Fishing in Anchorage Lakes

by Dustin Slinker

Open Water Fishing in Anchorage Lakes (April-October)

Many of the lakes in the Anchorage bowl are easily accessed, with ample shoreline to fish along and public docks to fish from. The lakes receive plenty of local fishing pressure, but even with that pressure there are still plenty of fish to be caught. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game regularly stocks lakes in Anchorage with what they call “catchables”, fish measuring approximately 9 1/2 inches.

In my opinion, some of the best open-water lake fishing in Anchorage is in late April and early May when the ice is starting to recede from shorelines. As the ice recedes and lakes begin to warm, trout metabolisms rise and they begin to feed more often. The month of October is another great month to be out on the lakes. Fish sense a change in the season as the water temperatures begin to drop. They become aggressive again and are looking to put on extra weight before winter sets in and the lakes freeze over.

Some of my favorite lakes to enjoy during the fall months are Delong Lake and Jewel Lake. Both lakes are relatively small and provide excellent opportunities for anglers to fish from the shoreline or launch a small raft or boat. During open-water season, being in a small boat, raft, float tube or canoe could be the key to finding where more and bigger fish are congregated and provide access to areas of the lakes where shorelines are not accessible due to vegetation, muskeg, or private property.

Whether you are fishing from the shoreline or from a watercraft, casting lures to cover more water is essential. The lure I utilize most during the fall months on Anchorage lakes is Worden’s Rooster Tail in sizes ranging from 1/24- to 1/8-ounce.

For lakes, I prefer to use rods between 6- and 7 feet that are light or ultra-light, fast- action rods. The St. Croix Avid and Trout Series are my go-to rods because they are sensitive, cast extremely well and make for a great fight.

I like to use Penn and Abu Garcia reels ranging in size from 1000 to 3000. These reels hold enough line and have enough drag to stop big fish. For line, I stick to monofilament and fluorocarbon using P-Line ranging from 4- to 8-pound test.

All the lakes in the Anchorage bowl are great for fly fishing, too. In fact, a skilled fly angler will often catch more fish than an angler fishing bait or throwing hardware. A nine foot, five weight or six weight flyrod is most suitable. A floating fly line and an intermediate fly line are both very useful. Typical stillwater flies such as ‘buggers, suggestive nymphs, chironomid pupa, scud patters, damsel and dragonfly nymph patters will all work. Tippets in 3x will suffice.

Ice Fishing in Anchorage Lakes (November-March)

Ice fishing is a sport that continues to grow each season in Alaska. With Anchorage having more than two dozen lakes stocked regularly by ADF&G, we can extend our fishing season through the winter months. The lakes begin to freeze soon after the snow begins to fall, generally in October. Remember to be patient and allow the ice to build up. I prefer the ice to be between four- and six inches thick before walking onto it and drilling holes. The thicker the ice, the better. Once the lakes are frozen it’s easy to get out and explore parts of lakes that you may not have been able to previously access.

To have a successful day on the ice, an angler does not need a lot of fishing equipment. Ice-fishing essentials include an ice-fishing rod, lures, jigs, bait, and most importantly, a tool to cut through the ice such as a hand auger.

Using resources that are available can eliminate much of the guesswork. Choose a new lake by referencing the Alaska Lake Database (ALDAT) found on the ADF&G website. Here you can print out a bathymetric map of the lake and see the deep parts of the lake and where it transitions. Keeping notes about where you have caught fish, found structure or anything else that may be helpful in the future can lead to greater success.

When I look at a map of a lake I look for drastic changes in depths, choke points, inflows, outflows or any other structure the fish may be utilizing. Once I find an area that looks like a great place for the fish to hang out, I cut a pattern of holes to cover that area.

Cheney Lake and Campbell Point Lake are on opposite sides of town, but both offer exciting ice fishing. Both lakes are stocked with rainbow trout and landlocked kings. Even though most fish that are stocked in these lakes are of catchable size, there are also some carry-over fish (fish that have been in the lake for at least a year) as well as the occasional brood stock fish (bigger fish that were used for hatchery production). All these fish feel like trophies when you are using a small, 24- to 28- inch ice-fishing rod with four-pound monofilament, and a small 1/16-ounce jig tipped with a piece of shrimp or a single salmon egg. It truly is exciting when these fish pull line and make drags whine.

Ice fishing can get high tech for many. Some anglers purchase underwater cameras or sonars to gain an advantage. These are not required pieces of equipment but rather a luxury. Anglers that have them, though, feel they are vital for optimum success. Ice shelters are nice and can protect you from the elements during inclement weather but are also not mandatory.

Here is a list of the equipment that I like to use for ice fishing: Shappell Jet Sled (to carry all the ice fishing gear), Eskimo Z71 Shark 10-inch Gas Auger (for cutting holes in the ice), Eskimo FatFish 949 Shelter, Humminbird Ice Helix 5 (Sonar, Flasher, GPS), MarCum Recon 5 (underwater camera), St. Croix Mojo Ice rods, Abu Garcia reels, P-Line monofilament (4- to 8-pound), assortment of jigs, bait (shrimp or single salmon eggs).

Dustin Slinker is a knowledgeable fisherman and owner of The Bait Shack on Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage.

This article originally appeared as a supplemental sidebar to Anchorage: An Urban Oasis in a Wilderness Setting in the December 2018 issue of Fish Alaska.