For those who aren't familiar with beach fishing, it can seem intimidating at first. Where to go, when to go, what flies to use, and how to catch the salmon can seem daunting. In this article we will give you the information you need to feel confident about going channel fishing on your own!
The Silver Salmon is a fantastic salmon to target on a fly rod; they are relatively eager to take a fly and are aggressive fish that put up a fight and jump like crazy. The Gastineau Channel is a prime access point for this fishery because the salmon return from the ocean and have to traverse the narrow channel on their way to the hatchery. They often linger in the channel for days before making their final push back to the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. Silvers typically return to Juneau beginning in mid August and run through the end of September, which makes for a great month and a half to target them.
This fishery is even more fun because the Silvers hang out in relatively shallow water which means you can fish a full floating fly line and there are lots of opportunities for sight casting for these chrome salmon. Where you see one Siver rolling there are almost always at least three more below it. Cast right to them, strip your fly a couple of times, and out explodes a dime bright Silver. There will be no doubt in your mind when you get a strike; Silvers often take you on blistering runs through the shallows with explosions out of the water and great theatrics that everyone around will enjoy. Another great aspect to channel fishing for Silvers, is that if you are looking to put food in the freezer for the winter, these hatchery salmon are an ideal choice.
GEAR & TACKLE
As you are sitting at home, brainstorming where to go fishing for a couple of hours before work, you should consider fishing the channel as long as the tide is on the low side of the spectrum. You will have the best luck in this fishery if you bracket the low tide, meaning that if you have a low tide at 7:00am, you will likely have good fishing from 5:00am - 9:00am.
While fishing Gastineau Channel for Silver salmon, the ideal rod is an 8 weight (both 9 foot single hand or 11 foot switch rods are great), a machined aluminum reel (if you use a cast aluminum reel, be sure to rinse it out after saltwater fishing), spooled with a weight forward floating fly line. When it comes to leaders and tippet, a stout salmon/steelhead 9 foot tapered leader is ideal in the 12-16lb range. Flies for cohos can vary day to day, so be prepared with Clouser Minnows, Dolly Llamas, and the occasional Wog in colors ranging from chartreuse/white, pink/white, purple/pink and black/white. If you are taking fish home to the family, we suggest bringing a fish bonker, bag, or stringer to carry your salmon out in (there are not many large rocks hanging around the channel to use to bonk the salmon).
WHERE TO GO
There are several access points to fish the Gastineau Channel. 5 Mile Creek, 9 Mile Creek (which has two entrances), Bayview subdivision, Salmon Creek, “Free Candy,” and Sheep Creek. The North Douglas access points are ideally fished at an outgoing to low tide, or incoming from low, however the Sheep Creek and Thane area can be fished at a higher bracketed tide as well as low.
FREE CANDYFree Candy is the newest access point open to anglers to go try their hand at Silver fishing from shore. Located about 3 miles out the North Douglas highway, this property was purchased by the Southeast Alaska Land Trust and is in the process of having a trail developed down to the flats. Free Candy is located almost directly across from Salmon Creek, which sets you in a nice location to target returning hatchery silvers. This beach is a bit on the muddy side of things, so be prepared with your boots tight and stick to walking on the hard ground. This location tends to fish best when there are a lot of Silvers around. If the run is not yet in full swing or it is a small return, 5 Mile, 9 Mile or Bayview are better spots.
5 MILE CREEK5 Mile Creek is located about 5 miles out the North Douglas Highway. There is a path through the woods, down to the mud flats. As you step out of the trees at this location, the beach is immense. As a shore angler, anywhere along this beach to the left, right, and right in front of you is a great place to throw your fly in the water. This beach is fairly shallow, which makes the outgoing to low tide an excellent tide to fish. Keep an eye out on what is going on around you, if you find that you are not catching fish, yet there are fish rising all around you… try backing up a few feet. Likely, you are standing right where you should be casting. At 5 mile, it is not uncommon to see other anglers. There is plenty of room on the beach for more, so don’t be afraid to join in on the fun. This beach is an especially easy fishery for those anglers with only a short amount of time to fish, no waders, or are novice. It is easy to get to and from the waterfront, and the fish are feisty as ever.
9 MILE CREEK9 Mile Creek is located only a few miles further down the North Douglas highway. If you continue driving North, you will hit 9 Mile Creek Road (turn right on the street immediately after the Eaglecrest road). Here there are two access points to 9 Mile Creek. First, there is a pull off just a few houses in on the right-hand side of the road. There is a sign that says “9 Mile Creek” although it is often obscured by tree branches. Here you will find a nice path and trail that you can follow out to the salt water and target the Silvers at an outgoing or incoming tide from low.
The second access point to 9 Mile creek is located at the very end of 9 Mile Creek Road. At this access point, you must cross the 9 mile Creek. If the tide is too high, the creek is too deep to cross, and vice versa, if you stay out fishing too long and you need to cross the creek, you may be bushwhacking a ways to get back to your car without filling your waders. After the crossing, you walk down 9 Mile Creek to its mouth. This area is full of nice fishing holes that Silvers will stack up in at low tide, and is fairly easy to navigate. When in doubt, where you see rising salmon, cast your fly.
BAYVIEWBayview is located a few more miles down the North Douglas Highway, take a right on Sundown Drive, follow it to Horizon Drive and turn right. Park at the cul-de-sac at the end where there is a public wetlands access. At Bayview, you will hop down to the flats and walk a ways to the saltwater. The Bayview area accesses a ton of fishing stretching from the mouth of Fish Creek to 9 Mile Creek. It is a lot of water but every coho coming in the channel has to come by here. Look for rolling fish and keep moving if you don't see them.
Salmon Creek is very close to the hatchery and can have good fishing. Park by the radio station with the radio towers. At the back of their parking lot is a public access to Salmon Creek and the wetlands. Stay to the left of the creek and look for rolling fish in the cove. This area fishes best mid-tide on either a flood or drop.
SHEEP CREEKSheep Creek is one of the newest Channel fisheries. The hatchery has been doing releases of Silvers at this area for the last few years, and can be an extremely productive fishery all around. Easily accessible, as you drive down Thane Road, Sheep Creek opens up to an expansive beach area. Typically, the Silvers school around the beach, thus fishing any stretch of it can mean good fishing. This area is a fairly shallow area, so when the tide starts flowing in, be sure to have a gauge on your surroundings so you don’t get caught on a bar at tide change. This area tends to fish well if you are bracketing the low tide, or the high tide. The Silvers tend to push up into the shallows at higher tides, and can be hooked on the fly within 10-20 feet of shore at times.
All Six of these locations are great places to go to access Silver Salmon in Gastineau Channel. We are lucky to have world class fishing right in our backyard. The Channel is a great location whether you only have a couple hours or all day. And because there is so much water to fish there is always room for one more angler on the bank. So, get out there this fall and have some fun!