Fishing Glacier Bay AlaskaFishing Glacier Bay Alaska

Glacier Bay is best known for tidewater glaciers, wildlife watching, and impressive scenery, but sport fishing in the Bay can be an amazing experience. Visitors from all over the world enjoy fishing for sport fish in Glacier Bay's rich waters.

Glacier Bay offers a wide variety of fish species for anglers to pursue in both salt and freshwater. In saltwater most anglers target the bottom-dwelling halibut, but salmon species are often sought after as well. In Glacier Bay’s freshwater rivers and lakes anglers can fish for salmon and sea-run trout while enjoying the beauty and solitude of wilderness.

Pacific Halibut

Halibut are usually taken from May through September, although they’re available all year long. These species tend to move into shallower water in warmer summer months and overwinter in deeper waters, usually beyond reach of sport anglers.

Halibut tackle consists of a powerful rod and a strong reel capable of holding at least 200 yards of 50-pound test or heavier line. Leader material should be either wire or monofilament in the 100-pound-test class. This heavy gear is used because large halibut can weigh more than 300 pounds. Halibut are taken on both bait and jigs. The usual bait is herring, squid, or other fish, but chrome or colored, weighted jigs are also used.

King Salmon

King Salmon are targeted by anglers in the bay from late winter through early summer, although these fish can be caught in Glacier Bay year-round. Anglers use downriggers or directional diving planers to troll herring or bright lures at the depth where king salmon are cruising. Heavy trolling rods and stout line are used because king salmon can exceed 30 pounds and are strong, active fighters when hooked.

Coho, Pink, Chum, and Sockeye Salmon

Coho, pink, and chum salmon are often caught in saltwater in Glacier Bay during times of seasonal abundance.

Similar to methods for fishing for king salmon, anglers troll herring and bright lures or hoochies when targeting these other salmon species. Medium trolling rods with 10-30 pound test line are commonly used. Sockeye salmon are generally not caught by trolling anglers.

Coho, pink, chum, and sockeye salmon can also be caught by anglers in freshwater rivers when these fish are running upstream to their spawning grounds. A popular angling location is the Bartlett River, which is approximately a 2-mile hike from the Glacier Bay Lodge.

Sockeye reach freshwater starting in early July, pink and chum salmon begin to reach their spawning streams in August, and coho run upriver starting in September. Both fly-fishing and conventional gear is used for salmon in freshwater.

However, sockeye salmon rarely bite lures or flies because their diet consists of plankton, and adults do not feed while in freshwater. Anglers should not attempt to snag (hook in any part of the body other than the mouth) any salmonid because it is prohibited by Alaska state law, and can injure mature fish during the crucial spawning period.

Spin-fishers use light to medium spin-casting rods with 8-30 pound test line, and cast brightly-colored lures to salmon moving upriver. Fly-Fishers use 6-9 weight rods, usually with sinking line, and cast a variety of patterns such as aquatic nymph imitations, egg flies, and large streamers to salmon in the rivers.

Dolly Varden and Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Dolly Varden and coastal cutthroat trout are frequently caught in both salt and fresh water. Both these species are present in rivers, lakes, and in saltwater year-round, but are often seasonally abundant or absent in different habitats. Spin-fishers and fly-fishers both target these species.

Spin-fishers commonly use light casting rods with 6-12 pound test line for Dolly Varden and cutthroat because these species do not get very large, and more sport can be had while catching them on a lighter rod. Bright lures and bait (in saltwater only) are used to catch these trout.

Fly-fishers use 5-8 weight rods with floating or sinking fly line for Dolly Varden and cutthroat. A large variety of flies are used to catch these trout such as dry flies (cutthroat), aquatic nymph patterns, bait fish imitations, streamers, and egg flies.

Always check Alaska Department of Fish and Game's sport fish emergency orders for new regulations and bag limits not listed in the standard Alaska Fishing Regulations booklet.

Be aware of safety concerns while fishing in bear country, boating, and collecting and eating shellfish in Glacier Bay.

Before consuming large halibut and other sport fish, check the State of Alaska's Fish Consumption Guidelines for information about possible contaminants that can be harmful to pregnant women and young children.

A number of licensed, professional fishing guides are available to help you plan and take you on a successful fishing adventure in this area.

For a wealth of information on fishing in this part of Alaska, check out the Alaska Department of Fish & Game Sportfish Divison.

by Jay Bryce
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Jay Bryce is a community manger at ( has fishing and local information for over 40,000 lakes and  fishing areas in the United States. Information includes current  weather and forecasts, best times fishing charts, maps, local businesses and more.
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