There are two major watersheds within the boundaries of Wrangell-St. Elias: the Copper River drainage which drains into the Gulf of Alaska and the Yukon River drainage which empties into the Bering Sea.
For the most part in Wrangell-St. Elias we find similar species in each watershed except: northern pike are indigenous to the Yukon River drainage but not the Copper River drainage, steelhead and rainbow trout are indigenous to the Copper River watershed but not the Yukon, and there have been no salmon species found in the Yukon River drainage portion of the park. Steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species, Oncorhynchus mykiss, but are called rainbows when they stay in a freshwater system all of their lives and steelhead when they are anadromous and migrate between fresh and salt water like salmon. “Steelhead” grow much larger than “rainbows.”
A freshwater fish survey was done in Wrangell-St. Elias in 2001-2003 (this report contains information from Denali National Park and Preserve and Yukon Charlie National Preserve as well). This survey documented fish present within the park’s boundaries and it is still ongoing. In 2006 the fisheries crew captured and documented northern pike in the park for the first time. So far, we have documented 21 species of freshwater fish, with more expected.
Sport fishing in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park offers many opportunities. Arctic grayling, dolly varden, lake trout, rainbow trout, and steelhead, cutthroat trout, sockeye, coho, chinook salmon are widespread. Nothern Pike chum and pink salmon are also available in select areas. Local residents catch burbot, rainbow trout, and round whitefish through the ice in the winter.
Download a list of freshwater fish species in the park. (pdf format, 39 KB)
Download an Alaska Salmon Species ID sheet. (pdf format, 103 KB)