If you are into extreme winter sports, you should try trout fishing during an Alaskan winter. It is freezing, sometimes windy, and your rod eyelets are likely to freeze. If you can get past all of those cons, the reward can be insanely good. Rainbow trout upwards of 23-27 inches are not uncommon. Read below to learn about tips you will want for your winter trout fishing adventure in Alaska.
Dress for the Weather
From November to March the temperature in southcentral Alaska is normally between 10 to 27 degrees Fahrenheit. It can dip down to below negative 10 and when you add in wind chill, it is freezing cold out. With the right gear, you will be able to stay warm, comfortable, and out on the water all day. We recommend trying out some of the following gear:
Simms Bulkley Insulated Jacket
This is the jacket you want for winter fishing. It is insulated, has a watertight cuff, and micro-fleece hand warming pockets. The Simms Bulkley Jacket is made for snow, wind, and rain. Throw this jacket on over a layer of fleece and you’ll be ready for a full day on the water.
Smartwool Base Layers
Wool is essential for any winter activity in Alaska, but especially fishing. Smartwool base layers and socks are made to keep you warm during the chilly days of being out on the water. We recommend checking out the merino 250 collection, it is warm yet breathable. The Heavy Mountaineering Socks are also a great option for layering up under waders.
Simms GORE-TEX ExStream Foldover Mitt
This glove is made for fishing, and it is extremely versatile. The Simms Exstream Foldover Mit is a 2 in 1 mitten and half-finger glove. Even the thumb mitten turns into a half-finger glove. The inside of the glove is lined with fleece and the exterior is completely waterproof.
Simms Challenger Insulated Hat
Keep your ears and head warm with the Simms Insulated Hat. It is 100% waterproof and lined with sherpa fleece. This is the hat you want for those subzero days out on the water. It comes in both camo steel and black.
Turtle Fur Fleece Neck Warmer
Swing or use Beads
Wintertime is Spey season in the last frontier and it can be quite an effective way to catch massive rainbow trout. If you want to learn more about Spey fishing, check out the Guide to Trout Spey by Flylords team member, Oliver Ancans. Leeches and flesh flies are amongst the most common flies to swing during the winter.
Beads are quite effective year-round in Alaska, but especially during the winter. Trout are looking for silver eggs to eat, and they will be happy to find any. Check in with a local fly shop to see what beads are working well. Bead fishing is a bit different than normal fly fishing, and we recommend checking out these videos on how to set up a bead rig from Alaska Fly Fishing Goods.
Bring De-Icing Gel
There is nothing more annoying than having to constantly crush up the ice in your rod eyelets. With deicing gel, you can easily prevent ice from building up while staying on the water as long as possible! We recommend Stanley’s Ice Off Paste from Loon Outdoors. It is a non-toxic ice-off paste that helps keep your eyelets ice-free.
Have a Plan
Winter in Alaska can throw all sorts of surprises at you, snowstorms, subzero temperatures, and wild animals. Make sure you tell someone where you are going and what your plan is. Bringing lots of snacks and water is also a good idea, there is nothing worse than being cold and hungry. It is always good to fish with a buddy during the winter, and if you start getting too cold, head in. The fish will be waiting for you tomorrow!
After you catch a massive winter rainbow and take some pictures, you will want to warm your hands up. If you are fishing from a boat, bringing a buddy heater will help defrost your fingers. It is easy to use, and does not take up much space in a boat! Hand and feet warmers are also great options for keeping extremities warm.
Fishing during winter in the farthest north state can be challenging, but the fish can be humongous. Sometimes you’ll have to wait all day for one or two fish. Once you get a big one it will all be worth it. Keep in mind that daylight is limited in Alaska, from November to January there are only five to six hours of light. It can be frustrating to be limited in your fishing hours, but you can utilize the dark with fly tying and quality time with fishing buddies.
Pictures are courtesy of Tessa Shetter and Kory Robbins, follow them on Instagram for more Alaskan fishing adventures!
The other really important thing to remember about fishing Alaska (or anywhere else) in the winter is to NOT take the fish out of the water! As there gills can freeze quickly, just like the guides on your rods. This is a common mistake and very likely to kill or permanently injure the fish after release, it definitely increases mortality rates. Check out articles from Trout Unlimited or Gink & Gasoline or The Drake or Alaska fish biologists on this subject. We all like pictures of fish (keep’m wet) but when temperatures are below freezing, the trout (or any other species) should be left in the water to increase their survival rates after a long battle.