Valdez offers numerous charterboat services to get you in to some of the most remote reaches of Prince WIlliam Sound, along with a sheltered harbor and boat ramp for private boaters who prefer to make their own adventure, on thier own terms. If you don't have your own boat, boat rentals are available locally, ranging from open skiffs in the 18' class, to larger boats will full canvas, to protect you from the weather. Check with the rental outfit for restrictions on how far they'll allow you to go out into the Sound. Because saltwater fishing opportunities out of Valdez are nearly limitless, this page will just hit some of the highlights, to whet your appetite.
Valdez averages close to 70 inches of rain a year, and 327 inches of snow during the winter months, so plan on bringing your raingear and rubber boots. The moisture creates an incredible coastal rainforest as a beautiful backdrop to the great saltwater fishery.
Valdez offers fishing options both near and far, with king, silver, pink, chum and sockeye salmon available in the bay, together with halibut, lingcod and rockfishing opportunities as well. For the more adventurous, long-range trips are available on a day-trip basis; these trips can add up to a long day on the water, with charter operators sometimes staying out a full twelve hours, in order to get clients on fish after a long run to the best fishing grounds. For those wanting to maximize their time in these premium spots, overnight trips are available.
Avaliable species include all five species of Pacific salmon, together with halibut, rockfish, lingcod, and several species of shrimp. Dungeness, king, and tanner crabs are found in this area, but numbers are low and the season is generally closed.
Alaska's marine environment provides an excellent playground for outdoors enthusiasts, whether you're cruising, kayaking, sailing or power boating. But it can get ugly in a hurry, with strong currents, ferocious weather, and bone-chilling icy waters. This is no place to make mistakes! ALWAYS check the weather before leaving port, and make sure your boat is in sound mechanical condition. The Alaska Office of Boating Safety posts an excellent checklist for boaters in Alaska's waters, which you can download AT THIS LINK.
Check the Weather!
Many of the locations listed on this page are accessed by crossing expanses of open sea, where large swells and wind chop are a constant possibility. Always check the marine forecast before heading outside! Especially on longer trips that will take you far from port. You can find the marine forecast for the Valdez area AT THIS LINK.
Valdez Arm is prone to channelized winds out of the north. Be extra cautious in this area!
Private Boat Logistics in Valdez
Option 1: Store Your Boat. Some nonlocal anglers opt to store their boat in Valdez, so they don't have to drag it all the way from Anchorage or Fairbanks all summer. There are several boat storage places in Valdez that offer this service. If you prefer not to bring your heavy truck with you for launch purposes, a launch service is available. Check with the Harbormaster's office for details. You can reach the Harbormaster at 1 (907) 835-4981.
Option 2: Transient Docking. Valdez boasts over 900' of transient slips that are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, vacated slips can be made available when their owners are not in port. Many of these belong to commercial boats that are out fishing for several days at a time. During busy times, you may have to raft your boat up with others, so bring your bumpers and be prepared to secure your gear. Theft is unlikely, but it's unwise to leave expensive rods and tackle lying around.
Rent a Boat!
Boat rentals are available in Valdez, ranging from open skiffs to larger covered boats to get out of the weather. Most companies limit you to a certain distance from the harbor, but a rental will get you out into Port Valdez, Valdez Narrows, and out into the Jack Bay area. This puts you solidly in reach of all the salmon species, plus halibut, rockfish and lingcod. Rods, reels, bait and tackle are all available in Valdez.
Charter Fishing in Valdez
A charter trip out of Valdez is a true Alaska adventure. Depending on where the action is, you may travel up to 2 1/2 hours out of the harbor to get into the best fishing. Many charters are combination trips targeting salmon, halibut, lingcod and rockfish. IF you're interested in lingcod, remember that the season opens up after July 1, after the spawning season. While there are many places to fish halibut in Alaska, Valdez and the waters of Prince William Sound produce some of the largest halibut in Alaska. Bring your coolers; you'll need them! There are many things you can do to prepare for a charter trip in Alaska, that will greatly improve your comfort and enjoyment of the trip; refer to our Charterboat Fishing page for details.
Valdez offers several fishing derbies, focusing on silver salmon and halibut. Derby tickets are reasonably priced, and the prizes range in the thousands of dollars. Join in the excitement when the charterboats come in each evening, and watch fish being weighed in. Results are updated daily on the leaderboard that's posted on the outside wall of the Harbormaster's office.
There are both weekly winners and season winners, so there's no good reason not to purchase a derby ticket. It could be your lucky day!
What is the Best Way to Fish Valdez Saltwater?
Valdez offers a lot of opportunity to fish the saltwater, but it can be distiled down to one of four options. Choose the best one that fits your agenda!
Option 1: Day Trips
Valdez Bay and the Valdez Narrows area offer excellent opportunites to troll for king salmon, which are sporadically available during early summer. Silver and chum salmon are readily available, with silver salmon fishing picking up through the last half of the summer and into fall. As far as salmon go, silvers are the "money fish", with derbies conducted each year that feature both daily prizes and season prizes that can add up to quite a chunk of change. You don't have to go far, either; the 2016 derby winner was caught right in the small boat harbor! In terms of sheer numbers, pink salmon head the pack. Because they'll take just about anything offered, pinks are an excellent choice when it comes to keeping younger children excited and in the game. Halibut and rockfish are also available in the bay and out in Valdez Narrows.
Option 2: Long-Range Day Trips
Most of the charterboats will get you well out into Prince William Sound, and some will run over two hours or more to get into remote areas. Because these areas are not fished as heavily, it's not unreasonable to expect to see halibut over 60 lbs., lingcod in the 20-30 lb. range, and opportunities at larger rockfish. King salmon are commonly caught on long-range trips, as feeder kings are widely circulated through Prince William Sound. Though the average size is between 15-25 lbs., occasional fifty-pounders are boated. These are pre-spawn fish headed up into the Copper River or other streams in the area.
There are many hidden coves and sheltered bays that offer safe overnight anchorages, and can put you within striking distance of some outstanding shrimping and saltwater fishing opportunities. Pick up a copy of the Cruising Guide to Prince William Sound for details on these and many other points of interest throughout Prince William Sound.
Some charters offer overnight trips, however most of these are traveling to very remote locations outside the bay.
Option 3: Beach Camping
There are literally hundreds of small beaches, particularly at the head of bays and coves all throughout Prince William Sound, which offer excellent camping. There is nothing finer than relaxing by a beach bonfire on a long, cool summer evening, and falling asleep to the sound of waves gently caressing the shore. Be advised that areas above the tide line may be private property, which may not be fenced or posted. It's your responsibility to know where you are to avoid trespass issues.
Option 4: Cabin Camping
There are four recreational cabins open to the public in this area; one in Jack Bay, and three in Shoup Bay. Here's the lowdown:
Jack Bay Cabin: Located at the east end of Jack Bay, this cabin is about 20 miles from Valdez and is only accessible by boat or floatplane. The cabin sits above the tideline above a gradually-sloping beach. You'll need to be creative when anchoring here, to avoid becoming grounded when the tide goes out. The cabin is 12'x14', sleeps six on provided bunks (bring your own bedding). Includes table, benches, wood and oil stoves, a rainwater barrel and an outhouse. Driftwood may be available for firewood, but you should bring your own saw and axe. Advance reservations recommended AT THIS LINK.
Shoup Bay Cabins: There are three recreational cabins available in Shoup Bay, and all three are operated by a private concessionaire. One cabin is located in Shoup Bay near McAllister Creek, and the other two are at the head of the bay, near Shoup Lake. There's a short trail to the cabins. The cabins all sleep eight people apiece. Advance reservations recommended AT THIS LINK.
Check out our Recreational Cabins listings for details.
A Word of Wisdom on Yelloweye: Yelloweye rockfish are readily available out of Valdez, especially on the long-range trips. Remember that these fish are very long-lived; it takes females around 35 years to reach reproductive maturity, and the reproduction rate is relatively low, compared to other rockfish species. Yelloweye tend to live on the same rockpile for their entire life, making them very susceptible to over harvest. Do the next generation a favor by limiting your yelloweye harvest beyond the legal minimums. Some areas in Alaska have already been depleted, and it's up to us to preserve this fishery! Yelloweye live in deep water, and bringing one to the surface always results in overexpansion of the float bladder. How do you release them? Read our page on Rockfish Recompression.
Prince William Sound Hatcheries
A number of salmon hatcheries and release facilities exist throughout Prince William Sound, and all but one of them are operated by the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation. The remaining hatchery, the Solomon Gulch Hatchery, is operated by Valdez Fisheries Development Association. Both organizations are nonprofits. These hatcheries exist to augment the wild fish production for sport and commercial use. Here is a list of the hatcheries in Prince William Sound; their locations are plotted on the map on this page.
A. Solomon Gulch Hatchery. Species: Pink salmon, silver salmon.
B. Port Chalmers Salmon Pens. Species: Chum salmon. Fry are hatched at Armin F. Koernig Hatchery, transported to Port Chalmers and acclimated to saltwater here, and released from this site.
C. Armin F. Koernig Hatchery. Species: Pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, king salmon. The chum salmon fry released at Port Chalmers are hatched here.
D. Main Bay Hatchery. Species: Sockeye salmon.
E. Wally Noerenberg Hatchery. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon.
F. Cannery Creek Hatchery. Species: Pink salmon.
The Valdez fishery offers too many opportunities to list all of them here, so the best we can do is to point you in the general direction, and allow room for exploration. Here is a partial listing of the popular offshore fisheries available the Valdez area and Prince William Sound:
Tanker Alert! Valdez is located at the terminal end of the Alaska Oil Pipeline. Oil is pumped aboard tanker ships and sent out to the Lower 48 or to refineries elsewhere. For security and safety, there is a 200 yard buffer around any moving tanker, and a "no boating zone" near the oil terminal. Respect these buffer zones! The primary shipping lane used by the tankers is marked on the nautical charts. You may fish in these lanes, but when a tanker is underway, you must move out of the area!
1. Port Valdez. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut. Derby-winning silvers are caught right in Port Valdez, so there's no need to travel far for silvers. As to halibut, a common misconception is that you have to go far to catch larger fish. But Port Valdez is nearly 800 feet deep in places, and halibut move into this area the same as they do elsewhere, and for the same reasons. The streams draining into Port Valdez are home to spawning salmon, and as those fish spawn and die, there is an abundant food source which halibut love. Fish over 100 lbs. have been caught here and in Valdez Narrows. There's a lot to be had in Port Valdez, and we have a separate page for that. CLICK HERE for more information. Use NOAA Chart #16708
2. Valdez Narrows. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut. One of the primary locations to troll for silvers out of Valdez, the narrows offers excellent opportunities at silvers, pinks, chums and the odd king salmon. The best time for silvers is the month of July, but you can find them in August as well. Chums and pinks spawn in several rivers in the area, and the silvers are headed to Lowe River and Mineral Creek, at the head of Port Valdez. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 9.5 miles.
3. Sawmill Bay. Species: Pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish. Pink and chum salmon spawn in the streams at the head of the bay, so try trolling or casting in the stream mouth areas. Silvers will cruise through this area on their pre-spawning run up into Port Valdez streams. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 16.2 miles.
4. Valdez Arm. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish. The Arm offers excellent trolling for silvers during the silver run. There are several spawning streams for chum and pink salmon in the area as well, so expect to encounter those as well. Halibut are commonly caught here, including fish over 100 lbs. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 14 miles.
5. Galena Bay. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish. Galena Bay is prone to winds out of the east, with accompanying wind swell, so use caution here. Concentrate along the steep drops on both sides of the entrance. Galena Bay is the outer limit for rental boats from Valdez. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 19.2 miles.
6. Bligh Reef. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish, shrimp. Several shipwrecks have occurred on Bligh Reef, most notably the oil tanker Exxon Valdez. The reef offers good opportunities at several species, but the weather can make this area unfishable at times. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 28.8 miles.
7. Knowles Head. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish. The primary target at Knowles Head is halibut. Target the trough west of the headland, toward Goose Island. Jig or mooch for rockfish along the edges of the trough, or troll for salmon in this area. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 40.11 miles (via Tatitlek Narrows).
8. Knowles Bay. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish, shrimp. Knowles Bay offers good prospects for halibut, and it's a great place to drop a shrimp pot or two. Rockfish opportunities are somewhat limited, but salmon trolling at the mouth of the bay can pay off. This bay is exposed, and generally makes a poor place to anchor or camp, so pick your day. If the wind is out of the south, there are much better places to be. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 42.9 miles (via Tatitlek Narrows).
9. Red Head. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish. The primary draw here is halibut, which can sometimes be found on the rocky flats to the south. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 45.7 miles (via Tatitlek Narrows).
10. Port Gravina. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, shrimp. Port Gravina receives several freshwater streams where silvers, pinks and chum salmon spawn, so expect to find fish heading into the bay around mid-summer. Kings are found incidentally, but there are no known spawning streams for them in this area. Some halibut and rockfish can be found here as well, and shrimp can be caught in deeper water on both sides of the bay. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 56 miles (via Tatitlek Narrows).
11. Hinchinbrook Island (north side). Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish. This is a popular trolling spot for silvers, and it's mostly sheltered from south winds and swell action. There are many other places to fish Hinchinbrook, but this area offers protection from the wind. Use NOAA Chart #16708. Distance from Valdez harbor: 53.4 miles (via Tatitlek Narrows).
12. Squaw Bay. Species: Pink salmon, chum salmon, halibut, rockfish, shrimp. The streams flowing into the head of Squaw Bay are known spawning areas for chum and pink salmon. Expect to find fish there in July, and through the fall. The entrance to the bay is marked by an underwater plateau at about 160 feet, which drops off quickly to over 400' outside the bay and over 300' just inside the bay. Fish the plateau and the edges where it drops off to deeper water for halibut and rockfish. This is also a popular shrimping area. Fish the drops or the hole just inside the bay. Use NOAA Chart #167055. Distance from Valdez harbor: 56.4 miles (via the passage between Glacier Island and Long Bay).
13. Eaglek Bay. Species: Pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish, shrimp. Eaglek Bay several good anchorages, and is fairly protected. Silvers move through this area, as do pinks and chums. Halibut and rockfish are found along the edges of the shelf at the mouth of the bay, and shrimping can be productive in this area. Use NOAA Chart #16700. Distance from Valdez harbor: 50.9 miles (via the passage between Glacier Island and Long Bay).
14. Unakwik Inlet. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, halibut, rockfish, lingcod, shrimp. There's a hatchery across from Jonah Bay, at Cannery Creek, which handles pinks, chums, silvers and pink salmon. Chums are hatched here and acclimated to saltwater in rearing pens over on Montague Island's Chalmers Bay, where they are released. There's a shallow moraine across the inlet just past the hatchery, and beyond that on the right is the outflow stream of Miner's Lake. The lake hosts a sockeye run, and reds can be found in the stream during the run. Halibut, rockfish and shrimp can be found in the lower bay, towards the entrance; concentrate on the steeper drops along both sides of the inlet. Use NOAA Chart #167000. Distance from Valdez: 46.7 miles (via the passage between Glacier Island and Long Bay).
15. Glacier Island. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish. Try trolling for salmon off any of the several points around the island. Halibut and rockfish can be found along the steep drops off Iceberg Point and in Chamberlain Bay. Shrimp can be found in Chamberlain Bay and througout the area. There's a Stellar sea lion rookery at Buffalo Head, on the east end of Glacier Island. Use NOAA Chart #16713. Distance from Valdez harbor: 29.3 miles.
The channel between Glacier Island and Columbia Bay is a great place to scoop some glacier ice for the coolers! Lasts longer than regular ice.
16. Long Bay. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, halibut, rockfish. Sockeye salmon spawn in Billys Hole lake, along the west side of the bay behind Schrader Island, and can be accessed by navigating to the outlet stream. Pinks and chum salmon spawn in this area as well as at the inlets streams at the head of the bay. Silvers move through this area, and your best shot at them is to troll the entrance of the bay off Slipper Point and Long Point. It's possible to encounter feeder kings in this area as well. Try your luck for shrimp along the steep drops at the entrance to the bay. Use NOAA Chart #16713. Distance from Valdez harbor: 33.1 miles.
17. Columbia Bay. Species: King salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, silver salmon, halibut, rockfish. Columbia Bay receives a lot of traffic from sightseeing cruise boats headed up to view Columbia Glacier, so proceed with caution. Pink salmon spawn in the inlet stream at the head of Granite Cove, however access may be blocked by icebergs that have calved off of Columbia Glacier. Use caution when approaching this area.The terminal moraine of Columbia Glacier runs across the bay at the north end of Heather Island. The moraine is submerged, however it's frequently marked by grounded icebergs that have calved off of Columbia Glacier. There's a slot through the moraine, but extreme caution should be used in transiting this slot, because ice can block the slot on the outgoing tide. The glacier introduces a large amount of freshwater into the inner bay. Owing to the large quantity of ice and freshwater in the inner bay, trolling for salmon in this area will likely be both difficult and nonproductive. Concentrate your efforts toward the entrance of Columbia Bay, particularly along Flent Point and Elf Point, at the mouth of the bay. Shrimp may be found in these areas as well. Use NOAA Chart #16713. Distance from Valdez harbor: 29.5 miles.
The Valdez Saltwater Fishing Tacklebox
Whether you're bringing your own boat, renting a boat locally, or chartering, there's nothing like bringing your own tackle along. Here's a start on some of the things you'll want to have along for your Valdez saltwater fishing trip. Note that not all charter operators have this gear aboard, but it has all been proven season after season to work for Alaska's saltwater species. Also note that most charter operators have no objections at all to you using your own tackle. It's cheaper for them when you lose something!
King and Silver Salmon
- Blue Fox Pixee. Sizes 2-5. Colors: gold and silver with orange, hot pink, green, and chartreuse inserts. 8 assorted.
- Vibrax Spinner. Sizes: 3, 4, 5 and 6. Colors: pink, flame orange, chartreuse, silver, blue, and green. 8 assorted.
- Kodiak Custom Tackle G. I. spinners. Sizes: 4, 5, 6. Colors: pink, chartreuse, orange, flame red, blue, green. 8 assorted.
- Kodiak Custom Tackle Skirt spinners. Sizes: 4, 5, 6. Colors: pink, chartreuse, orange, flame red, blue, green. 8 assorted.
- Luhr Jensen Tee Spoon. Size: 4. Color: Hammered Copper. 4 each.
- Luhr Jensen J-Plug. Colors: Cut plug, chartreuse, flame orange.
- Sampo Coastlock ball-bearing swivels. Size: X3CB. 12 swivels.
- Gamakatsu Octopus hooks. Sizes: 2/0, 3/0, 5/0. 30 hooks.
- Gamakatsu Mooching Rigs. Sizes: 3/0-5/0. 12 rigs.
- Hootchie Skirts. Sizes: 4-inch, 6-inch. Colors: blue/silver, hot pink, chartreuse, neon green, purple, pink/white. 24 assorted colors / sizes.
- Luhr Jensen Coyote Trolling Flashers. Colors: Black, glow, white/blue. Bring one of each.
- Luhr Jensen Herring Dodger flasher. Colors: Chrome, chrome / prism decal. Bring one of each.
- Water Gremlin reusable split shot. Sizes: 3, 4. 4 packs.
- Danielson Bannana Weights with bead chain swivels. Sizes: 3oz, 4oz, 6oz. 4 of each size.
- Maxima Fishing Line. Size: 20-lb test. Color: Chameleon. 2 spools.
- Frozen Herring (Alaska Bait Company). Size: Green Label.
- Bait knife.
- Dexter-Russell fillet knife. Model: S133-8WS1-CP SaniSafe.
- Gibbs Fish Whacker.
- Fishing Pliers.
- Plano Guide Series tackle bag.
- Danielson Knotless Salmon Landing Net.
Halibut, Rockfish and Lingcod
- Power Pro Spectra Fiber Braided Fishing Line. Size: 80-lb test, 300 yard spool. Color: Green. 2 spools.
- Curly Tail Jigs. Size: 10". Colors / quantity: White (4), glow (2), root beer (2), purple (2), black (2).
- Jig Heads. Size: 12/0 hook, 16 ounce or more.
- Kodiak Custom Bottomfish Jigs. Sizes: 6 oz, 10 oz, 14 oz. Colors: White, Pink, Orange, Green, Black.
- Luhr Jensen Crippled Herring Jig. Size: 3-inch. Colors: Neon Blue Back, Nickel, Neon Green Back. 3 each.
- Frozen Herring (Alaska Bait Company). Size: Black Label (get the biggest you can find).
- Bait knife.
- Dexter-Russell fillet knife. Model: S133-8WS1-CP SaniSafe.
- Gibbs Fish Whacker.
- Fishing Pliers.
- Plano Guide Series tackle bag.
Caring for Your Catch
Good fish care starts the moment you bring it aboard. Alaska commercial salmon fishermen know this well, with the commonly-heard command, "Throw a fish, lose your job!" Fish tossed live into the fish box are prone to bruising. They also build up lactic acid as they struggle, which has a negative effect on the quality of the meat. Take good care of your fish, and you'll have many fine meals ahead.
Stun and bleed your fish immediately, then clean it and get it on ice. Take a look at our page on Caring for Your Catch for more ideas. Jon Rowley, a former commercial salmon troller from Southeast Alaska, wrote an excellent article on proper fish care, and it's worth a read. CLICK HERE for that article.
Valdez offers ice for sale, and you can even scoop glacier ice out near Glacier Island and other places, to augment your ice cache as needed. There is a public fish cleaning station located in the harbor area. All fish waste is collected for safe dispersal in the bay. Several businesses in the area offer filleting, vacuum packing and flash freezing of your catch.
If you plan to fish anywhere in Prince William Sound, you need two books in your boat, as follows:
Jim and Nancy Lethcoe's "Cruising Guide to Prince William Sound" is a must-have for anyone navigating or overnighting anywhere in Prince William Sound. Jim and Nancy spent many years camping and cruising in the sound, and the Cruising Guide is the only guide to all the details you need. Anchorages, dangerous areas, weather patterns, sources for fresh water, private lands, it's all there.
Paul Twardock spent over 20 years kayaking in the sound, and he's documented the best campsites, recreational cabins, and kayaking routes in the area. It's an excellent guidebook to the sheltered bays and inlets of the Sound, along with the best shore-based campsites. Kayaking and Camping also includes fishing information, where applicable.
An excellent map of the western portion of Prince William Sound. Unlike the nautical charts (which you should have with you), this map shows all the terrain features, camping areas, and other points of interest.
Click on the following links to review angling opportunities in the various areas accessing Prince William Sound.