Often overshadowed by Alaska’s famous coastal fisheries, the Interior doesn’t get a ton of respect within the sport-fishing world, and while the coastal areas admittedly generate some of the world’s best fishing, Alaska’s Interior—in particular the area around Fairbanks—has some fine fishing adventures on offer as well. The area is also perfect for the road-system angler, with plenty of highway and gravel-road access to fisheries and several beautiful campgrounds to choose from. Visitors can drive north from Anchorage and take in all the incredible scenery (perhaps stopping at the Parks Highway fisheries of the Susitna basin for a cast or twenty along the way). This scenery obviously includes Denali, North America’s tallest peak.
Once in Fairbanks, the Chena is the river. Beginning as a tiny trickle deep in the northern wilderness, the river gains in stature as it flows by Chena Hot Springs and widens even more as it nears town, shooting through downtown Fairbanks before finally emptying into the Tanana River, which also offers both camping and fishing options for visitors.
From the Chena’s headwaters to Nordale Bridge, the upper river presents a characteristic remote fishing experience, with clear water and spectacular grayling fishery—not to mention solitude—the primary draws. The north fork of the Chena and the mainstem serve as primary spawning grounds for Chena River salmon, and fishing (and the weather) is best from June through August.
Another option for anglers fishing near Fairbanks is the Chena Lakes Recreational Area. The main attraction is the 260-acre Chena Lake, which houses a variety of fish species, most there courtesy of an Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) stocking program that has deposited rainbow trout, silver salmon and Arctic char in the lake. There is a campground right there at the lake, and there is even a section of the Chena River flowing nearby. This section of the recreation area is known as River Park, and it too includes shoreline fishing and a number of modern amenities such as a boat ramp capable of handling sizeable motorboats.
A little farther from town, anglers can camp and fish either the Delta Clearwater River, the largest spring-fed tributary of the Tanana, for silvers, or fish Nenana River clearwater tributaries for king, chum or silver salmon. Trophy grayling can also be found in many of the tributaries, along with the same remote wilderness experience one finds at most Fairbanks-area fisheries.