Region 2 West: The Kodiak / Afognak Archipelago
Region 2 includes the storied Kodiak and Afognak island archipelago, famous for brown bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, elk, and some of the best saltwater fishing in the state. Situated about 130 miles from the Kenai Peninsula, the islands are an oasis for shorebirds, marine mammals, dozens of varieties of freshwater and saltwater fishes, and animals that live on its slopes. One could spend decades here and not see it all.
Kodiak Island is known around the world as the home of some of the world's largest brown bears. But there is a lot more to Kodiak than bears and Kodiak Island itself. The term "Kodiak" is used to loosely refer to the Kodiak-Afognak archipelago of islands, which include Kodiak Island, Afognak Island, Raspberry Island, Shuyak Island and dozens of other islands of various sizes.
Getting to and Around Kodiak
Kodiak Island is accessible by regularly scheduled jet service from Anchorage, with multiple flights available. Be prepared for delays on both ends of your trip. The Alaska Marine Highway system (the ferry) out of Homer, provides a reliable alternative, however, the trip over takes ten hours or so. Staterooms are available on the ferry, and vehicles pay by the foot. If you opt to take a private boat there, pick your day carefully; it's roughly 150 miles southwest of Homer, across the Gulf of Alaska, and it gets quite rough out there. Once you're there, a number of charter aircraft outfits are based in Kodiak to transport you to other areas of the island, or out to Afognak, Raspberry, or one of the smaller islands.
Region 2 (west) contains many cabins that are available for use by the general public. Most require advance reservations and user fees are usually charged by the night. Amenities are spartan; expect to find an outhouse, bunks with no bedding or mattresses, no food, no dishes or cookstove, and no power or running water. Most have wood-fired or oil-fired stoves for heat. See our Public-Use Cabins page for locations, recommended gear, reservation and contact information.
The Alaska Marine Highway System
The State of Alaska operates a ferry system throughout Region 2, with stops in Cordova, Tatitlek, Valdez, Whittier, Chenega Bay, Seldovia, Homer, Kodiak, and Port Lions, before continuing on to the Alaska Peninsula. Vehicles are allowed on the ferry. Amenities include staterooms (must be reserved well in advance), bathrooms with showers, hot and cold meals and drinks for purchase, alcoholic beverages, and much more. For travelers on a budget, sleeper recliners are available, tents can be set up in certain areas aboard ship, or you can simply roll out your sleeping bag for a night under the stars. You can even bring a cooler along with your own food if you prefer. The schedule varies somewhat from winter (October through April) and summer (May through September). Visit the Alaska Marine Highway website for schedule and pricing information. Or visit their YouTube site for video snapshots of the ships, the amenities, and to discover this unique transportation system for yourself.
|Route Segment||Running Time||Naut. Miles||Stat. Miles||
The Alaska Marine Highway
|Kodiak-Port Lions||2.5 hours||48||55|
|Port Lions-Homer||10 hours||134||152|
Once you've arrived in Kodiak, the adventure begins! Use the road system or have your charter operator collect you at the airport (most operators do that at no additional charge). If you're basing out of Kodiak city itself, a short cab ride gets you from the airport to your hotel. Most of the better restaurants are within walking distance, as is the main harbor, grocery stores and other amenities you may need.
There are several islands in the archipelago though, so let's break it down with a discussion of each of the major islands and what each has to offer.
Kodiak Island itself is the largest of the group and the second largest island in the United States (the largest is Hawaii's Big Island). The archipelago is 177 miles long, and situated 158 miles southwest of Homer and roughly 30 miles south of the Alaska Peninsula. Six towns are located in the area; Kodiak is the largest, followed by Akhiok, Karluk, Larsen Bay, Old Harbor, Ouzinkie, and Port Lions. Some can be reached by boat, but most are usually accessed via aircraft. Kodiak is served from Anchorage with daily jet service, and can also be accessed via the Alaska Marine Highway. Ferry schedules vary according to the season, so check in advance. Ferries typically depart from Homer, on the Kenai Peninsula.
The Road System
The road system on Kodiak is limited to less than 100 miles of roads, ending at Monashka Creek or Anton Larsen Bay to the north of Kodiak city, and at Cape Chiniak or at the Kodiak Launch Complex to the south. There is an unmaintained road over to Saltery Cove as well, however, regular vehicle traffic is not possible on this road. It is mostly used as an ATV trail, with some companies offering tours or ATV rentals for folks headed over to Saltery Cove. The road system provides access to numerous state recreation areas and roadside streams that offer excellent recreational opportunities. Several state-maintained campgrounds can be found along this road system, offering recreational users who are on a budget outstanding opportunities to experience Kodiak on their own terms.
Anyone planning on driving the road system on Kodiak Island should obtain a copy of the Alaska Milepost, which contains a detailed section on the road system, including camping areas, hiking opportunities, fishing, and a host of other attractions, historical data, and other recreational opportunities.
Popular state-maintained campgrounds and recreational sites on the Kodiak road system are as follows:
- Fort Abercrombie State Park. Fort Abercrombie offers tide pools, freshwater fishing in Lake Gertrude (Abercrombie Lake), hiking and tent camping. It is located on the road system north of the city of Kodiak.
- Buskin River State Recreation Site. Located near the airport in Kodiak, the Buskin River State Recreation Site sits at the mouth of the Buskin River. The Buskin is a very productive fishery for sockeye and silver salmon. It's also a great place to view brown bears, waterfowl, raptors, and marine mammals. The site offers a trail system, a covered picnic area, tent, and R.V. campsites.
- Pasagshak River State Recreation Site. Located on the road system an hour south of Kodiak, the Pasagshak River offers a great diversity of fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities. The river hosts runs of sockeye, pink, chum, and silver salmon, as well as Dolly Varden. It also provides great wildlife viewing for brown bears, raptors, and marine mammals. The Pasagshak River offers some saltwater fishing opportunities at the outlet where the river dumps into the bay. The area offers first-come, first-served campsites (there is no fee), and picnic areas.
Essential Guidebooks and Maps
- Alaska Milepost
- Kodiak Fishing at any Angle, by Bernard Rosenburg
- Kodiak Island and its Bears, by Harry Dodge
- Track of the Kodiak, by Marvin Clark
Kodiak offers launch facilities, fuel, shore-based lodging, dry boat storage, and permanent or transient berths, fish cleaning stations, and many other amenities of interest to power boaters or sailors. All of these locations are within striking distance of outstanding fishing for salmon, halibut, rockfish, and lingcod, and all of them provide excellent access to prime public hunting areas.
This area is a boater's paradise. The long, narrow coves are reminiscent of Prince William Sound and offer shelter from pounding weather systems in a scenic, unparalleled environment. Canoeists, kayakers and even rafters will enjoy the many rivers and lakes the area has to offer. Some of these are only accessible on a fly-out basis, while others are conveniently located on the road system.
Kodiak, Afognak, and Raspberry islands offer many opportunities for saltwater boaters to enjoy the wilds of Alaska, however, it is not for nothing that Kodiak Island itself boasts the largest Coast Guard base in the country. The waters around these islands can be treacherous, with winds coming up suddenly and with great ferocity. Plan far in advance, check the weather often, and always have a sheltered cove to duck into as the need arises.
Saltwater boat ramps are found at Kodiak and Anton Larson Bay, with numerous beaches offering shore-based launch of very light craft such as sportboats or kayaks.
Numerous boating opportunities exist around the Kodiak / Afognak Archipelago, including both freshwater and saltwater venues. Here's an overview of the major freshwater opportunities.
Kodiak contains many road-accessible and remote lakes. Here are some of the most popular ones; simply click the name to learn more about them.
Abercrombie Lake | Aurel Lake | Big (Lilly) Lake | Bull Lake | Caroline Lake | Cicely Lake | Dolgoi Lake | Dragonfly Lake | East Twin Lake | Heitman Lake | Horseshoe Lake | Jack Lake | Jupiter Lake | Lee Lake | Lily Pond Lake | Long Lake | Margaret Lake | Saturn Lake | Tanignak Lake
This area contains several river systems of interest to recreational floaters or road-based shore fishermen.
American River | Ayakulik River | Buskin River | Karluk River | Olds River | Pasagshak River | Saltery River | Uganik River
CAUTION: Before embarking on a river trip anywhere in Alaska, do your homework! Double-check your information against details from your air charter, get flow information from the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center (APRFC), and other floaters. Check our Boating Forums for discussions with people who have been there. If you are not familiar with the characteristics of Alaska's rivers, read our River Information page for a general orientation, and a list of resources to get you started on the learning process.
Kodiak Fishing Opportunities
Fishing throughout this area is excellent for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species. All five species of Pacific salmon are found here, as are halibut, lingcod, rockfish, steelhead, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and the occasional grayling.
Kodiak Island offers excellent road access to many of these fishing opportunities, which makes it ideal for anglers on a budget. Most of the lakes listed above are stocked with catchable rainbow trout every year. Abercrombie Lake was stocked with grayling many years ago and they can still be found there on occasion.
By far the biggest attraction for Kodiak Island freshwater fishing is its salmon and char fishing, which can be excellent if you are there at the right time. Many of the best opportunities are right on the road system, making Kodiak ideal for anglers on a budget. Here is a chart showing the run timing for the most popular species, together with the peak season for each.
Kodiak's marine fishery is superb, with all five species of pacific salmon available, together with halibut, lingcod, and rockfish, to name a few. Unlike saltwater fishing out of Homer, Seward, or Whittier, most of these species can be caught within a 30-minute boat ride from the harbor. This means that full-day charters sacrifice little fishing time to long boat runs to the fishing grounds. Refer to our Charter Fishing page for details on what to bring on your charter. Rain gear and rubber boots are a must! Refer to the chart below for the best timing for various species.
Check the ADF&G website for details on the following available saltwater species.
Atka Mackerel | Black Cod | Chum Salmon | Dolly Varden | Halibut | King Salmon | Lingcod | Pacific Cod | Pink Salmon | Pollock | Rainbow Trout | Red Salmon | Rockfish | Salmon Shark | Silver Salmon | Steelhead | Yelloweye Rockfish
A Video Tour of Kodiak Fishing
If you're interested in seeing Kodiak on video, we are pleased to offer a two-part video series on a trip to Kodiak for the purpose of experiencing the roadside freshwater fishery, and the marine fishery out of Kodiak harbor.
Part One: Video Tour
Part Two: Kodiak Island Road system trip planning
This video provides a step-by-step description of how to put a trip together to fish Kodiak Island on the road system.
The waters around Kodiak and Afognak are home to several species of saltwater shrimp. Due to past over-harvest and other ecological factors, little is known about the overall health of Alaska's shrimp stocks. The commercial harvest is limited, but the sport fishery continues. There are ecological concerns with past methods of harvesting shrimp. Some countries still use dredges, which scour the seafloor and destroy vast areas of habitat and scoop up many other non-targeted species (bycatch). Alaska forbids these practices and limits both the commercial and sport harvest to nondestructive methods.
Shrimping is done with pots that are baited and dropped into waters in excess of 300' deep and left to "soak" for several hours. This pot fishing technique is considered the most environmentally friendly method of shrimping, with virtually no seafloor damage and almost no destructive bycatch of other species.
Mark the buoys on your pots with your name and address, ensure they have plenty of line on them to accommodate the rising tide and currents, and take a GPS reading on their location. The amount of line you need greatly depends on the water depth; plan on twice as much line as the anticipated depth. Because of the great depths involved, most shrimpers use a "pot puller"; a hydraulic winch mounted to the boat, to pull the pots up from the seafloor. Keep track of your pots! If you didn't put enough line out, the rising tide or changing currents can lift your pots and cause them to drift off into deeper water. Fishermen can be cited for unrecovered pots that are left out after the season closes.
Visit our Saltwater Fishing Forum for more information on shrimping locations, how-tos, and other details that will make your efforts more productive.
Check the ADF&G website for information on the following shellfish found around Kodiak Island.
Coonstripe Shrimp | Northern Shrimp | Sidestriped Shrimp | Spot Shrimp | Golden King Crab | Red King Crab | Tanner Crab
Note: The king crab fishery in the Kodiak Island area is closed!
Clamming opportunities exist on many beaches throughout Kodiak Island; the most popular are on the road system. But the risk of PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) varies from one area to another and several deaths have occurred on Kodiak Island as a result.
WARNING: The Alaska Department of Fish & Game has certified certain beaches in Alaska as free of PSP. Due to the expense of testing and monitoring, none of these beaches are on Kodiak Island. Clamming should be avoided on Kodiak.
Kodiak Island Hunting
The state of Alaska is divided into 26 Game Management Units (GMU), some of which are divided further into sub-units. Each of these units or sub-units may contain different species, different seasons, and different legal requirements for hunting. GMUs are aggregated into regional groupings, and each of these regions operate under the oversight of a team of ADFG employees, including area biologists who are responsible for game management in their assigned portions of the region. There are five regions in the state of Alaska. Outdoors Directory uses these regions to divide the state into smaller pieces, for the sake of organization. When you plan your Alaska hunt, you need to know both the GMU in which you will be hunting, and the region. In this way you can ensure you are following the correct regulations for the area, and you know which regional biologist to contact for details about that area.
Region 2 (west) consists entirely of GMU 8. The ADF&G Region 2 office is located in Anchorage, however hunters planning to hunt GMU 8 should also contact the office in Kodiak for specifics on the area. CLICK HERE for a complete listing of all the regional offices, and specific contact info for the area biologists themselves.ADF&G Management and Harvest Reports, a vital hunt-planning tool, can be found AT THIS LINK. Reports are listed in sequential order by species. For detailed research into population trends, review several reports. For more recent data contact the area biologist.
Here is the contact information:Alaska Department of Fish and Game211 Mission RoadKodiak, AK 99615Sportfish, Wildlife: 1 (907) 486-1880Salmon, Herring: 1 (907) 486-1830Shellfish, Groundfish: 1 (907) 486-1840
Check out our page on Hunting Southcentral Alaska for more specifics.
Kodiak Brown Bear Hunting
Brown bear hunting on Kodiak is legendary, and is done entirely on a draw basis. Nonresident brown bear hunters need a registered guide for brown bear, regardless of where in Alaska they hunt them. In most cases hunters interested in a guided brown bear hunt on Kodiak will work through a guide service through the drawing process. Residents hunting brown bear need to first draw a tag, after which common sense dictates that they take steps to avoid hunting on top of a guide operation. Kodiak has some private property where hunting is not allowed. Check with the ADF&G office in Kodiak before you select the exact place you will camp.
Kodiak Deer Hunting
Kodiak also offers excellent hunting for Sitka black-tailed deer. The quality of the hunting is highly variable in different parts of the island, and the primary drivers affecting deer availability are as follows:
It is not uncommon at all for severe winter conditions (particularly deep snow) to adversely and suddenly affect deer populations. In years of deep snow, die-offs occur because deer are not able to move around much and available forage is buried. But in years of low snowfall, deer production can rebound quickly.
Understandably, the areas under the most pressure are along the road system. Excellent research is essential to effectively hunt these areas if you want to beat the odds the average hunter faces. Look for niche areas that are overlooked, or places bypassed by hunters heading out to more popular areas for the best results.
Kodiak Hunting Methods
One hunting method involves boat-based hunts. You spot game from the shoreline and make your stalk, getting your deer back to the boat by nightfall. The alternative is to camp ashore either in a tent or in a public-use cabin. The cabins are reserved in advance. The biggest issue with shore-based hunts is dealing with bears that will appropriate your kill as soon as they find it. In these situations many hunters will clean the deer and cut it up into pack-sized pieces at the kill site, then get it down the mountain as soon as possible. The longer you linger at the kill site, the greater the chances are that a bear will find it and you'll have trouble. Never drag your deer down the mountain! It leaves a fresh scent trail that a bear can follow right to your camp. Kodiak also offers excellent goat hunting, and there are some ranch-based bison shoots there as well. Not much of a hunt really, but if you like buffalo meat, it could be a great add-on to a hunt for something else. Bison are not native to Kodiak, and are mostly owned by local ranches.
Want to learn more about the critters that inhabit the Kodiak area? Visit our species pages, where you'll find detailed instructions on the biology, distribution and how to hunt the big-game species that inhabit this area. Here are direct links to our pages on the species found on Kodiak Island:
Bison | Brown Bear | Elk | Goat | Sitka black-tailed deer
Afognak Island has one permanent settlement, the tiny Russian Old Believer town of Aleneva, with about 70 people. There's also a logging camp operated by a native corporation, and part of the island is a State Park. The greatest challenge for visitors to Afognak is access. You must take a boat or a floatplane from either Kodiak City or Old Harbor, on Kodiak Island itself. Boat travel involves a trip across Kupreanof Strait, which, depending on weather, can be quite rough or even impassable for days at a time. Plan your trip with enough leeway on both ends to allow for delays.
Afognak has a limited road system from logging activity, but it is of little use to hunters, as the better hunting takes place elsewhere.
Afognak Island State Park Cabins
Afognak Island is accessible by either boat or floatplane from the town of Kodiak. Each cabin is equipped with bunks, a table and a woodstove. Firewood is provided, but you must split it yourself.
- Pillar Lake Cabin. 12'X14', sleeps 6, located at the south end of Pillar Lake. CLICK HERE for availability, rates and reservations.
- Laura Lake Cabin (pictured here). 12'X14', sleeps 6, located east of Penenosa Bay and 2.5 miles from the head of Pauls Lake. CLICK HERE for availability, rates and reservations.
CLICK HERE to read more about these cabins, or to make reservations. See our Public-Use Cabins page for locations, recommended gear, reservation and contact information.
Hunting on Afognak Island
Afognak is best known for its herds of Roosevelt elk, transplanted to the island from Washington's Olympic Peninsula in 1928. The original plant consisted of eight calves, and the herd has expanded to nearby Raspberry Island. There are huntable numbers on both islands, and both hunts are conducted on a draw basis. Drop-off hunts are done either by boat or floatplane, but the weather in the fall is typically poor, so plan on being hung up for a while if the weather goes down, regardless of how you got there. A dry, well-constructed camp is essential. Be advised that both Raspberry and Afognak islands have brown bear populations, and take appropriate precautions.
Want to learn more about the critters that inhabit Afognak? Visit our species pages, where you'll find all you need to know about Afognak's big game species:
Brown Bear | Elk | Deer
Surprisingly, Raspberry Island may not be named after raspberries at all, but rather the abundant salmon berries, which bear a close resemblance. Be that as it may, Raspberry itself offers excellent hunting for deer, elk and brown bear, while the surrounding marine environment offers great remote fishing opportunities for a variety of species. It's possible to fish the waters around Raspberry Island and never see another boat.
Raspberry Island is remote and you can't always count on getting pulled out of there on schedule. The weather, which can ground aircraft and keep boats tied up in safe harbors, is the single greatest limiting factor. Hunters must plan on being delayed on one or both ends of their hunt; bring extra food and ensure that your entire camp is rugged enough to handle Alaska's worst weather. Refer to our Gear section for specific recommendations.
There are no roads on Raspberry Island.
Want to learn more about the big-game species that inhabit Raspberry Island? Our species pages give you the low-down on the critters you'll find on Raspberry:
Brown Bear | Elk | Deer
Shuyak Island sits off the northern tip of Afognak Island, and is the closest large island to the Kenai Peninsula. Access to Shuyak is typically via seaplane out of Kodiak. Boat access is possible, but involves long runs across exposed areas. The weather must be good on both the drop-off and the pick-up ends of your trip. If not, you could be stuck at either end for several days. Shuyak is popular with sport fishermen in pursuit of coho salmon, but it also holds a healthy population of Sitka blacktailed deer. Trails are few and the vegetation is thick. Most of the island is within the boundaries of Shuyak Island State Park, and falls under their regulations. The park maintains five public-use cabins on the island, and all five of them are located along Neketa Bay, Big Bay, or Carry Inlet, on the west side of the island.
Shuyak Island State Park Cabins
Shuyak Island is about 50 air miles north of the town of Kodiak. The state park contains four cabins, as follows:
- Salmon Cove Cabin. 12'X20', sleeps 8, located in Big Bay. CLICK HERE for availability, rates and reservations.
- Eagle's Nest Cabin. 12'X20', sleeps 8, located between two salmon streams. CLICK HERE for availability, rates and reservations.
- Mulcahy View Cabin. 12'X20', sleeps 8, located in Neketa Bay. CLICK HERE for availability, rates and reservations.
- Deer Haven Cabin. 12'X20', sleeps 8, located near a good salmon fishing stream. CLICK HERE for availability, rates and reservations.
Want to learn more about the big-game animals on Shuyak? Our species pages have the info you need on game found on this smaller island:
Other Hunting Areas in Region 2
Click the links below for specific information on areas to hunt in Region 2.
Other Activities in the Kodiak Area
Kodiak Launch Complex
Kodiak Island is also home to the nation's first commercial spaceport not located on a federal range. The Kodiak Launch Complex is located 41 miles south of Kodiak off of Pasagshak Road, and hosts rocket launches of various kinds. If your trip coincides with a launch, you may be able to observe from a variety of locations. One of the best places is the Narrow Cape Lodge, just five miles from the launch area. For safety and security reasons, the Launch Complex may temporarily close access to the area during launch times, so plan ahead.