It’s winter. The fishing is slow, so now is a good time to research and plan your trips for warmer times ahead.
Having just gone through the process of selecting an Alaskan fishing trip for this summer, here are ten tips I wish someone had given me two months ago. Most could apply to any fishing trip.
- Be clear on your objectives. “Go fishing in Alaska” is not enough. What kind of fish are you after? Are you a fly-fishermen, a boat fisherman, catch-and-release or meat fisherman? When you go to a sports show (like I did) or start searching the internet, you’ll find a thousand choices. By first thinking about what you want, you can narrow the choices to a manageable number.
- Are you on the same page as your companions? For every person you add to the group, assume the complexity will double. You’re about catch-and-release trout; your buddy wants to pack home 100 pounds of halibut. You’re okay roughing it; he wants a comfortable lodge with a bar and white tablecloths. Problem.
- Guided or self-guided? I find it more fulfilling to fish without a guide. On the other hand, I’ve made the mistake of assuming that what works at home will also work elsewhere. You can waste a lot of precious time figuring out what will catch fish. Even on a self-guided fishing trip it’s often smart to spend at least the first day with a guide to learn the ropes.
- 4. Go at the right time of year. While this seems obvious, a glance at the “fish run charts” on most guides’ web sites will prove otherwise. There are a lot of different fish in Alaska, and they’re not all around at the same time. King salmon might be thick in June, but gone in August. By August the silver, pink, chum and sockeye salmon are everywhere. Pay close attention to matching goals with timing. Don’t sign up for a cheap trip without checking this! Cheap may be available because no one wants it. At a sports show I was once sold a deer hunting package to Kodiak Island for October, only to find that the deer stayed high and invisible in the brush until the November snows.
- Set a budget. Start by deciding how much you can spend. Look at all the costs of a fishing trip. Even a “package deal” will have extras – licenses, tips, bait, fuel. Is food included? It can all add up fast.
- Be honest about your “luxury level.” Are you really willing to sleep in a tent? Go without a hot shower? Walk three miles to that trout stream? Or does a nice comfortable lodge with hot meals sound more like you? Only you can say.
- 7. Consider transportation issues and costs. Getting there can cost a lot of money, so pay attention. Air fare. Float plane rates. Ferry fees. Rental cars. What about on-site transportation (boats, vehicles and ATV’s)? Keep in mind that the type of transportation may also impact how much gear you can take, and how much fish you can ship home. Don’t assume that everything will be included in a package cost.
- Check references. There’s no substitute for talking to someone who has been there – to learn valuable tips, and to confirm the honesty and accuracy of the provider.
- Don’t impulse buy at a sports show. Going to a sports show is like a kid in a candy store. It’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment and to bust out the credit card. Big mistake. If you are serious about buying at a sports show be prepared – do your research first.
- Don’t wait too long – plan well ahead. The best opportunities and deals go fast. A year isn’t too soon to begin. King salmon are generally hot in June and July in Alaska. July is a particularly popular month if you want to include fishing for reds (sockeye). Such peak periods sell out months in advance.
Out of state trips are a big investment of time and money. It’s worth asking yourself these questions and doing your homework. What better time to do that than during these cold winter months?