The Sheefish is a species of fish sometimes found on the end of your line while fishing in Alaska. Called “Iconnu” by the native Alaskans, this large fish is a member of the Whitefish family.
Sheefish are a mostly freshwater fish found in the rivers of central Alaska’s Northwest and Yukon Management areas although they may occasionally be found in the marshy salt-water bays where the rivers dump into the ocean. The largest concentration of sheefish is found in the Kobuk and Selawik River drainages. The sheefish from these drainages are also much, much bigger than those found in Alaska’s interior drainages with fish there commonly caught in the 30 to 40+lb. range while sheefish in the Yukon and other drainages being around one half that size.
By description, sheefish are a silvery color with occasional blueish, greenish or purplish hue to them. They have extremely large scales. The scales on a large sheefish will be the size of a nickel in diameter. One of their defining characteristics is their large mouth which opens to the same diameter as their body. Sheefish are fish eaters and are said to eat anything that will fit in their mouths. They have extremely small teeth giving the inside of their mouth the feel of coarse sandpaper. They eat their prey by sucking it in.
As with other members of the whitefish family, sheefish have a very white flesh that gets even whiter with cooking. It is even preferred over halibut by some anglers in its texture and flavor. The native Alaskan populations have depended on the Iconnu to provide needed nourishment for their villages for hundreds of years. The sheefish starts running in the spring as soon as or even before the river ice breaks up, long before the salmon begin to make their way to upstream thus providing an early and welcomed protein source to the Eskimo villages. The sheefish will travel up to 1000 miles upstream to their head-water spawning grounds.
Sheefish prefer the bottom of the rivers and can be caught either through jigging on the bottom from a boat, or from casting a weighted line from the shore. When river fishing for sheefish, usually the deeper the hole, the better your luck will be for a big fish although occasionally one is caught near the surface on a fly. Sheefish are attracted to bright colors and to shiny things so take that into account with your lures. Because of the way that they suck their food in, they will generally be hooked very deep. Due to their large size, the sheefish provide an excellent fight.
Sheefish are also caught through the ice in winter or early spring by drilling a hole in the ice and jigging on the bottom.
The current bag limits are 10 fish of any size per day but be sure to check the current regulations before you go.
The Alaska Dept of Fish and Game has a fact sheet on sheefish that can be downloaded HERE. Why not go out and try something new next time you go fishing in Alaska?
I have written over and over about Alaska’s beauty and about her natural resources and about her bounteous fishing. Today I will mention another thing that could come as a surprise to some visitors. Alaska is sometimes called the “Land of the Midnight Sun.”
Due to Alaska’s far north location, the sun acts differently than it does for the rest of us in the US. Alaska is so far north that when the sun moves South during the winter time, it ceases to shine in Alaska for a few weeks. On the sun’s return trip north, it does the opposite. It shines all of the time. While the night time does darken some and the sun does disappear over the horizon, it never does completely get dark. As we all know, June 21 is the longest day of the year. So, for a few weeks on either side of this date, there is essentially no darkness.
This is just one more thing that could take the average newbie fisherman to Alaska by surprise but it could be a great advantage to the fisherman in Alaska on a limited time trip. It theoretically makes it possible to fish 24/7 for a few weeks during what is already some of the best fishing time of the year. 😀
I had heard the term but didn’t associate the meaning until I experienced it for the first time. When I spent my first night out in a boat in Alaska, I was pleasantly surprised that, while it got darker, it never got dark enough to hamper seeing my fishing lines or to interfere with driving the boat even at midnight and the wee hours of the morning.
To me, this is just another bonus that helps make Alaska the fishing capitol of the world.
Categories: Alaskan Tourism, Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Freshwater Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan attractions, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan cruises, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan salmon, Alaskan vacation, fishing, Jim Kell, nature, saltwater fishing, tourism
Fishing in Alaska has become a very popular destination for the modern day angler. The State of Alaska says that it has 500,000 fishermen and women visit their state every year in pursuit of Alaska’s prized river and ocean bounty. These fishermen come from all over the United States and even from all over the world. It doesn’t matter where they come from, the all have one thing on their mind… the excellent sport that comes from catching Alaska’s fish.
The majority come chasing after salmon and halibut but there are also many who have found a favorite in some of Alaska’s “lesser known ” species.
Alaska boasts record numbers of salmon caught. There are five major species of salmon found and caught in Alaska. They are:
- King or Chinook Salmon
- Silver or Coho Salmon
- Sockeye or Red Salmon
- Pink or Humpy Salmon
- Chum or Dog Salmon
These fish provide a great thrill for any angler. They also provide a great healthy meal for all who are able to fill their cooler or freezer with this tasty meat.
Alaska’s halibut fishing also is a great feat to have mastered. There is a great excitement in setting the hook on one of these monsters of the deep. It truly is a lot of work to bring one of these “barndoor” monsters up from 400 feet deep only to have it run out, overheat your reel, and make you start all over again. One must have great arm and back muscles to land one of these prizes. Imagine a fish that weighs as much as you do, hooked in his own back yard and fighting you on his own turf.
There are fewer people who know about some of the lesser known species but some of which are just as fun to catch and just as good to eat. Pollock is a major export from Alaska. It is fast becoming one of the most commonly used fish in many of the processed fish products but it also can be a great treat battered and fried in your favorite beer batter and served along with French fries or coleslaw. There are many fishermen who go to Alaska targeting the black rockfish and yellow-eyed rockfish that lurk in the depths of Alaska’s oceans. They, also, are real treat added to any menu. Lingcod are another species that are being caught quite often by anglers. In the past they were mostly caught on accident by fisherman after halibut but more and more, ocean anglers are targeting these tasty prizes. It seems that if you catch one, you can drop again in the same spot and catch several more. They fight pretty well and make a very tasty fillet in your cooler.
We have all seen the episodes of Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel and so we all know that Alaska is the place to go for crab but also due to the TV show, we may have the idea that we could never catch these crab ourselves. In fact, the TV show deals with commercial crabbing which has very different rules and needs than the average sportsman’s variety of crabbing. You and I aren’t trying to fill a ship with crab, we just want a few. Crabs are caught in crab pots, little cages with bait inside. The crab pot is dropped to the bottom with a rope and a buoy to mark its location. It is typically left overnight and then pulled to the surface by the fisherman the next day. The crabs are then extracted.
Similarly, shrimp and prawns are caught in a baited pot. I am amazed at the size of the shellfish that I have seen brought to the surface in these little pots. You have never eaten a better shrimp than these hand-sized little morsels cooked up fresh.
There are many species of the trout family including steelhead, Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, etc. that are also commonly fished from Alaska’s waters. All are great fighters and all make for good eating.
This is just a sampling of what Alaska has to offer. It is well worth making an excursion to give it a try.
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Freshwater Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan Crab, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, Alaskan salmon, Alaskan vacation, family fishing, fishing, halibut, Jim Kell, Lingcod, rock cod, salmon, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing, trout
I am an avid fisherman and hunter and have been for my whole life. For the most part, my fishing is confined to within a couple of hours of home. I am lucky enough to have lots of good fishing holes nearby. We have excellent fishing for trout,bass, perch, crappie, and bluegill, all with a couple of hours of home. We load up the kids and the boat and go 2-3 times a month through spring, summer and fall. In the winter we drag out the ice auger and punch holes in the ice.
A few years ago I had my first opportunity to try fishing in Alaska. It was the culmination of many years of wishing and hoping and dreaming of giving it a try. I spent 8 days there and loved every minute of it. We started at 5am everyday and quit at 11pm every night. After we caught our limits, we caught and released over and over and over. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to quit and go sit in the lodge.
At the end of the week, the 4 of us amassed over 450 lbs of frozen fillets to bring home. More than that, I got hooked. What I had thought would be a once in a lifetime trip turned into an addiction. The morning after I came home, I started planning and saving for the next trip.
I have had such great experiences that I think that everyone should try it at least once. I waited a long time to try because I didn’t know how to start. My goal with this website and blog is to give others the encouragement and the basics to go and give it a try.
Check back often. I will be adding info and tips as fast as I can find the time to do so.