Where To Fish
This is a very basic question and needs to be addressed first. If saltwater is your priority, then the Kenai Peninsula, the various islands along the southwest portion of Alaska and Kodiak Island will fit the bill. Fresh water and stream fishing is also available.
If you want fresh water fishing then you do have the vast interior of Alaska with a huge selection of lakes and rivers. With a good roadway system and the large number of private aircraft most of the interior is accessible. The question is how many and what type of fish are likely to be there, how many are fishing for them, and what are the fishing conditions.
In the western portion Alaska the saltwater fishing is commercial. The entire focus is on the extremely important saltwater sockeye fishery. There is extremely limited opportunity to do saltwater sport fishing. However, the fresh water opportunities abound. ADF&G manages the fisheries first for sustainability. That translates to each river being guaranteed an adequate escapement. This side of Alaska is lightly populated and many are engaged in the commercial sockeye fishing or is support of it, there are few sport fishermen and a lot of fish.
There are a great number of opportunities for fishing in the populated areas of Alaska, and most are substantially lower cost than Wilderness Fishing. To meet the high fishing demand on waters and achieve a sustainability fishery the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) uses fish hatcheries and very attentive monitoring of fish runs with quickly changing regulations to fine tune the escapement and harvest. Fishing can be fantastic or a total bust as conditions change. Flexibility and low expectations are the key to a successful visit.
In the wilderness streams of the west, the ADF&G manages the sockeye run so there will be a quantity of sockeye entering every river adequate to ensure sustainability. The issue becomes how spread out the escapement of the sockeye will be and how it impacts the run of other species. Generally speaking, the commercial fishing in Bristol Bay extends over three weeks in very late June into the middle of July. The other species are of no real economic interest and are therefore lightly regulated as sport fishing has little impact on the stocks. Sport fisherman do have catch limits, but can continue with catch and release once those limits are reached.
Flying to fish is expensive. These small planes use visual flight rules, if you are not assured you have good visibility through all the flight, you do not fly. If catching is difficult where you are at the moment, you may well have catching success elsewhere. Another cost is time. Flying to the fish consumes a lot of time. Often you cannot land exactly where the fishing is, you have to hike in and out. Fly out fishing demands personal fitness and durability. Still, flying to fish allows for a variety of fishing experiences and varied fishing opportunities.
Fishing near the lodge is a lower cost opportunity, both in terms of dollar cost and time and effort cost. It is hard to catch a fish if your line is not in the water. If the lodge is where the fish are, this can be a very good option with high return for your investment.
Fishing at mouth of a river gives you the first shot at the freshest fish. They are in the best condition and still strong and the best eating. They ride in on the tides so we have some idea where they will be and when they will be there. They may linger a bit to assimilate, but they need to push upriver to be on the spawning beds at the right time.
Fishing in the middle sections of rivers often gives a steady supply of fish. If you are in a section where the river fans out and braids, sight fishing becomes easier. The current is also stronger as the slope gradient increases and the water narrows. The salmon will be starting to deteriorate, but that is a function of how long it has been since they entered the fresh water and the energy they have expended. You may also be fishing on spawning beds and need to ensure you are not disturbing reeds.
Fishing on spawning beds offers an opportunity to catch the native stream fish as they are on a feeding frenzy. Obviously, the salmon are too far deteriorated to be retained. There will be a lot of wildlife also present. At times, these destinations are crowded as there is limited access to the upriver spawning beds.