Fishing in Fairbanks Alaska


Birch leaves emerging from their leaves means spring in Fairbanks

Some day you may find yourself in Fairbanks Alaska while traveling to the last frontier for vacation. Maybe you are here on a business trip. It is also possible that you are like myself and you power through the long dark winters braving the -40 degree temperatures and seasonal depression so that you will already be here every year when break up begins. That is when Alaska’s short summers start and things start to spring back to life! It seems to happen overnight. The sun is now above our heads for at least 18 hours a day. The large piles of snow are getting small around the edge of our driveways. Leaves on Birch and Poplar trees seem to spring out of their buds to catch the sun’s light. The ice is all but gone on the rivers and lakes. Canada geese can be heard overhead on their return trip back to the very puddle they were born in however many years ago. The water is warming and fishing is a way for many to shake the winter from our bones and get back outdoors. Some of us have fished all winter long through 4 feet of ice! In the dark! I think we can all agree to welcome the sun back into our lives though. Whether you are visiting Fairbanks or you live here like me, when spring hits you may find yourself wondering about things to do? Fishing in Fairbanks Alaska definitely ranks in the top 10!


Fairbanks Fishing


Chena River

The Chena River downtown Fairbanks provides some very good fishing

Even though Fairbanks is located in Alaska’s interior it is literally surrounded by water! We may be a days drive from the Ocean but we definitely have no shortage of fishing opportunities. Some local bodies of water for Fishing in Fairbanks Alaska within 50 miles that have fishing opportunities are:

  • Chena River

  • Tanana River

  • Chatanika River

  • Badger Slough

  • Munson Slough

  • Piledriver Slough

  • Tanana Lake

  • Chena Lake

  • Harding Lake

  • Birch Lake

There are a handful of Alaska charter fishing guides located in Fairbanks that are experts in the area and can take you out and supply you with the gear and quality instructions. These bodies of water are also friendly for the average fisherman and the DIY crowd.

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The Chena River


The Chena river is a Tributary of the Yukon River and flows through downtown Fairbanks Alaska. The Chena River has many bank fishing opportunities without ever leaving town. The Chena River is home to many sports fish species including:

  • Pike

  • Arctic Grayling (sailfish of the north)

  • whitefish

  • King salmon (viewing only)

  • Chum salmon (viewing only)

fairbanks fishing

Catching Grayling on the fly is an awesome experience

Pike and Whitefish can be caught in the lower river downtown with a medium action spinning rod with 12-15 lb test. A steel leader is a must have for Pike! Small to medium spoons as well as plastics and body baits will work well for Pike and Whitefish. Go smaller if Whitefish is your target species. If you are a fly fisherman then medium to large streamers or even mousing with an 8/9 wt rod works well for the toothy critters (Pike). The upper Chena River that meanders along the entire length of Chena Hot springs road is a hot bed for Arctic Grayling action! Spin fishing with a float and small hair jigs works wonders as well as small plastics and spinners. A 3/4 wt or 5/6 wt fly rod is the preferred method for many anglers Arctic Grayling fishing on the Chena River. Grayling here are known to sink a dry fly before eating it so a patient fisherman will wait for the strike after the rise has been noticed. bead head nymphs will win in between the multiple mayfly hatches that happen throughout the day. After a light rain ends something magical happens! Big Rays in Downtown Fairbanks can outfit fly fishermen with local patterns.


Chena Lake


Are you looking for fishing near Fairbanks Alaska and you want to take a kid fishing? Chena Lake cannot be beat! Chena lake is a man-made lake located in North Pole Alaska and dug by the army Corps of Engineers in 1973. The lake is stocked multiple times a year by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Sports fish that can be found and are stocked in this lake are:

  • Rainbow Trout

  • Arctic Char

  • Arctic Grayling

  • Chinook salmon (King Salmon)

Artic Char is one of the fish you will find around Fairbanks

Arctic Char on spinning tackle is a lot of fun

This is a non motorized lake and great fishing can be had from shore. The park has a rental office where you can rent a canoe or row boat. An ultra light spinning combo with 4-6 lb test line and spinners work great here and are kid friendly. Many anglers here choose to use worms or grubs that can be purchased at Sentry Hardware in North Pole. For the fly fishermen this lake is fun with long casts with either a dry fly or nymph. Stripping small streamers also will do you well.


Day Trips From Fairbanks

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Sockeye Fishing in Fairbanks can be amazong

Ted and his crew with some Klutina River Sockeye

Alaska is a very large state and many visitors as well as residents will spend much of their time on the road. Our highways have some of the most breathtaking views and you cannot see them by staying in town. Fishing in Fairbanks Alaska can be amazing but is somewhat limited. If fishing is important to you then you must not visit one of the last wild places on Earth without fishing Alaska’s wild salmon runs. The Copper River fishery has the closest fish-able salmon runs to Fairbanks. The Copper River itself is not fish-able to sports fishing but its tributaries are! Currently the Copper River has the strongest fish-able runs of King salmon (Chinook Salmon) on Alaska’s road system. Sockeye Salmon are also abundant and Copper River reds (sockeye) are world famous for their table fare! This is truly a world class salmon fishery. The Copper River tributaries have limited road access and are best fished from a fishing raft to get you away from the crowd and to the true wilderness. There is few road accessible fishing spots. They are there mostly by the bridges and a few trails that take you to the rivers. Most people choose to hire one of the Copper River fishing guides for their wilderness river adventures that fish this area as these are whitewater rivers and should be run by skilled whitewater rafters. Copper Center is about a 4 hour drive south of Fairbanks on the Richardson highway mile marker 101. Lodging can be found at The Gakona Lodge in Gakona. The Caribou Hotel in Glennallen. The Princess Lodge in Copper Center. Uncle Nicolai’s in Copper Center.  We have a staff of professional fishing guides and whitewater oarsmen to take you on a true Alaska fishing adventure. Check out our home page to see the activities we offer.

copper river salmon fishing

50# plus King Salmon Caught and released on the Klutina River by Will Lehner, fishing with AK Fish Charters


Copper River Fishing


Raft fishing with AK Fish Charters

Rafting down the Klutina River to the next fishing spot AK Fish Charters

The tributaries of the Copper river most commonly fished for King Salmon and Sockeye salmon are:

  • Klutina River

  • Gulkana River

  • Tonsina River

Klutina River


The Klutina River is a 63 mile long Class III whitewater glacier fed river located in Copper Center Alaska about a 4 hour drive from Fairbanks. The river gets great returns of King Salmon and Sockeye Salmon every summer with its King Salmon season dates set July 1 through August 10 with the bigger fish coming in towards the end of the season. Sports fish that can be caught in this river are:

  • King Salmon (Chinook Salmon)

  • Sockeye Salmon (Red Salmon)

  • Dolly Varden

  • rainbow trout

  • Arctic Grayling

  • Whitefish

The most common fishing tactic on this river for king salmon is side bouncing roe with a corky on a extra heavy spinning or casting combo with 100lb braded line a and 60lb leaders out in the main river or floating roe under a float on the seams. Spoons and plugs also catch kings. Fly fishing for kings can be done with a 10wt fly rod with a 10 foot fast-sink tip line and a big ugly streamer or leech. These kings are known for breaking gear! Sockeye are caught “flossing” close to shore on either 8/9 wt fly rods or spinning and casting gear with yarn balls.


Kids can catch Kings too! Caleb battling a monster on a Lamiglas Kenai King with a Shimono Calcutta with AK Fish Charters

Gulkana River


The Gulkana River is a class I – III 60 mile spring fed tributary of the Copper River. It is considered a scenic float as far as whitewater is concerned, except for the class III section located in the canyon found on the multi-day floats from Paxon Lake.. There still is limited road access like most of the Copper River tributaries and is most successful fishing with one of the Copper river Charters. Check out our home page! The Gulkana river is host of many sport caught fish:

  • King Salmon (Chinook Salmon)

  • Sockeye Salmon (Red Salmon)

  • Steel head

  • Rainbow Trout

  • Arctic Grayling

  • Whitefish

The Gulkana River is best fished with roe under a float or bottom bounced with roe and a corky for King Salmon. Fly fishermen should fair best again with a sink tip line and an ugly streamer or leech. Sockeye Salmon are flossed in the main river channel or beside rocks that form squeeze point. Rainbow trout can best be found in the upper stretch of the lower river in the portion of river that is very remote. You more than likely need a multi day trip to target these wild rainbows as you need to put in at Paxon lake and float about 47 river miles to the next take out at Sourdough camp ground. Rainbow Trout and Arctic Grayling can be targeted again with ultralight spinning tackle but are most fun on the fly. A 3/4 wt – 5/6 wt flyrod with floating line with nymphs and sreamers work best. Late in the season when the Salmon are spawning egg patterns and flesh flies are on the menu as well. The Upper Gulkana between Paxon Lake and Summit lake is a Grayling fest on the Fly with plenty of walk in access!

Danielle Roggenbuck with a nice Gulkana King caught with AK Fish Charters

Summary – Best Fishing in Fairbanks


In short, The Best Fishing in Fairbanks Alaska is dependent on when you are in the area and what species of Fish you want to go after.  It has amazing fishing for fishermen and women of all abilities and ages. Some are very local and some not so local but if you are willing to do a little research you can turn your visit to Fairbanks into a fishing trip that dreams are made of! Even if your visit is permanent like mine. Remember to always take a kid fishing!


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