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How to Plan a Cheap Alaska Fishing Trip

How to Plan a Cheap Alaska Fishing Trip: Alaska $1,000 Fishing Road Trip
By Joe Byers

Alaska $1,000 Fishing Road Trip

What?  A week’s fishing in Alaska for $1,000?  Impossible…Not!  

I camped with my grandfather for an entire summer in Alaska and he taught me to be frugal. Often, he’d stop along the highway to pick up a blown inner tube or a small plank, prompting my question, “What in the world will you do with that?”

The inner tube became a foul-weather scope cover and those planks helped level our camper each night. His conservative way still affects me today…Some would say I’m just cheap. However, if you’ve dreamed of fishing Alaska and think it’s too expensive, think again. Here’s how. 

Lingcod are a delicious fish that are often overshadowed by the glamor of halibut fishing. Always ask your captain about the possibility of these big fish.

Go as a Group

To minimize costs, go as a foursome, either two couples or four friends. Get an Alaska Airlines credit card and take advantage of their “Buddy Pass” system that allows you to get nearly half-price airfare ($300 per person).

Fly to Anchorage and rent a larger car. You don’t need a 4×4 or van. Often if you book a regular car, you can upgrade and save. Use your credit card insurance and decline all coverage ($150 per person). 

Book Airbnb homes in Seward, Soldotna, Ninilchik, and Homer for about $100 per couple. You will find lots to choose from and you can cook dinners and breakfast so there are no meal costs above what you’d pay at home. ($250 per person for five nights/six days) 

If you are seeking a specific salmon species, you’ll need to time your trip to match fish availability. Spinning or flyfishing gear works on most salmon.

Plan in Advance

Timing the cheap alaska fishing trip is important because it will affect the cost of accommodations and the types of fish you can catch. If this is your first trip to Alaska, consider traveling in late August and early September when the tourism season is nearly over, and you’ll have your pick of accommodations.

If you want to target specific salmon runs, you’ll need to time them for your trip. Use the internet or call ADF&G. Additionally, you can get lots of information sent directly to you from Alaska Tourism and Kenai Tourism.

Arriving in Anchorage on a weekend allows you to attend the free farmer’s market where you’ll find a host of cool Alaskan tourism items as well as local foods that are freshly prepared. Also, the shops in the downtown area are easy to access and close together. You can actually catch salmon in downtown Anchorage at Ship Creek. Try your luck depending on the current run. Call the Bait Shack at (907) 522-3474 for more information on fishing Ship Creek.

This large yelloweye rockfish came from Homer on a charter. Rockfish of various species are found throughout Alaska’s saltwater.

Hit the Road

Seward should be your first fishing destination and it’s 127 miles south of Anchorage. This can be your first overnight stop or enjoy Anchorage and begin the fish safari the next day. Alaska is such a cool state, there is lots to see and do. Seward offers a wide variety of charters for halibut, salmon, and rockfish. Although Homer gets the most attention for halibut, go for the big flatfish here and include another species like lingcod or rockfish. 

These are usually all-day charters and you can have your fish cleaned, frozen, and stored for the trip back to Anchorage. Since the days are long, head for Soldotna. Consider the Diamond M Ranch and campground, renting a cabin if you can. I watched a black bear stalk three caribou from my balcony, and I could walk to great silver salmon fishing the next morning. Ask at the desk and they will give you directions.

If you can visit in late August or early September, silver salmon (coho) bite well, are easier to catch, and there is less fishing pressure.

Downtown Soldotna 

This midway point to Homer offers salmon fishing almost from the highway. Pull into the visitor’s center and you can walk to the river where they have boardwalks to preserve the banks of the Kenai River. What’s catchable depends on the time of the year, but you’ll never find more accessible fishing.

Wherever you are in Alaska, don’t hesitate to stop at a tackle shop or ask other fishermen for advice. Alaskans are the friendliest people on earth and even fishermen will tell you the truth, at least most of the time. Ask what fish are biting on what at a tackle shop and buy it. You don’t need to bring much gear and the few lures you buy will save money in the long run. 

I took this step in Ninilchik and the cashier told me where to fish and cautioned me that I couldn’t use treble hooks. I bought a pack of single hooks and he changed them out on my lures at no cost. Who does that?

Alaska Airlines offers a “Buddy Pass” to their credit-card holders. This nearly cuts airfare in half.

Ninilchik

This is a very small fishing village but offers great on-your-own fishing. Many charters operate out of this spot and I saw them bring in a big catch of mixed fish. The Ninilchik/Deep Creek launch is 30 miles from Homer which means they access different waters than the many captains down the coast. 

The gals in our group shopped at a small gift shop in Ninilchik and while they were shopping the shop, the husband took me into the back room, showed me what to fish with, and suggested three nearby spots. As mentioned, the friendliness of Alaskans is incredible. 

Most charters will clean and process your fish. Additionally, facilities will freeze and box your catch for the trip home.

Homer

This should be your final stop and you can spend one or two nights. It’s best to book your return flight as late as possible from Anchorage to allow travel time and avoid another motel stay. 

Homer is primarily a charter opportunity with a wide variety of options, though the Anchor River is nearby and the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit offers some salmon fishing opportunity as well. The monster halibut caught years ago have been overfished and 20-30 pounders are the norm. Still, it’s worth buying a ticket in the Homer Halibut Derby because you could win great cash and prizes with a big fish. You never know.

Airbnb homes like the Scow House in Homer rent for about $50 per person per day for a group of four. You can prepare meals or eat out.

Also, talk with your captain about lingcod and rockfish. These are easier to catch, offer excellent table fare, and aren’t a roll of the dice like a big halibut. Once again, the size of your group helps keep costs down. In non-peak season, charter rates may be negotiable or reduced. 

Homer offers full- and ½-day charters. Normally, full-day charters get you farther away and better your chances for larger fish.

Although you might think that each of you should have a cooler, it’s much more economical to have your fish packed in insulated cardboard boxes for the flight home. All packing houses sell them, and you only pay baggage fees for the way home. Finally, Alaskan salmon and halibut averages about $15 per pound. If you bring home 50 pounds of fillets, that’s a value of $750, more than half the price of the trip. After you’ve done this once, you’ll learn how to make it even more economical, maybe even break even on the price and the value of the fish. 

Large halibut are always possible, even on a relatively inexpensive trip.

How’s that Grandad? I’m sharing your conservative values. 

 

Joe Byers has been communicating a love of the outdoors through text and photography for 40 years. He has fished the four corners of Alaska and hunted much of the world. A retired educator, sharing the excitement, adventure, and passion for the outdoors is homework he loves. 

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