The Arctic Grayling is actually a member of the same family as salmon and trout although it is a freshwater only fish meaning that it never migrates to the ocean as the rest of the salmon and some of the trout families do. Arctic Grayling populations are quite widespread throughout Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. They are also found in some of the headwaters of the Missouri River in south-western Montana.
The Arctic Grayling is identified by its grey to silver to greenish-blue coloring and its huge sail-like dorsal fin. The body and fins may have spots ranging from black or red to blue or purple. Their fins are tipped in bright, iridescent pink or orangish colors giving them a unique set of markings unlike any other fish. It has been said that the clearer the water where the grayling is found, the brighter the coloring will be. The Arctic Grayling in Alaska will reach up to 23 inches in length and may reach over 5 lbs. in weight although the majority of those caught range from 12 to 18 inches in length and are under 3 lbs. They have been known to live as long as 30+ years of age.
The Arctic Grayling prefers to live in mid-sized rivers and lakes but will return to the small creeks and streams in the spring to spawn, although not necessarily the same places where they were born. Almost all freshwater in Alaska will have grayling present except in the Aleutian Islands on the western end of Alaska and on Kodiak Island in south-central Alaska.
Grayling will eat other fish and aquatic life if necessary but by far their preferred diet is bugs and insects. This makes them a fly-fisherman’s dream. It has been said that they will investigate anything and everything that floats on the water’s surface. They are especially fond of mayflies, caddis flies, and stone flies. They will also eat salmon eggs found floating in the water and many grayling have been found with birds and mice in their stomachs.
Normally, grayling are fished with light tackle. They commonly are caught on flies but traditional spoons, spinners and bait are all successful as well. If using lures or bait, a cast and retrieve method will work better than letting the bait or lure sit and settle. They can be very picky at times, wanting only a certain type or color of fly and so it may pay off to try a variety of flies or lures until the “perfect” presentation is found. When you find a lure or bait that works, stick with it.
According to research done by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, the larger grayling are more commonly found at the headwaters of the drainage where the waters are cooler, the middle-sized fish that are in the late juvenile to the early adult stage will commonly be found in the middle stretches of the drainage or river, and the younger and smaller fish will more commonly be found in the lower parts of the river system where the warmer water temperatures will help them to grow faster. Of course, that being said, any size or age of grayling can be found anywhere that the grayling is present.
The season on Arctic Grayling generally runs year-around and they are quite often caught through the ice in winter. Bag limits vary from 2 to 10, depending on the area fished so be sure to check the latest regulations before heading out.
The ADF&G’s information page on the Arctic Grayling can be found HERE.
Categories: Fishing, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan salmon, Alaskan Steelhead, Arctic Grayling, bait, family fishing, fishing, fresh water fishing, grayling, Jim Kell, Salmon Fishing, trout
Alaska has a reputation for its salmon and halibut fishing but less well-known is the excellent trout and steelhead fishing that is to be found in Alaska. In fact, Alaska is a very popular destination for trout and steelhead fishermen who come from all over the world seeking the thrill of the fast-moving, hard-fighting trout and steelhead that are found in Alaska’s waters.
Rainbow and Steelhead trout are considered to be the same species. In fact it appears that the only difference between the two is where they choose to make their home. The rainbows choose to be home-bodies and laze around in the freshwater lakes and streams of their birth while the steelhead are the more adventuresome and choose to go out and see the world by traveling out to the ocean for a part of their lives.
There are a few physical characteristics that seem to be different between the two varieties of trout. The steelhead develop a slightly different coloration and pattern that seems to become stronger the longer that they spend in the saltwater. In fact, it appears to be a result of environment more than genetics. Some of their spots, bars and background coloring changes, perhaps to better camouflage them in their chosen oceanic environment. Steelhead will grow to be much larger than their rainbow counterparts almost entirely due to the better diet that they will find in the ocean.
The Alaskan steelhead is born in the clear freshwater streams and lakes. They will typically spend three years living and growing in those streams and lakes before traveling to the ocean. Once in the ocean they will live there another 2+ years before returning home to spawn. Steelhead aren’t like Alaska’s salmon that spawn and then die. Steelhead will spawn and then return to the ocean repeatedly, sometimes many, many times over the next few years of their lives.
Steelhead are grouped according to the time of year when they migrate back upstream to spawn. The groups are spring-run (March-June), summer-run (July), and fall-run (August-October). The majority of the steelhead are fall-run. Regardless of when they choose to return, they will all spawn the following spring.
Steelhead will live up to 10 or 11 years of age. They can grow up to 45 inches in length and 55 lbs in size. They are a prized catch for their fight and for the meat.
When fishing for steelhead fishing in rivers and streams, concentrate on deep holes surrounded by fast-moving currents as well as the swift whitewater areas. If using flies, steelhead prefer bright colorful flies. Also popular and effective are the spoons, spinners, and egg-like imitations.
Alaska, unlike other places, has a very sustainable steelhead fishery. Fish numbers seem to stay within normal patterns and cycles. As with other species in Alaska, regulations vary as to bag limits and size specifications. Be sure to check the current regulations for he particular region and water body that you plan to fish.
Current Alaskan fishing regulations can be found HERE.
For more information on Alaskan steelhead, check out this pdf from the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game.
One of the newest fads in Alaskan fishing is shrimp catching. If you have ever eaten fresh shrimp in Alaska, you will understand why that is. Alaska’s shrimp have gotten themselves quite a reputation among the locals and the visitors.
Alaska has four species of shrimp that are recognized by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. These four species are:
- Coonstripe Shrimp. Coonstripe shrimp are medium to large in size. They are the second largest of the shrimp found in Alaska, usually averaging 4 to 7 inches in length. They are identified by a dark striped pattern on their abdomen.
- Northern Shrimp. Northern shrimp are a medium sized shrimp, slightly smaller than the coonstripe. They are a solid pinkish color with no other markings. They are also known as pink shrimp or spiny shrimp due to extra spines not found on other varieties of shrimp. They are a different species than the pink shrimp found in the Atlantic Ocean.
- Sidestriped Shrimp. Sidestriped shrimp are slightly larger than the coonstriped shrimp. They are a pinkish-orange color. They have white stripes running the length of their bodies. They are slightly skinnier than the coonstripe variety. They have extremely long antennae on their heads.
- Spotted Shrimp. Spotted shrimp are by far the largest of the Alaskan shrimp, reaching up to 12 inches in length. They are identified by their dark red to tannish color and have a white spot at the beginning and at the end of their body section on each side.
Shrimp are caught in “shrimp pots”. A shrimp pot is basically a cage or trap. They come in various sizes and shapes. A rope is attached to the pot and the pot is filled with bait and then dropped out of the boat. It is weighted so that it will sink to the bottom. A buoy is left attached to the top of the rope so that the pot can be located later. After a few hours the pot is pulled up, hopefully full of tasty little shrimp.
The bait used can be anything from cat food to salmon carcasses to store-bought pelleted bait. Herring oil or other strong smelling fish oils can make your bait work better.
Shrimp pots are generally placed between 400 and 700 feet deep and near rocky outcrops. underwater pinnacles and rock-slides. The experts suggest that an extra 15% to 25 % of length be left on your rope to be sure that your pot doesn’t get lost with the tides and the currents.
Catching shrimp in Alaska requires an Alaskan fishing license and a shrimp permit. The regulations and limits vary widely from area to area with some places being closed entirely so be sure to check the current regulations from the ADF&G before you go. The season on shrimp runs from April 15 thru Sept 15.
As with fish and crabs, shrimp can be flash frozen and transported home but be sure that you try some fresh cooked shrimp right out of the water. You will be glad that you did.
As with crabs, Paralytic seafood poisoning could potentially be a problem with shrimp although it hasn’t been found so far. Shrimpers are encouraged to read the latest warnings about PSP from the ADF&G. That warning sheet can be found at PSP Warning.
Categories: Alaskan Tourism, Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan attractions, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan Crab, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, Alaskan salmon, Alaskan Shrimp, Alaskan travel, Alaskan vacation, bait, family fishing, fishing, Jim Kell, saltwater fishing
As far as I personally am concerned, crab is probably my favorite to eat of all of the sea creatures that are available in Alaska and as good as it tastes at home, it is even better freshly caught and cooked in Alaska.
Alaska is home to several varieties of crab. They are: Red King Crab, Blue King Crab, Golden King Crab, Tanners or Snow Crab, and Dungeness crab. All of these varieties are found in varying quantities and in varying locations within Alaska’s waters. Most commonly found through all of Alaska’s waters are the Dungeness crab.
Also varying are the regulations on crabs. Be sure to check the regulations for the exact waters that you will be on. Basically, crab can be caught and kept at any time if they are for personal use but there are regulations on size and sex that must be followed carefully. Other than following the rules, the only license or permit needed is a normal regular Alaskan fishing license.
Dungeness crab are distributed throughout the waters of southeast Alaska and can be harvested non-commercially year around. Only male Dungeness crab measuring 6.5 inches may be harvested. Anyone with a valid Alaska sport-fishing license can harvest Dungeness crab. However, you should always check the fishing regulations when planning your vacation, as regulations and harvest limits may change.
Crab are caught by dropping a crab pot to the ocean floor. A crab pot is a large trap. They are normally about 3 ½ feet in diameter and 1 ½ feet tall. They are built from a metal frame and then covered with a steel mesh. They have a container in the center to hold the bait (usually fish carcasses or remains). There is an opening where the crabs can enter but not exit.
When the pots are dropped in the ocean, a rope is left attached to the pot and then is attached to a large floating buoy. This buoy will mark the spot of the trap and then the pot can be retrieved by pulling in the rope. Crab pots are left to “soak” for 1 – 2 days before pulling them in to check them and to remove the catch and re-bait.
After the catch, be sure that you eat some of the crab fresh. You will miss a real treat if you don’t. After you eat a few fresh, the rest of them can be cleaned and flash frozen for you to transport back home with you in your fish boxes.
One caution that is given by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game and by public health officials is that paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) has been found in the internal organs of Dungeness crab. This is a toxin that is carried by the crabs inside of their organs. There is no problem as long as the organs are not eaten. Legs, claws, and body meat is OK.
The following links to crabs from the ADF&G will provide more information on catching crabs in Alaska. Look in the section called INVERTEBRATES. There is a section for each species of crab found in Alaska.
Consider giving crabbing a try on your next Fishing Trip To Alaska.
Categories: Alaskan Tourism, Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan Crab, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, Alaskan salmon, Alaskan vacation, family fishing, fishing, Jim Kell, rock cod, salmon, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing, trout
The vast majority of the fish caught in Alaska, or in the world for that matter, are caught by commercial fishermen. These are the guys who are out there catching and then selling fish to make their living. They catch their fish in many different ways. One of these methods of fishing is called trawling in which giant nets are drug along the ocean floor are essentially scooping up everything in their path. When the nets are brought in and the fish are brought onto the boat they then must be sorted. The boat is only allowed to keep the species it was targeting, normally pollock and cod. All halibut caught must be thrown back into the ocean even though many of these fish are already dead or won’t survive when they are thrown back. These extra fish are called bycatch.
By law these fish cannot be kept because they are out of season and over limit to the boats that catch them. Once a certain number of pounds of halibut have been caught, the season ends for the trawlers. This number has been 50 million lbs. since 1989 and is a cumulative total for all trawlers fishing in Alaskan waters.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council oversees the bycatch and set the numbers. This number was recently cut for the first time in over 20 years.
Pacific halibut numbers have been declining for the last several years. Limits to sportfishermen and to commercial fishermen who target halibut have been reduced, in some cases by over 50%, over the past few years. In many parts of Alaska we as sportfishermen who fish with a guide can only catch one halibut where just a few years ago we could catch two. During this same time the commercial fishermen who target halibut have had their limits reduced by up to 68%.
The trawlers have not had a bycatch reduction since 1989. This new reduction will cut 15% off of the 50 million lbs. limit. If my math is correct that amounts to a 7.5 million lbs. decrease in halibut taken as bycatch. This 7.5 million lbs. is far more halibut than the total caught by ALL sportfishermen in Alaska each year.
With the new quota in place, once the trawlers reach 42.5 million lbs. their fishing season will end. This new quota will phase in gradually over the next four years.
I believe that to maintain and even to improve the quality of halibut fishing, as we must do for future generations, we must all do our part. I feel the pain of the men and women who make a living from the fish that they catch. I know that earning a living can be a difficult endeavor and that we need all of the breaks that we can get.
I also know that we must all work together and do our part in preserving and helping good old Mother Nature to save her own.
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan halibut, eco-responsibility, fishing, fishing policy, halibut, Jim Kell, saltwater fishing
Today’s post comes from some information that just recently passed across my desk. It has to do with an undesirable species of fish that is currently running rampant in Alaskan waters. The species of which I speak is the northern pike. Pike are top-level predators in aquatic food chains and are highly piscivorous (fish eating).
Northern pike are a native species in a big part of Alaska but they never existed in South Central and South Eastern Alaska until they were illegally introduced into these waters around 50 years ago. They have adapted very well and by 2010, they have been found in almost 100 different lakes and in over 30 different rivers and streams. They are decimating the native trout and salmon populations in these areas.
In the parts of Alaska that historically had the native northern pike, there are many species of fish and these species are more adapted to living with and being preyed on by the northern pike while in the new areas, trout and salmon are the main species found and they are being wiped out by the pike. The Alaska Fish and Game website goes so far as to say that the pike have totally wiped out the trout and salmon in some of these waters.
In 2010, Alaska declared war on these out of area pike by removing bag limits on them, adding new catch methods including spearing and bowfishing, and by creating public awareness about them. They have created brochures such as the one linked below and even have created a 34 minute video outlining catch methods and locations where pike may be found in abundance in South Central Alaska. They sell this video for $10 at Fish and Game offices in Anchorage, Palmer, Soldotna, and Homer.
Currently there are few options for getting rid of pike once they have invaded an area. The methods available are public fishing and netting. Netting is not an extremely effective method of control because the areas that pike prefer are the shallow weedy type areas that are hard to net. These two methods combined help to keep the numbers of pike low enough that the trout and salmon have a chance to compete.
The only other methods of control are to completely drain a lake which is almost never a possibility, or to use a chemical called rotenone which kills ALL fish in the water treated with it. This also is not a preferable option although it is used at times as a last resort.
All transport of live fish from one area to another has been outlawed in Alaska, including the use and possession of live minnows in all fresh water fishing. Herring and other non-sport fish may still be used as bait in salt-water fishing in the same water in which it was caught.
Use the links below for more information on these topics.
Over the past few years my interest in and fascination with Alaskan fishing has grown. I find that my attention is constantly caught by items in the news and on the internet that pertain not only to Alaskan fishing but also to Alaska in general.
I am interested in gold mining in Alaska. The glaciers interest and fascinate me. Whenever oil or petroleum in Alaska is mentioned, I always listen more closely to the news. My attention is also grasped by many of the scenic and nature related attractions of Alaska, some of which I have personally seen and many of which I have not yet experienced but someday hope to be able to see, experience and participate in.
I have experienced just a little bit of the beauty, grandeur, and of the vast natural resources (aka fish) 😉 that are to be found in Alaska and these things have touched me on a deeply personal level. While I will probably never leave my established home and life in the lower 48 to move and settle in Alaska, I have come to idolize what Alaska has to offer both to me and to other people. These are just a small part of the reasons for my website and blog. I love the parts of Alaska that I have experienced and have a great desire to help others to develop these same experiences and love for something so beautiful and bounteous and wild.
I should also state, for the record, that I am NOT an activist for any particular cause. Specifically, I am not against drilling for oil in Alaska or elsewhere. I am not against digging out the gold or other minerals that are found in Alaska or anywhere else. I am not against using any of the natural resources that our planet has. Etc., etc., etc. I believe that they were given to us to be used by us for our advantage and to provide the things that we need to survive and even to thrive during our time here on this Earth.
With that all said, I DO believe that we have a responsibility to do ALL that we can to protect and preserve these resources so that we don’t extinguish them and their ability to perpetuate themselves. We DO have the responsibility to pass these things on to our kids in as good or a better state than we received them. When we do things that could have a permanent undesirable effect on our environment, we have the responsibility to put safeguards and protections in place that will ensure the survivability and sustainability of our resources for the future.
I have been watching in the news lately as reports have started to come in about the arrival of debris from the Earthquake and tsunami that happened in Japan in March of 2011. All of this “stuff” that was washed away during that terrible natural disaster has been adrift in the ocean for many months. Now, the ocean currents have carried it North and East to the Alaskan coastline, where it is starting to wash up on the beaches of this pristine wilderness. According to a recent article in The Bristol Bay Times (www.thebristolbaytimes.com/article/1220arriving_on_the_tide_tsunami_debris_sightings), this debris includes everything from soccer balls and plastic water bottles, to glass ball decorations and even a 125 foot long derelict fishing boat.
The Alaskan coastline and the Inside Passage of Alaska contain thousands of miles of beaches and coastline, some of which never sees a human being for years at a time, if ever. The very thing that makes Alaska beautiful is now an obstacle in managing this disaster.
I well remember the cleanness and beauty of the oceans and rivers of Alaska. One could stand there and well believe that mankind had never set foot in that place. One could catch a fish and well believe that this particular fish had never been targeted by human hands before.
I can’t help wonder how this debris will affect the fish, wildlife, birds, and plants that call Alaska home. How long will it take for all of this plastic and man-made material to break down to its elemental beginnings? What will happen when the birds and fish and animals eat this stuff? Will it cause them harm? What about the possible effects of radioactivity on and among some of this floating garbage? What other poisonous compounds are in the bottles, cans, and barrels bobbing their way towards Alaska? The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/japan-tsunami-debris_n_1540581.html) quotes experts who speak of mass casualties already among the shorebirds who eat the washed up garbage.
What about the people who live there? How will their lives and livelihoods be affected by all of this. Most of them depend on the environment for life, whether it be for food, shelter, and sustenance, as in the case of the many native Alaskans who still live primitively, or whether it be the newcomers who work as fishermen, miners, or who make a living showing this wonderful place to the rest of us when we come visiting? How will these people cope with an estimated 1.6 million tons of garbage still believed to be heading their way?
I understand that this problem comes from an unforeseen natural event. I understand and sympathize with those who suffered and died in this catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. I just can’t help but wonder what we, as a human race, can do to ensure that beauty remains on the Earth for our grand-kids to see and experience. What can each of us do in our little sphere to do our part in saving this heritage for the future generations?
Categories: Alaskan Tourism, Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan attractions, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan travel, eco-responsibility, ecology, family fishing, fishing policy, green, Jim Kell, nature, saltwater fishing, tsunami
Alaska is home to several species of trout. We tend to call them all trout, but they really consist of several other classifications and families. They are quite similar in appearance and thus we improperly call them all trout.
Most of these species are found and fished in Alaska’s thousand of lakes, rivers, and streams but there are some species that spend some time in the saltwater of the ocean. The Steelhead trout and the Dolly Varden and Artic Char are some of these.
The regulations and bag limits vary greatly from area to area and from one species to another. It is IMPERATIVE that you know what you are catching and be proficient in identifying them. The bag limits vary from two fish to ten fish and several species have both minimum and maximum size limits as well.
It would be useless for me to quote bag limits and regulations here as they are constantly changing from year to year but I have included an link to the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game’s Trout ID chart below for your convenience. The current bag limits are always available on the Alaska Fish and Game website. That link can be found on my LINKS page.
Many of Alaska’s Rock Fish are bottom dwellers. The scientific name for them is non-pelagic rock fish. They may also be called Demersal Shelf Rockfish. They make their home on the bottom of the ocean. They like to hang out near the reefs and other rocky structures that protrude from the ocean floor.
There may be as many as 15 to 30 species of these fish that make their home in the waters of Alaska. Some of them can live to be 80 to 100 years old. They grow and mature slowly and reach reproductive maturity late. They produce lots of young but the young have an extremely high mortality (death) rate. Few of them survive to reach adulthood and reproduce. Because of these reasons, rock fish are a species that could easily be over fished. Regulations have reduced the bag limits on these bottom dwellers to reflect these concerns.
Another concern and threat to these fish comes from the fishermen themselves. Most non-pelagic rock fish are caught by accident while targeting halibut. When the fisherman gets the fish to the surface, he releases it. Herein lies the problem. These non-pelagic rock fish have an air bladder that can’t vent itself. When they are brought up from the deep, this bladder is often pushed out through the fish’s’ mouth. Upon release, they no longer are able to make themselves dive back to the bottom. If they are left at the surface, they will soon die.
Many studies have been done and the results show that most will survive if they can be returned to the bottom. The pressure equalizes for them, allowing them to once again control themselves. These studies have shown that a simple homemade device can greatly improve their chances of survival. This device should be kept on hand at the ready before fishing begins so that no time is lost when it is needed.
This device is built from a large fish-hook. The barb is removed so that the fish can be released easier when it reaches the bottom. A lead weight is attached to the eye of the hook. The weight should be 3 lbs. or more. A fishing line is then attached to the curve of the hook. This makes the hook hang in an upside down position. The hook is hooked through the bottom jaw of the fish and the fish with the apparatus attached is placed in the water. The weight will carry the fish to the bottom. The line can be jigged until the hook comes loose from the fish’s jaw. The upside down hook and sinker are then retrieved back to the surface.
This device when properly used can save many fish that would have been lost.
The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game has an article on this device along with pictures if you would like further information. This article can be found here.
When ocean fishing in Alaska, there are a couple of terms that you will hear that you may not understand. These terms are pelagic and non-pelagic. The non-pelagic may also be called Demersal Shelf Rockfish. These terms are used when discussing Alaska’s many species of rock fish.
What you need to know is that pelagic means in the water column above the bottom while non-pelagic means on the bottom.
Alaska has several species of rock fish. Some are pelagic fish that are found at varying depths while others are non-pelagic bottom dwellers. The regulations call for different bag limits for the two categories of fish. This requires that the angler be informed and able to know and identify which species of fish he or she is catching.
Non-pelagic fish are a matter of concern to biologists as their population numbers are smaller and they take longer to reproduce. They can live to extremely old ages, sometimes longer than the human life span.
When a non-pelagic fish is reeled to the surface, the pressure change can be deadly to the fish. It is common to see these fish with their stomach or swim bladder protruding out of their mouth when they are hauled into the boat. There are special methods that must be followed to release these fish back into the ocean. Look for another blog post on that topic soon.
While both species are legal to catch and both make great eating, we are encouraged to target the pelagic species. They reproduce at younger ages and their population numbers are higher. If we are careful not to over fish the bottom dwellers, they will be around for a long time to come.
The Alaska Dept of Fish and Game has a chart that will help you to identify which species of fish you are catching. I have included a copy of the pdf file below for your convenience.