Valdez offers a variety of fishing opportunities from the road system and, depending on your timing, it's possible to catch any of five species of salmon, Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, and grayling. Doesn't matter if your offshore charter is down because of weather and you're looking to kill some time, if you're camping out for the weekend, or if you're on vacation and looking for a place to sample some great Alaska fishing, Valdez is the place to be.
Valdez is accessible by highway, by commercial air service, by boat, and by the Alaska Marine Highway system. There are lots of ways to get here, and all of them expose you to some of Alaska's most spectacular scenery. If you're taking a road trip, you're looking at about 300 miles from Anchorage, which will take you roughly five hours, depending on construction along the way. If you're coming down from Fairbanks, it's 360 miles, or about six hours. Either way, youll drive over beautiful Thompson Pass, with its stunning vistas of the Chugach Range's rugged peaks. Farther along, you enter Keystone Canyon, with literally dozens of glaciers in sight, raging whitewater rivers, and spectacular waterfalls. It's an unforgettable drive. Rolling on toward Valdez, you enter the coastal rainforest in the Lowe River Valley before finding yourself in Valdez.
If you prefer to fly, commercial flights are available from Anchorage or Fairbanks, to Pioneer Field on the outskirts of Valdez.
Valdez is an important cruise ship destination, and a port of call for the Alaska Marine Highway system.
The pace in Valdez is a lot easier than the busyness of Seward or Homer, yet everything you need is right there. You'll find nice hotels, several RV parks with both tent and RV sites. One of them has small cabins for rent. There's a campground out at Allison Point, and the Valdez Glacier Campground offers 87 campsites, 21 RV pads with electric hookups, RV dump station, water, hot showers and restroom facilities. Each campsite has picnic tables. In town you'll find a large grocery store, tackle shops, a marine parts dealer, and restaurants ranging from fancy to simple. There are a couple of processors located in the harbor area that will vacuum pack and flash-freeze your catch for you, and provide ice for the trip home.
Rent a Boat!
The best way to improve your odds of success for silvers, kings, halibut and rockfish is to rent a boat in Valdez and fish the bay- Port Valdez. There are many locations you can go, depending on the weather. Inside the bay, try trolling for silvers or feeder kings off Mineral Creek, Gold Creek, or Shoup Bay. Farther out, but well within striking distance is Valdez Narrows, a popular trolling area for silvers. Halibut and rockfish can be found in the bay, Valdez Narrows, and beyond. The boat rental outfits can also set you up with the appropriate rods and reels, in case you don't have what you need for that kind of fishing. Avaliable boats range from open skiffs to covered boats to get you out of the rain, if need be. All the bait and tackle you need is available in Valdez.
Don't Forget Your Derby Ticket!
Valdez hosts derbies for halibut and silver salmon every year, and the prizes range from charter fishing trips to gear, to substantial amounts of cash. Derby winners have been caught right in the small boat harbor, so you don't have to go on a long trip on the saltwater to take a derby fish. Tickets are reasonably priced, so there's no reason to go without one. Tickets are available at local tackle shops in Valdez.
The roadside fishery in the Valdez area offers diverse freshwater and saltwater species. Here's an overview:
There are several stocked lakes in the area, offering rainbow trout and grayling. In most cases, grayling are no longer stocked, but they have become established and are spawning in the wild. Most lakes are stocked in the spring, with catchable rainbow trout. Dolly Varden are available in most freshwater streams. Salmon use many of the area streams, but only two rivers are open to freshwater salmon fishing; a section of the Robe River, and below the weir at the Solomon Gulch Hatchery. Both fisheries are productive for salmon, with pinks taking the top slot in terms of sheer numbers, followed by silvers later in the summer. The most productive sockeye fishery is the Robe River flyfishing area.
Although halibut and rockfish are occasionally caught from shore along Port Valdez, the big draws are salmon and Dolly Varden. All five species of Pacific salmon are caught here, and bag limits are generous. Dollies may be caught year-round, and salmon fishing of one kind or another is available all summer. Feeder kings can be taken at any time of the year, however your best bet for king salmon is out of a boat in Port Valdez and beyond, into Prince William Sound.
Please review our species pages, listed in the menu on the right side of this page, for more details on techniques and tackle for these species.
Tackle and Techniques
There are many methods you can employ to catch fish in Valdez. The Robe River fly-fishing area requires fly gear. The most common method of fly-fishing for sockeye doesn't require a fly rod, however. Most anglers use a medium-weight spinning rod rigged with 15-20 lb. monofilament line. Tie a coho fly or other streamer and crimp a few splitshot above that to get your line down to where the fish are. The technique is known as "flipping"; the idea is to drag your fly just off the bottom in an arc to intercept fish that are moving upriver.
Snagging is legal in saltwater, and for that all you need are weighted treble hooks.
Silvers, chums, and pinks can be caught on fly gear, but in saltwater areas you're better off with Vibrax spinners or Pixee spoons. Bring a variety of sizes and colors. Herring fished under a bobber is a deadly technique for silvers. Rig your bobber about three or four feet above the bait. Herring size is important, as silvers may not take the larger sizes. Go with blue label or green label herring sizes for the best results.
Refer to our Species pages for more details on tackle and techniques for each species.
Note that the only freshwater streams open to salmon angling in this area are the flyfishing-only section of the Robe River, and the section of Solomon Gulch Creek 300 feet downstream of the hatchery weir. Other streams are open to Dolly Varden fishing, but not salmon.
There are both freshwater and saltwater fishing options from the road system near Valdez, and depending on your timing, some of them can offer outstanding fishing opportunities. Here's an overview:
1. Worthington Lake. Species: Rainbow trout, grayling (stocked). Access: MP 27.5 Richardson Highway. Drive east out of Valdez, through Keystone Canyon. Worthington Lake is above the large switchback on your right.
2. Blueberry Lake. Species: Rainbow trout, grayling (stocked). Access: MP 24.1 Richardson Highway. Turn off takes you a mile to Blueberry Lake State Recreation Area. There are two lakes here, and both are stocked.
3. Old Town Valdez. Species: Chum salmon, king salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden. The shoreline area near the old townsite of Valdez offers casting opportunities for all five species of salmon, along with Dolly Varden. Access: Take the dirt road west at MP 0 on the RIchardson Highway, and continue through the old Valdez townsite to the shoreline.
4. Robe River. Species: Sockeye salmon, silver salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon. Dolly Varden. The Robe River is the outflow of Robe Lake, an important spawning area for both red and silver salmon. Owing to the growth of various species of aquatic vegetation during the summer months and the subsequent decay cycle of these pond weeds during the fall and winter months, oxygen depletion and the loss of spawning habitat is a concern. The Valdez Fisheries Development Association (VFDA) operates a harvester on the lake, which trims pond weeds, in order to open up spawning habitat and improve oxygen production in the lake. The river itself is the corridor salmon use to get to the lake. The section of the Robe River upstream of the highway is closed to salmon fishing, however the section from the highway bridge to a point 300 feet downstream of the confluence of the Robe and Lowe River confluence is designated as a flyfishing only area for salmon. The Robe River is choked with brush to the banks, and access can be difficult. Additionally, bears are known to inhabit this area during salmon season, so anglers should proceed with extreme caution. The best way to access the Robe River is to launch a raft or a canoe at the highway bridge and float downstream. Access: MP 2.5 of the Richardson Highway offers a turnout from which you can walk down to the river. The brush is thick here, but the river can be waded at normal water levels. Your best bet is to wade and cast to individual fish you can spot if you're wearing polarized glasses. The most popular access point is at the lower end, which is accessed via the dirt road behind the ball fields on the east side of the highway. This road takes you to the river mouth.
5. Lowe River. Species: Dolly Varden. The Lowe River is closed to salmon fishing, but it does offer good opportunities for Dolly Varden later in the season after the glacier freezes and the water clears up. Access: The Lowe River parallels the Richardson Highway from the outskirts of Valdez through Keystone Canyon, offering several access points along the way. The upstream section of the Lowe River above the Dayville Road bridges has some sections of whitewater and can be dangerous to inexperienced rafters. One of the better places to fish the Lowe River is to take Dayville Road to the highway bridges over the Lowe River. Turn off the RIchardson Highway at MP 2.6 and travel east along Dayville Road to the bridges (there are two). The river is braided in this area and quite deep and swift. The shoreline is mostly choked with thick alders, and impassable. Try a raft or an inflatable canoe, drifting downstream and fishing from any of several gravel bars in the riparian zone. The take-out is at the confluence of the Robe River, which can be accessed via the roads behind the ball fields just outside of Valdez.
6. Solomon Gulch Creek. Species: Pink salmon, silver salmon, Dolly Varden. The best fishing here is for pink salmon during July and August, but the area is known to attract both brown and black bears at that time. These bears are mostly acclimated to humans, however extreme caution should be exercised at all times. Do not keep your fish on a stringer in the river, or lying on the banks. Access: MP 2.6 Richardson Highway, east along Dayville Road to the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery. Park in the lot across the creek from the hatchery and walk downstream. You can start fishing at the ADFG markers 300 feet downstream of the weir.
7. Allison Point. Species: Chum salmon, king salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden. This area offers shore-based saltwater fishing for both salmon and Dolly Varden, and is very popular during the peak of the pink salmon run. Access: MP 2.6 Richardson Highway, east along Dayville Road, past the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery to Allison Point. You can park along the shoulder of the road, or camp in any of several camping areas.
8. Breakwater Beach. Species: Chum salmon, king salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden. This is a shore-based saltwater fishery located right in the town of Valdez. It's a popular area, so expect to see other people there. Access: Along the waterfront area, turn south off of Fidalgo Avenue onto Breakwater Street. Park and walk to beach area.
Amenities: None at the site, but restrooms and all other facilities are within walking distance.
9. Ruth Pond. Species: Rainbow trout, grayling (stocked). Located in downtown Valdez at the intersection of Hazlet and Fidalgo Avenues, Ruth pond provides a nice diversion from the hectic crowds that you may see during the peak of the salmon season. It's park setting makes it a great place to take small children.
10. Mineral Creek. Species: Chum salmon, king salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden. Mineral Creek itself is closed to salmon fishing, however it does offer Dolly Varden. Salmon may be caught in saltwater near the river mouth area. Bears are sometimes found in this area, so proceed with caution. Access: Take Eagan Drive west of town to Mineral Creek. Before crossing the creek, turn left onto Blueberry Hill Road. Follow Blueberry Hill Road to the end, and walk to the river mouth area.
11. Gold Creek. Species: Chum salmon, king salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden. Gold Creek is closed to salmon fishing, however it is open to Dolly Varden. Salmon may be caught in saltwater near the river mouth area. Access: Park at the Shoup Bay Trail trailhead and hike about 3.2 miles west along the Shoup Bay Trail. Turn left to access the Gold Creek camping area near the river's mouth. More information about this section of the Shoup Bay Trail can be found AT THIS LINK.
12. Shoup Bay. Species: Chum salmon, king salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden. This is a very rugged area, but it is possible to get to the water to fish saltwater for various species. Access: Hike west and north 6.3 miles along the Shoup Bay Trail to inner Shoup Bay. This is a steep, arduous hike that should not be attempted by people who are not in good physical condition. You can read more about this section of the Shoup Bay Trail AT THIS LINK.
Caring for Your Catch
Good fish care starts the moment you land your fish. Alaska commercial salmon fishermen know this well, with the commonly-heard command, "Throw a fish, lose your job!" Fish left flopping on the bank 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 at several locations. Stock your cooler in advance, and ice your fish as soon as possible. There is a public fish cleaning station located in the harbor area, or you can clean your fish at the location where they were caught. Fish waste can be deposited in the river or ocean, but be careful to toss it as far out into deeper water as possible. Fish waste is a huge attraction for bears, and you don't want to cause issues for the next person who comes along. Several businesses in Valdez 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.
Click on the following links to review angling opportunities in the various areas accessing Prince William Sound.