Story By Troy Letherman
Surrounded by towering mountain peaks, hemmed in by nearby glaciers and surrounded by a wilderness dotted with innumerable lakes and crossed by fish-filled flowing water, Talkeetna, Alaska manages the feat of providing spectacular opportunity to the outdoor enthusiast while remaining rather overshadowed by its big-name neighbors.
Talkeetna, meaning “river of plenty” in the Dena’ina language, is located at the confluence of the Susitna, Talkeetna and Chulitna rivers, a Pacific salmon, trout, grayling and char nexus that provides anglers with manifold opportunity to get off the beaten path and experience true Alaska wilderness fishing just a short drive from the big city of Anchorage.
A mountain town at heart, Talkeetna is also the staging area for the approximately 1,000 climbers each year who attempt to reach the summit of Denali, and the town offers other fun for summertime visitors, including a Friday night concert series, several festivals and events and a host of top-notch restaurants and brewpubs, each offering a distinct taste of the local flavor.
For anglers, the Talkeetna area offers both roadside and remote access to all five species of Pacific salmon, plus resident rainbow trout, Dolly Varden char, grayling, northern pike and more. There is good to excellent lake fishing in the area as well for those who choose to pursue their quarry in the stillwater environment.
The fishing begins on the home river, and the mainstem of the Talkeetna, a swift wilderness river, is fishable during periods of moderate, dry weather, but as with mighty Susitna nearby, most anglers will have much better success fishing in or near the mouths of tributary streams. Clear, Larson and Prairie creeks, which can be accessed by boat from Talkeetna, are popular hotspots.
Similar to the Talkeetna, but much larger, the Susitna River is one of southcentral Alaska’s most significant and consistent fish-producers. Beginning in the runoff from massive glaciers in the eastern Alaska Range and flowing some 200 miles south to Cook Inlet, the Susitna is large and intimidating, laden with silt and virtually unfishable in much of its lower flows, meaning the best bet for anglers is to prospect tributaries, the mouths of feeder streams, pockets of holding water and depending on the time of year, accessible upriver seams. Though it’s seldom fished, the section of the mainstem Susitna between Devil’s Canyon and the confluence of the Talkeetna and Chulitna rivers can be accessed by jet boat and produces amazing results.
For driving anglers, the trip from Anchorage to Talkeetna is filled with fish as well, with the Parks Highway streams some of southcentral Alaska’s hottest road-system fisheries.
All in all, Talkeetna is a unique town, even amidst a unique state. No matter your reason for visiting Alaska, you’d be wise to pencil-in a few days here, where you’re sure to get a true taste of the Last Frontier.