Salmon fishing in Haines is one of the most exciting fishing trips a Yukoner can take.
The vast array of species creates an opportunity for everyone. Fishing the ocean tides for kings in the spring, the Chilkoot River for pinks and sockeye midsummer, or the Chilkat River for coho in the fall.
With hotels, campgrounds and RV parks spread throughout the area, lodging options abound. You just have to pay attention to the radio to find out when salmon fishing is open.
And pay attention for bears.
The Chilkoot River is frequently shared with grizzly bears, especially later in the season.
One time Hayley pointed out a mother and cubs heading down the Chilkoot River in our direction. She was concerned that the bear was coming to get us. Even though there were 20 other people between us and the bears, I couldn’t change her mind.
The cubs frolicked along the shore, trying their hand at fishing while their mother sauntered along. When they were 200 yards away Hayley started to get really concerned, “Dad we need to go now.”
Then a fish hit my lure. I fought with it for a few minutes until it spit my hook. The bears were now less than 100 yards away and still didn’t care about us. We moved back to our truck on the side of the road for a few minutes while they passed, then went back to fishing.
Be very aware of the location of bears because they can move quickly and disappear from sight. Never get between a mother and her cubs.
Evan Haynes is a retired oceanographer who lets us know when the salmon are running. He has lived in Haines for 20 years and fishes whenever he can.
With his grandson and their fly rods, he heads to the river for some sockeye fun.
“Don’t go out there with those giant rigs, you Canadians always come down and horse the fish in,” Haynes says. “Take a light rig and have some fun, let (the fish) run a bit. Also once you get a fish in that you are going to keep, clean it up right away. Don’t let it sit on the shore for the bugs to get, put it on ice, it will be some of the best eating fish you can get.”
Fish numbers had been steadily declining until a record number of sockeye ran in 2010. Places like the Fraser River saw 30 million sockeye; a normal count is 10 million.
In the Yukon we have seen steadily decreasing numbers for chinook and the opposite trend for chum.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has different fishing allowances for the different categories of fish.
“When we look at the numbers of salmon, we have three categories: conservation, First Nation sustenance, and recreational/commercial,” says Steve Smith, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The chinook numbers have not been low enough to restrict First Nation fisherman, but there has not been a commercial season in a few years.
The chum season, however, was open for a few days this year, then closed for a weekend, and has remained open since.
With the coho run quickly approaching we are checking our rods, making sure we have enough lures and anticipating what some call the most exciting salmon run of the season.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, “Coho salmon catches in the Lynn Canal commercial fishery have been strong, indicating that good returns are on their way to the Chilkat and Chilkoot Rivers.”
This run typically starts when the weather cools and the rivers start to run clear.
For more information on fishing in Haines check out the Alaska Department of Fish and Game web site at www.ADFG.Alaska.gov or the Haines website at Haines.ak.us for what to do, where to go and how to get there.
This is a trip for the whole family to enjoy.