Steelhead fishing in SE Alaska

When anglers think of Steelhead fishing in Alaska, most thoughts center around the Yakutat area of Southeast Alaska. There are an abundant amount of  Steelhead streams in the area that are easily accessible and produce Steelhead in quantity.

A lot of the streams in SE are catch and release for Steelhead, but in the Yakutat area, from Cape Suckling in the north, to Cape Fairweather in the south, you don’t have to release all your Steelhead. You can keep 1 daily, 2 in possession with 2 fish annual limit BUT there is a 36 inch minimum size limit to the one you catch and keep. It takes 4 to 5 years for Steelhead to get to that length and keeping only 36 inchers is a good way to keep the run strong.

The river system in the Yakutat area is not muddy bottom like some rivers are, but have a lot of rock and pebble bottoms to insure a good hiding place for the eggs. The male Steelhead are usually in the rivers in late fall and early winter so are there before the females start to arrive in early May and sometimes even April, depending on the rainfall and warmth of the spring. I think the temperature of the water triggers a lot of the action. Usually when the water is about 35 to 40 degrees the Steelhead will start to move.

Now when they come in from the ocean into the rivers, they have a welcoming committee waiting for their arrival. Hungry seals are more than happy with their return and once the fish get past them, hungry Otters wait for them a little further up the river. Once they dodge the seals waiting for them, then it’s the hungry fishermen/women, but they have to be really lucky to eat these fish as most of it is catch and release. It is still pretty darn hard to catch one over 36 inches that you can keep. You can figure a 1 year old returning Steelhead to be about 27″ long. Can’t keep him/her. In the 2nd year a Steelhead should be about 32 or 33 inches long as the first couple years they should grow 5 to 6 inches in length. The 3rd year they don’t stretch out as much, maybe only 3 to 4 inches a year, but now start to put on more weight and go from 10/12 pounds up to around 25 pounds, and that’s a nice fish, I don’t care who you talk to, that’s a nice fish.

Equipment doesn’t have to be anything special just because you are fishing for Steelhead. They might have a different appetite  for some flies than other fish but nothing special. I’ll list a few of the flies that I know work and I’m sure you have some of these already. Eggs are big catchers for Steelhead. Egg Sucking or Starlite Leech, in pink, purple or black, Comet and Deer Hair or Poly Wog, Bunny Fly or Hare Leech, Krystal Bugger again in pink, purple and orange. Trout beads and egg hooks. Zonker, Zudler or Kiwi Muddler in White or off white. Elk hair Caddis with a green or yellow body and a Royal Wulff. Don’t forget the Nymph flies especially with beaded heads. Any or all of these should produce results or even try out your favorite, but the colors I mentioned always seem to work good. I guess maybe when they are hungry they will attack most any fly.

I’m sure you will agree with me, once you go Steelhead fishing, you can not wait to get back to it. Every year can not roll around fast enough to wait for Steelhead season and the good fight and acrobatics they give us. So go get em and have a good time doing it. Remember, anytime is fishin time.

Any comments or questions you may have, just leave me a note below.

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2 thoughts on “Steelhead fishing in SE Alaska”

  1. Great article about Steelhead fishing in Alaska, I grew up on the shore of Lake Michigan and have been catching Steelies there my whole life.
    I have always wanted to get up to Alaska and try it out. What time of the year is the best time to plan a trip for? Here the Steelies run twice a year and that run last about 3 weeks. Once in the fall and again in the spring. Is it the same up in Alaska?
    Thanks for the read, looking forward to hearing back from you!

    1. Brendon, thanks for reading and the comment on my Steelhead  fishing in Alaska. The Yakutat area produce almost half of all the steelies caught in AK. The Situk (see-tuck) river has it’s peak runs in April and May and then the second run in Oct. It seems as if Southeast AK has the best Steelhead runs with the area around Ketchikan coming in second to Yakutat. It seems like the runs stop in July but the other months I mentioned are good for steelies. Hope this helps, if not, get back with me.


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