Do I Need A Special Rod For Alaska?
Many people who are planning a fishing trip north to Alaska may wonder about this question; Do I need a special rod for Alaska? I don’t mean to be ambiguous with my response but the answer is maybe. The rod choices will revolve around what species you are coming to fish for. Keep in mind that the various salmon species are not all here at once so unless you are coming in May and staying until September you won't hit them all.
I'll put forth some info here and perhaps it will be of use or interest as you consider fishing in Alaska. Let's take a look at my experiences with different fish and the tackle I use successfully to catch them.
Grayling: (May - October) These fish generally run around 1 - 2 pounds so trout rods in weights 2 - 6 make a good match.
Arctic Char / Dolly Varden: ( May - October) Depending on the size of the watershed you fish these can range from an 8" fish to a 27 lb. monster. I have landed some large char on typical trout tackle. (7'9" 5wt) If you are headed to a large river with a good char population a 9' 7wt would give you a nice margin for success if you get into a big one. Char are sort of like big brown trout, they do not jump a lot but tend to sulk along the bottom but can produce a series of powerful runs before you bring them in.
Trout / Steelhead : (June - November) Here in Alaska trout means [rainbow] and since many rivers flow into the ocean within a short distance of where you may be fishing, rainbow means [steelhead]. If you fish interior waters where the fish are indigenous the trout may weigh up to or over ten pounds. However, the average rainbow may fall between 1 – 4 lbs. These fish will act pretty much like any wild rainbow trout, fast runs and cart wheeling aerial displays. For trout fishing large rivers your 9' 7wt or 8wt will be plenty of rod. If you have a long rod like a Spey or switch rod the 6 through 8 weight rods will handle most situations for trout here. [Note] South East AK. does offer Cutthroat Trout.
Salmon: I use my 9' 7wt rods for sockeye, pink, and silver salmon. For King salmon I bump up to a 9' 9wt and use a 25 lb tippet. A king here can weigh as much as 97 lbs. if it is your lucky day. Of course if they all weighed that much I would say bring a 12 wt and stock up on 80 lb spider wire, they don't and if you own a 9wt you can get by with one. [Note] If your destination and timing is centered on the King Salmon run and the Kenai River you may want to consider an 11wt rod. I say this because the Kenai consistently produces the largest kings in Alaska. On the Kenai 40lb salmon are common. You can handle them on your 9wt but if you were to hook into the next state record king, you would appreciate the extra muscle of the heaver rod. [Note] Chum salmon do occur in my area but not in great numbers. If I hit a chum run my 7wt will handle any chum I find.
These recommendations are based on my experience fishing here in AK. and are offered as a basis to open the conversation on tackle for Alaska, let's hear what you think. Next we’ll take a look at your reel.