainforest on Baranof Island lies the beautiful coastal town of Sitka, Alaska. Formerly the home of Alaska's Tlingit natives, the city was a stronghold against the Russian military led by Alexander Baranov, but was later conquered by the Russians when the Tlingit warriors ran out of gunpowder. Sitka was renamed New Archangel and was known as the capital of Russian America until the purchase of Alaska by the United States in 1867, 53 years after Baranof's victory over the Tlingit.

 Sitka, Alaska as seen from Sitka Sound

Today, Sitka is a mecca for sport fishermen seeking opportunities at salmon, steelhead, Pacific halibut, lingcod and rockfish of various species. The Sitka coast is unique in all of southeast Alaska in that large quantities of wild king salmon first make contact with the Pacific coast here, before turning south in the migration to natal streams throughout southeast, British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. More kings are landed in Sitka than in any other Alaska saltwater fishery. Anglers seeking large kings up to 60 or more pounds flock to Sitka to have first crack at these pelagic giants. 

Travel to and From Sitka

Sitka offers daily scheduled jet service, so getting there and back again is not an issue. On the other hand, the weather is sometimes harsh enough to close the airport for a day or two, so factor this in when you plan your trip. Sitka offers several options for getting your fish locally processed, flash-frozen and packaged for shipping home.

Sitka Weather

Sitka receives an average annual rainfall of around 87 inches, so bring your hat and raingear! Average precipitation during the summer months is around four inches, but August and September see easily twice that amount. The temperature during the summer months ranges from the low 50's to the low 60's, which is shorts and tee shirt weather for Alaskans. If you're visiting from a warmer climate, better toss a sweater or a light jacket into your gear though. If you forget something, not to worry. Sitka has plenty of places to purchase an additional insulating layer if one is called for.

Time Your Trip!

As is true anywhere salmon and steelhead are found, timing is the key to success. King (chinook) salmon may be caught year-round, but if you want to hit kings dead-center, you'll plan your trip during mid-May through mid-July. Toward the latter part of that period there will be some pinks and chums around, but the silvers don't come on strong until closer toward the fall; August and September are the best, and Sitka is home to one of the largest silver fisheries in the entire state. Sockeye peak in July, however they're krill feeders and harder to catch in saltwater.

Sitka, Alaska saltwater fishing run timing chart

The Sitka saltwater fishery is well-known for lingcod, and they are found in abundance year-round. Halibut and rockfish species are also available year-round, however the best time for those species is in the warm summer months; June through September.

What to Expect in the Sitka Marine Fishery

The marine environment around Baranof Island is teeming with a variety of sportfish species, in numbers that can boggle the mind. Some anglers are surprised to learn that Sitka lands more king salmon than any other port in Alaska. This is because a huge number of fish that spent their lives circulating around the North Pacific Gyre make for the coast right at Sitka. From there, this huge run of the world's largest salmon turn right and migrate along Alaska's coast to natal streams throughout southeast Alaska, British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Sitka is a king salmon angler's dream come true.

King Salmon

Kings can be caught by trolling or mooching, and are available even for shore-bound anglers at times. But your best bet if you are serious about catching Sitka's king salmon is to take advantage of the offshore fishery. Few things get the blood pumping like a fresh, fat 60 lb. king hooked in saltwater, where he has all the room in the world to run! These fish are powerful fighters, and will provide anglers with many delicious, nutritious meals.

Silver Salmon

The coho fishery is equally amazing, and few angling experiences can rival an encounter with a wolf pack of voracious silvers slashing through your troll gear. Bag limits are liberal and fish are abundant. Silvers are caught in a variety of ways, with trolling and mooching topping the list. In some cases, however, casting from shore with hardware or even bobber fishing with bait (eggs or herring) can be equally effective. If you're fishing from a boat and the weather outside is blown out, silvers can sometimes be found in sheltered inlets, coves and bays,  or on the lee side of islands. In those areas, casting hardware can be very effective for silvers.

Lingcod

Lingcod, susceptible to over-fishing, are carefully managed. The Sitka area produces some real giants, so come prepared to do battle. Though many lings are caught by anglers fishing for halibut or rockfish, some anglers prefer to target lings specifically, both because of their sporting aspects, and because they are considered by many to be superior table fare as well. Refer to our Lingcod Page for details on tackle and techniques for catching these incredible game fish.

Rockfish

Sitka's rockfishing opportunities are nearly endless, with numerous areas of excellent habitat; rocky bottom, kelp beds and other structure favorable to various species. Black rockfish are the most common, followed by non-pelagics such as quillback rockfish and yelloweye. Conservative anglers often avoid targeting yelloweye specifically, as these fish can be older than 70 years old, and they can be easily depleted by overfishing. Many yelloweye are caught in waters deeper than 300', making them a chore to retrieve. Barotrauma is almost inevitable when fishing for yelloweye, so if you do intend to release them, be sure to bring along a quick-release device to minimize the stress on the fish. Check our Rockfish Recompression Page for details.

Accessing the Sitka Saltwater Fishery

Like many towns in Southeast Alaska, there are a number of ways to enjoy the saltwater fishery. Here's an overview.

The Sitka Road System

The road system on Baranof Island is limited to one road heading north of town,and a road heading south. Neither is long; the Halibut Point Road extends roughly eight miles north to Starrigavan Bay, and the Sawmill Creek Road winds south mostly hugging the coastline just over 13 miles. Some shore-based fishing opportunities exist along both of these roads, however anglers must take care to avoid trespassing on private lands.

The primary land managers on Baranof Island are the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service (the South Baranof Wilderness occupies south end of the island and is not road-accessible), and some native organizations. 

Refer to our Sitka Road System Fishing page for extensive information on fishing Sitka's road system.

Kayak Fishing

For those who prefer to do it all themselves, Sitka offers kayak rentals, however they do require previous ocean kayaking experience, including the ability to self-rescue. Ocean kayak fishing is a great way to enjoy some solitude fishing around the numerous islands within five miles of the harbor. With the right setup, you can troll for kings and silvers, or jig for rockfish, lings and halibut. Most saltwater kayak fishermen prefer fully rigged sit-on-top boats and a dry suit, however finding such a rig for rent in Sitka is probably not going to happen. Seasoned ocean kayak fishermen will want to ship their own on the Alaska State Ferry system.

The Charter Fishery

Sitka has a charter fishing fleet that serves the area's very productive saltwater fishery and, unlike other locations along the Inside Passage, Sitka's location along the Pacific side of Baranof Island puts you in direct contact with the best offshore fishing on the island. Sitka is a destination unto itself, and though it's possible to stop in for a day's fishing the best way to really take in the offshore fishery is to plan on spending a few days there. Because Sitka is located within striking distance of the open Pacific Ocean, some days may be blown out and too rough to fish outside. Not to worry; the town is protected by many barrier islands that offer sheltered bays and coves that provide opportunities for lingcod, rockfish and halibut. There's hardly a wasted day when you're fishing the saltwater in Sitka.

Anglers planning on spending a few days enjoying Sitka's charter fishing may want to bring at least their own terminal tackle. Refer to our Charter Fishing Page for details on what to bring (and what to leave behind) on your charter trip. While you're at it, take a few minutes to review our Fish Species Pages for details on the species you expect to catch, to ensure that you have the right gear. Don't want to haul it all with you? No problem! Sitka boasts several tackle stores that can outfit you all the way down to the hooks and sinkers.

Cruise ship passengers should be aware that many of the charters offer special cruise ship rates and shorter trips that mesh perfectly with your cruise schedule. They will even process your fish for you!

Commercial Operators in the Sitka Management Area

Sitka boasts a number of charter fishing operations, some of which provide local lodging packages, along with fish processing and freezing. If you're on your own with your own boat, there are processors available on that basis as well. Sitka also offers tackle shops, kayak rentals and other services of interest to fishermen. Check our Directory for listings in the Sitka area.

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 Division
Sitka Office:
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
304 Lake Street, Room 103
Sitka, AK 99835
1 (907) 747-5355

The Sitka Angler's Gear Bag

You'll need to adjust your gear to match the species you're after, but this should give you a good lead on being prepared. Pack your gear in a tackle duffel and bring it along with you on the ferry. You can order most of the items on the list by clicking on the item name.

Boat-Based Fishing Gear

Rigging up for a saltwater trip can get complicated in a hurry, especially when there are several species involved. The best recommendation is to bring separate tackle boxes / satchels for each species. Be sure to bring along a five-gallon bucket and some fresh water, so you can drop your used tackle inside for a rinse, before putting it back with the rest of your gear. Otherwise you risk rusting your expensive hooks and lures.

King and Silver Salmon

Halibut, Rockfish and Lingcod

Herring

 

Sitka Road System Fishing | Sitka Remote Freshwater Fishing | Sitka Saltwater Fishing