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Alaskan Silvers  at Cabela's

Alaskan Silvers

Author: Scott Haugen

Known for their feisty nature and exquisite table fare, you won't be disappointed when it comes to catching Alaska's silver salmon.

A pair of crome bright silvers.
One of Alaska's biggest draws for out of state anglers is the acrobatic, powerful silver salmon. Silvers, or cohos, make their way into numerous rivers throughout the state, and offer anglers golden opportunities for catching high volume fish. Alaska's silvers can be pursued in several ways, be it from a drift boat, sled, the bank, float plane or by sea.

At the end of each summer the city of Seward, located south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, hosts the world's largest silver salmon derby. Anglers the world over flock to the waterfront town to try their luck at catching tagged fish with hefty dollar values attached. Prizes are also awarded daily for the largest fish caught. Anyone can enter the contest, and with a surplus of quality charters operating in the bay, there's no trouble getting out to fish. Even if you don't win cash prizes, with a generous limit of six silvers, there are great chances to stock the freezer for winter.

If river fishing is more your style, the first of August typically marks the time to get after silvers. Though fish enter some rivers in mid to late July, greater concentrations start making their way into streams in August and through September. On the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers there is virtually no down time once silvers enter these streams. While both of these big rivers are noted for their outstanding king fishing, they must not be overlooked for their silver fishery. Once the king season wraps up, silver fishing takes center stage.

Beginning in mid-August and running into September, hitting small streams between Soldotna and Homer can be outstanding. Bank fishing the Ninilchik River, Deep Creek and the Anchor River with flies is as good as it gets. Bird Creek, just south of Anchorage, is also a popular and productive fishery, and usually kicks-off around the end of July. The beauty of fishing these crystal clear streams is their easy access. Anglers can readily drive to the fishing spots along these tourist friendly banks and have all the fishing they desire. In September, steelhead also make their way into some of these streams, affording a unique chance to catch both species of chrome-bright fighters.

On a good run - you are often not alone.
From Palmer to Homer, there are plenty of lodging opportunities for silver salmon fanatics. The fact that several rivers are within easy driving distance makes following these fish a great way to see some of The Last Frontier. If you want to approach silvers from a different angle, and see more of Alaska's breathtaking beauty, a float plane trip may be what you're looking for.

There are several air taxi services in operation that can take you on a short float plane ride in pursuit of silver salmon. It's best to look into float plane options early in the salmon run, before big game seasons kick off. If you wait until September for your air fishing trip, it may be tough getting a plane as many businesses focus their catering efforts on moose, caribou and other game hunts.

As for gear, spin fishing and baitcasting anglers can bring along medium action rods with 10-12 pound test line. Some anglers go with 15 to 20 pound test to hold silvers when hooked from the bank. Leaders typically range from 10-15 pound test. Bring the same terminal gear you'd use anywhere in North America for silvers. Worden's Flash Glo Spinners are a great choice of lure, as are Blue Fox Pixees and other spinner type lures. As for lure colors, pink, chartreuse, silver and red are hot choices.

The right gear for silvers.
If you're planning on fishing from a boat, don't forget some K14 and K15 KwikFish for backtrolling. The action on these plugs, made by Luhr-Jensen, allow you to get to the precise depth at which silvers hang, and often outfish other lures and baits. You can also attach KwikFish to divers to get an even deeper, more precise drift. Divers pulling bait are a good method to get down to silvers and can produce large numbers of fish in the right conditions.

If I had one method to depend on for outwitting silvers, it would be rolling eggs in rivers. Silvers can't resist a good cluster of roe placed in front of their snout. If you can't bring along your own cured eggs, prepackaged baits can often be bought at local tackle shops. While eggs work great in rivers, sardines and herring work well in bays and the mouths of large rivers. Mooched or trolled, these little baits can be the ticket for tagging aggressive feeding silvers. Fished whole or in plug-cut fashion, the action can be nonstop.

For fly fishing fanatics, pink is the color of choice. On a recent trip with guide Brett Gesh, he advised me to try pink flies. "If pink doesn't work, try pink," he recommended. Bright pink flies work well, as do red and bright purple. Coho, leech and popsicle patterns all work well on silvers. Flies can be used on silvers in rivers, estuaries and even in tidewater, where migrating fish often hug the shoreline as they search for the stream from which they came.

Wherever you choose to go in your quest for Alaska's silver salmon, be sure to carefully check fishing regulations. Bag limits can change from year to year, even during the season. Likewise, regulations on specific rivers can change at any time. Depending on escapement, river conditions and other factors beyond human control, Fish & Wildlife officials sometimes enact regulatory changes at mid season; some of which can even benefit anglers. With generous daily and possession limits, silver salmon are great to stock up on for the winter. Packing and shipping of your catch can be arranged by your guide or on your own. There are several facilities around who will freeze, smoke, prepare and ship your catch to your doorstep.

Weighing anywhere from 10-20 pounds, fighting Alaska's silver salmon day after day can wear you out. But the thrill of seeing these acrobatic fighters tailwalk across pristine rivers or dive to great depths in aqua saturated bays keeps you coming back for more. Once you've tied into these battling brutes, you'll know why so many people are addicted to silvers, and what keeps them coming back to Alaska year after year.

Scott Haugen's recently released book, Hunting the Alaskan High Arctic, is available directly from the author. To order your copy contact him at

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