A father and daughter with a silver salmon caught on her first Alaska fishing trip. // © 2017 Christopher Batin
Feature image (above): Silver salmon fishing is a popular pastime in Alaska. // © 2017 Getty Images
Although Alaska offers many attractions, one of its most underrated is silver salmon (or coho salmon) fishing. Whether agents are booking a trip for an angling veteran or a client who has never fished before, silver salmon sportfishing is the activity to choose for those looking for both fun and adventure.
I’ve written several books on Alaska sportfishing, and angling for silver salmon always earns high marks. They are the most aggressive of all the salmon species — a trait that makes them easy to catch — and they are superbly delicious and plentiful in coastal Alaska waters.
Here’s a sampling of operators offering silver salmon fishing trips sure to lure clients.
Many full-service lodges offer either freshwater or saltwater silver salmon fishing; a few offer both.
Dennis Morain of Baton Rouge, La., planned a first-time Alaska fishing trip for his wife, Nealy, to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary and her retirement from public service. After her second day of catching silver salmon at Orca Adventure Lodge in Cordova — which offers both freshwater and saltwater fishing — she gladly joked that it had hooked her.
“I could see at least 100 of these big, torpedo-like fish darting back and forth below us,” she said, recalling the day’s events. “One of those fish would hit, get off and, wouldn’t you know it, another one would steal it away from him. We caught our limit in no time. Seeing the whales, waterfalls and sea otters was far beyond what I ever imagined it could be.”
Farther down the coast, Dierick’s Tsiu River Lodge in Yakutat offers one of the best fly-fishing experiences for silver salmon. The average angler catch-and-release rate is from 50 to 75 fish per day. Clients can expect wave after wave of silver salmon; they’ll see and feel fish brushing against their waders as the salmon swim upstream. The lodge itself offers traditional fare such as prime steaks and roast turkey with all the trimmings, but it also specializes in Gulf of Alaska shrimp and crab, halibut and, of course, salmon cooked to order. Guests can enjoy it all in a dining room with a panoramic backdrop of the ocean and snowcapped mountains.
Waterfall Resort Alaska is a high-end lodge near Ketchikan that offers boat-only fishing for some of the region’s best silver salmon. It has a professional fleet of boats, fine dining and private cabins. Its fish prep — which includes the filleting, vacuum sealing and packing up to 50 pounds of salmon per box for airline travel — is hailed by long-time repeat anglers as the best in the industry.
Mark Young of Valdez-based Alaska Marine Guides offers day charters for silver salmon packaged with a choice of accommodations in town. One of his most popular silver salmon charters takes a side trip to explore Columbia Glacier, one of the world’s fastest-moving glaciers.
“Weather permitting, we take the boat to Middleton Island and fish remote, wilderness shorelines,” he said. “We catch not only salmon, but also rockfish and lingcod, and make it more than a fishing trip, with whale, seal, sea lion and a lot of bird sightings.”
Big Sky Charter and Fishcamp near Sterling offers superb silver salmon charters, with cabin accommodations located a stone’s throw from the Kenai River — one of the big salmon rivers in the region. When the day’s charter on the river is complete, anglers can still hook salmon from shore.
Bigger Fish to Fry
For clients who are elderly, have mobility problems, need access to hotel facilities or simply prefer fishing from a boat, pursuing saltwater silver salmon is one of the best options. Anglers can “jig” or “mooch” for fish, while “downrigger trolling” allows travelers to wait comfortably inside the cabin until a fish hits.
Silver salmon is a fish for barbecues and holidays, so anglers usually ship a lot home. Advise clients to ship their catch as part of their luggage allowance. To help them save money, compare the extra airline baggage costs to shipping the items home via FedEx or other baggage services. Also, hotels such as The Voyager Inn in Anchorage offer freezer facilities to hold large fish boxes if additional touring is planned.