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Alaska’s capital is the best place to lose yourself in the beauty of your surroundings. Here, nature sets the stage for an angling experience like no other. Fishing in Juneau entices anglers of all levels, making their dream come true year after year, season after season.
Juneau is home to an intricate network of fjords that plunge over 1,000 feet, nestled among mountains and endless forests. You can cast a line into freshwater creeks and lakes, or venture out onto the open seas. Needless to say, the views here are unparalleled – and so are the fish species that call these waters home.
This article will guide you through everything you need to know to get ready for your Juneau fishing journey. We’ll discuss the most interesting catches, spots, techniques, and more. So without further ado, let’s dive in.
What can I catch while fishing in Juneau?
Few places come close to Alaska when it comes to the fish on offer. It’s so good in Juneau, that you may even be distracted from the incredible views! There’s the “Royal Flush of Juneau” in the form of Salmon, along with Trout, Halibut, and Rockfish. And there’s a myriad of other aquatic gems, too. Here are our favorite fish to target.
Salmon reign supreme in Juneau, eager to test your angling skills. There’s not one, not two, not even three or four, but five species available in the local waters! Chinook (King), (Silver) Coho, Sockeye (Red), Pink, and Chum Salmon all call Juneau home.
Kings are the largest, biting best from May to July. Anglers look for them pretty much throughout Juneau, with hotspots such as the Gastineau Channel, Auke Bay, and Outer Point all worthy of your attention. As soon as you’re done with targeting Chinook, you can switch your attention to Coho that bite in Montana Creek or Windfall Lake until September.
The summer months are also perfect to target the other three Salmon species. Explore the creek systems for Sockeye and Chum, or try your luck in Auke Bay or the “Breadline” for Pink Salmon.
Juneau’s deep waters are home to monster Halibut – Flatfish giants growing up to 400 pounds or more. These creatures lurk in the deep, so getting them out of there is a challenge even for the most seasoned angler. Locals usually hunt for Halibut from May to September.
As for the best Halibut playgrounds, consider heading to the deep waters of Stephens Passage and Chatham Strait. Alternatively, book a specialized Halibut charter with a local guide and let them take you to their own honey holes. Believe us, no one knows the area better than a local captain!
Any angler that has ever entered the Lingcod domain in Juneau knows how challenging it is to get these predators to bite. It won’t be easy, but you can get your hands on these fish anytime from late spring until mid-fall, somewhere around the period of May to November.
So, where can you go to look for Lingcod? Some of the best fishing grounds include the Breadline and Chatham Strait. The key to locating your target is to look for rocky underwater structures. The reward is worth it!
There are over 30 species of Rockfish that call these local waters home. However, not every Rockfish is up for grabs. Some species are highly regulated. You can pursue Yelloweye, Black, and Quillback Rockfish when the season allows. Typically, anglers target these species from May through September when also fishing for Halibut.
Gastineau Channel, Stephens Passage, and the Breadline are among the most common spots to find Rockfish. However, as we mentioned above, you can pretty much expect to come across one when fishing for Flatfish giants.
Juneaus’s pristine freshwater system holds good numbers of Trout, allowing anglers to explore the area’s creeks, rivers, and lakes. Cutthroat Trout are native to the local waters, with their peak season stretching from May to October.
Pack your gear and head to Montana Creek, Windfall Lake, and Gastineau Channel. Locals typically use both spin and fly fishing equipment to target Cutthroat Trout, experimenting with a variety of flies and lures.
The elusive Dolly Varden can sometimes be confused as another Trout species due to their similar appearance. However, these beautiful fish are actually a type of Char that locals enjoy hunting for.
The Dolly Varden season runs from June to September. Montana Creek is perhaps the most productive (and the busiest) spot to look for them, along with Auke Bay. Of course, you can encounter the fish in various other places throughout the area, if you know where to look.
When can I go fishing in Juneau?
Let’s take a look at the fishing seasons in more depth. The winter season in Juneau is mostly about ice fishing. There are various lakes in the area suitable for such adventures, such as Auke Lake and Twin Lake, as well as the Peterson, Windfall, and Mendenhall Lakes. In fact, you can carve out a spot on the ice and get your hands on Arctic Char right after the New Year!
As spring comes to Alaska’s capital, ice fishing opportunities dwindle. Instead, early-season saltwater fishing begins to heat up around Shelter Island and Auke Bay for Rockfish and Lingcod. Don’t expect a lot of catches in March, though – wait for April instead, when Steelhead begin their migration into the rivers and creeks.
May marks the arrival of King Salmon in Juneau’s saltwater, peaking in June. Early summer also sees the start of Sockeye Salmon runs and Halibut fishing near Auke Bay gets going, too. Coho Salmon arrive in July at the same time that Pink Salmon begin their freshwater runs.
As fall approaches, Silver Salmon make their way into freshwater, while Dolly Varden and Cutthroat Trout become more active. Steelhead return to the rivers for their run in October, and a lot of anglers divide their attention between these and other Trout.
How to Go Fishing in Juneau
So, you’ve picked your target and you know when to come. But what’s the best technique to land that dream catch? Well, that depends on several factors. For instance, you can employ two different methods while hunting for Salmon, depending on whether you’re fishing in the river or the sea.
In this section, we’ll talk about some of the most popular techniques to catch Juneau’s top fish species. However, it’s always a good idea to book a fishing charter and head out with a local guide. Why? A knowledgeable angler that’s been mastering the local waters for years can take you to the most productive spots, show you the ropes, and just simply make sure you have fun! But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what you’re getting into…
Nothing beats fly fishing when it comes to making the most of Juneau’s summer runs of Salmon and Trout. Landing a Cutthroat Trout or Steelhead on the fly is something any freshwater enthusiast should experience at least once in their lifetime. And yes, Salmon fishing can be just as fun with conventional tackle, but there’s something simply magical about fly fishing in Juneau.
A good set up typically consists of a 6–8 wt rod, suited for the powerful runs of both Cutthroat and Steelhead. Pair it with a high-quality, large-arbor reel to retrieve the line quick enough. Some locals use floating or sink-tip fly lines with 9–12″ leaders.
When it comes to flies, consider packing egg-sucking leeches, various nymph patterns, and woolly buggers. Some of the best spots to showcase your fly fishing skills in the area are the Mendenhall River, Sheep Creek, and Montana Creek.
As we mentioned earlier, saltwater Salmon in Juneau aren’t the most suitable target for fly fishing. Instead, you’ll most likely need to go for trolling or mooching, depending on your style. Some anglers use plug-cut steak or live herring, while others stick to jigs.
A medium to heavy-action rod with a line counter reel loaded with 20–30 lb test monofilament or braided line is a good combination. Of course, a lot of Salmon anglers use downriggers or planer boards while trolling, and attach flashers to their lines.
If mooching is more your style, opt for a casting or medium-action spinning rod and reel combo. Pair it with a 20–30 lb test line, and you’re all set. The only thing left is to go find that Salmon!
Lingcod, Halibut, and Rockfish
When targeting these bottom dwellers, it’s essential to prepare sizable jigs or bait. For Rockfish and Lingcod, it’s common to use a heavy-action rod matched with a strong enough conventional reel loaded with a 50–80 lb test braided line. Add large, colorful jigs or cut bait to the mix for better results.
To get Juneau’s Halibut out of the water, opt for an extra-heavy rod paired with a powerful conventional reel, spooled with 80–100 lb test braided line. These large fish are often attracted to circle hooks and large bait, such as salmon heads or octopus. While all three species can be taken with baits and jigs, Halibut react well when anglers chum the bottom of the seafloor.
Where can I go fishing in Juneau?
Ok, so you get that the fishing in Juneau is great. But when picking the best spot to wet a line in Alaska’s capital, you’ll need to make a few choices. First of all, you need to choose whether you want to try freshwater or saltwater fishing.
The mountains around Juneau are home to a myriad of creeks and lakes, which are perfect for a summertime Salmon run trip. Then, you have giant Halibut and monster Lingcod waiting for you in the open waters. And as if that wasn’t enough, you can mix it with ocean-going King Salmon.
There are about a million and one spots to explore from the Gastineau Channel to the depths of Chatham Strait. You’ll need to come back at least ten more times to fish half of them. Here’s a quick list of some of Juneau’s top fishing spots for you to consider:
- Auke Bay. The majority of local fishing charters dock here. The best part is, you don’t even need to leave the bay to fish. And the fishing menu is pretty impressive, too. From Salmon to Dolly Varden and Cutthroat Trout, they’re all here.
- Gastineau Channel. For a calm fishing experience, consider exploring the calm waters of the channel that runs between the mainland and Douglas Island. The scenery needs no introduction, and neither do the fishing opportunities.
- Outer Point. Outer Point is a good spot that extends from Douglas Island at the mouth of Petersons Creek. The saltwater section is home to big Kings and Rockfish, while the creek has a rick run of Salmon.
- The Breadline. If you head just a bit north from Juneau, you’ll be able to fish for King Salmon, Halibut, Rockfish, and many other exciting fish species at this world-famous spot.
- Stephens Passage. Pass the waters of the Outer Point and the head of Douglas Island, and you’ll be greeted with deep waters full of Halibut, King Salmon, Rockfish, and even the occasional Lingcod.
- Chatham Strait. The waters here are pretty deep, reaching well over 1,000 feet. Such depths can only mean one thing – large Halibut! However, it may take you a couple of hours to get there.
- Montana Creek. If we were to pick one creek, that would be this one. It has easy access to some of the best fly fishing playgrounds in the area, with all five Salmon species, Dolly Varden, Steelhead, and Cutthroat Trout biting well.
- Windfall Lake. While the lake isn’t the closest body of water to the city, it offers amazing angling opportunities. Anglers come here for a healthy dose of Trout and Salmon when the season allows.
Juneau Fishing Rules and Regulations
Before you start planning your Juneau fishing adventure, you should know about some practicalities. First of all, you’ll need to purchase your own license for both salt and freshwater fishing. In some cases, a fishing lodge might cover these for you, but most guides and charters don’t. Check out our handy guide on the options available to you.
As we mentioned, Rockfish are heavily regulated, too. But they’re not the only species. Pretty much every fish in Juneau is subject to strict bag and size limits. While heading out with an experience captain will make sure you’re fishing within the law, you can get familiar with what to expect with the Alaska DFG’s complete handbook.
Fishing in Juneau: The Capital of Wilderness
From the icy allure of winter fishing to summer battles with Salmon and Halibut, fishing in Juneau is a real angling paradise. That’s not to mention the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding nature. It’s Alaska, after all! Come here and get lost in the wilderness as you immerse yourself in fishing like nowhere else.
Have you ever been fishing in Juneau? What’s your most impressive catch? Let us know in the comments below!