Common Fishing Questions

Where are the best places to go fishing?

There are a lot places to fish! Download a copy of the Local Fishing Guide (pdf format, 2.5 MB) that is produced by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game. You can also stop by any park visitor center to ask a park ranger for advice.

What sport fishing area is this?

Upper Copper - Upper Susitna River area, and Arctic-Yukon Area.

Where can I catch a salmon?

There are not very many opportunitites to catch salmon within the park. The Copper River tends to be too silty to catch salmon. The best place for kings and reds are the nearby Klutina and Gulkana Rivers. The best place to catch silvers is in Valdez, AK.

What kind of salmon are in the park? What other types of fish are in the park?

All 5 species of Pacific salmon that are native to Alaska are found within the park: king (chinook) salmon, silver (coho) salmon, red (sockeye) salmon, pink (humpy) salmon, and chum (dog) salmon. Kokanee salmon are also found in Copper Lake.

Other types of fish found in the park include grayling, whitefish, Dolly Varden, lake trout, rainbow/steelhead trout, cutthroat trout, sculpin, burbot, lamprey, smelts, and suckers.

Find out about all the types of fish found in the park.

What are Kokanee salmon?

Kokanee salmon are actually red salmon that spend all their life in fresh water. All Pacific salmon normally spawn and hatch in fresh water, go to the ocean for 1-5 years, and return to fresh water to complete their life cycle.

What is the difference between a Hooligan and a Eulachon?

There is no difference - they are the same fish but have two different names to identify them by.

What kind of fish are stocked in the park?

The State of Alaska has traditionally stocked rainbow trout and silver salmon. The silver salmon are stocked in landlocked lakes. They are not able to go to the ocean. Landlocked silver salmon mature (2-5 years) and die just like their ocean-going relatives. Landlocked silver salmon do not generally spawn successfully. *The National Park Service does not stock any fish species in the park.

Where can I catch rainbow trout?

Van and Skulpin lakes are stocked with rainbow trout. Wild stocks of rainbow trout are found in the Hanagita and Tebay Lakes. There are also steelhead trout in the Hanagita Lake system.

What are steelhead trout?

Steelhead trout are a strain of rainbow trout that goes to the ocean to rear (catadromous), much like salmon. However, they do not die after they spawn.

What are those worms in some of the fish? Are these worms dangerous? Poisonous? Can we get worms in our system from eating the fish?

Those worms are probably a species of round or tape worm. There is very little chance of these worms harming a human being when you cook the fish properly.

Can I go dipnetting for salmon?

Only if you are a resident of the state and have the proper subsistence permit. The permit is free. To be considered a state resident, you must have maintained a permanent place of abode within the state for 12 consecutive months and continually maintained your voting residence in the state.

Can I operate or use a fishwheel?

Like dipnetting, only if you are a resident of the state and have the proper subsistence permit. You must be a local, rural resident to use a fishwheel.

What are the limits for fish for the Copper River area?

Generally the bag and possession limit is 10 grayling, 10 Dolly Varden, 10 rainbow trout, 10 lake trout (less than 20"), 3 lake trout over 20", 1 king salmon, 3 other salmon over 16", and 10 salmon under 16". Check the Sport Fish office in Glennallen and the State regulations for specific details.

When will the salmon be in the streams?

  • Red Salmon: June - September
  • King Salmon: June - July
  • Steelhead and Silver Salmon: September - November

What do I use for bait to catch fish?

  • Dolly Varden: eggs, corn, flies, small lures
  • Grayling: eggs, corn, flies, small lures
  • Lake Trout: lures
  • Rainbow Trout/ Steelhead: egg clusters, lures, flies
  • King Salmon: egg clusters, lures and streamer flies
  • Red Salmon: streamer flies
  • Silver Salmon: lures and streamer flies
  • Burbot: bait such as whitefish flesh

When do the salmon spawn?

Reds and kings generally spawn in summer and fall. and silvers in fall and early winter.

When do steelhead trout spawn?

In the Copper River drainage the adult steelhead come up in the fall and lay over until spring. Then they spawn and the adults return to the ocean. In other areas they come up in the spring, then spawn and return to the ocean.

How many salmon come up the Copper River each year?

Based on a sonar located in the lower Copper River its know that since 1978 the average escapement of sockeye is 600,000. Find current sonar counts of the Miles Lake Sonar via the AK Deparment of Fish and Game.

Is there any places that we can't fish?

All lakes and streams in the park are open to fishing, unless they are on private property.

What is the fishing season?

It is year-round: Jan. 1 - Dec. 31.

How big do the various species of fish get?

  • Grayling: up to 17" - generally 9-12"
  • Lake Trout: up to 20 lbs - generally 3-8 lbs
  • Rainbow Trout: up to 22" - generally 10-18"
  • Steelhead: up to 32" - Average about 26"
  • King Salmon: up to 45 lbs
  • Red Salmon: up to 8 lbs
  • Silver Salmon: up to 12 lbs
  • Burbot: up to 20 lbs - Average about 6 lbs
  • Dolly Varden: up to 20" - generally 6-14"
  • Landlocked Silver Salmon: up to 16" - generally about 12"

Are the rivers in this area dangerous?

All the rivers, especially the larger ones, are dangerous. The water is very cold and a person cannot last very long in the water. Most rivers average about 11 mph. There is also a lot of silt in our rivers, which can poor visibility and can drag you down if you are submerged.

Here's a question for YOU! Would you like to promote native fish species?

Download a Catch and Release Fishing full-color brochure to learn about how to promote native species! (pdf format, 2.7 MB)

Last updated: January 11, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
PO Box 439
Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway

Copper Center, AK 99573


(907) 822-5234

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