For all our seasoned fishermen out there, it’s basic knowledge that there are certain times of the day and certain times of the year where it’s best to go salmon fishing in Alaska. Peak season for salmon fishing occurs from May through September, with the five major salmon species spread throughout the season.
The best fishing time for King Salmon starts in May, and you can fish for Silver Salmon all through November. But you still have to take the turnover and time of day into consideration before you go out on your fishing tour in Alaska.
The term “turnover” refers to the interchange of surface water and bottom water in a lake or a pond. This cycle happens twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall with summer stagnation in between. As soon as you understand the turnover, as well as what kind of water fish like and when it’s best to fish for them, it’ll give you a much more successful trip.
Let’s start with the spring turnover. As soon as the ice from the winter is out, the water on the surface of the lake or pond begins to warm up. As soon as it reaches 39 degrees it begins to sink to the bottom and is replaced by the cold water from below. The rotation occurs until the water temperature is consistent across the entire body of water. During this process the fish tend to stay shallower where the water warms up faster.
This is the period between the spring and fall turnover. During the summer, the sun heats the water that’s on the surface of the lake, but it doesn’t sink like it does during the turnovers. This is what is called “stratification” and this puts a warm layer of water over the cooler one but it doesn’t sink.
Fish tend to like cooler water but they also need the higher oxygen levels that are consistent in warmer water. Therefore they will migrate to the areas between the two water temperatures, which is called the “thermo cline.” When fishing during this time of year, it’s best to find a fishing spot where the land slopes gradually down into the thermo cline.
Similar to the spring turnover, as the temperatures change, so does the surface of the water. As the cooler temps roll in, the water at the surface cools down, becoming just as heavy as the cooler water at the bottom of the lake. Strong fall winds move this surface water around which mixes the two levels of water. As the mixing continues, the water temperatures become more uniform allowing fish to move about more freely.
Season/Time of Day
Spring/Early Morning: During this time, the fish most likely aren’t biting. The water is frigid and won’t heat up because the sun is low and what little sun is there isn’t strong enough to penetrate the waters surface. Don’t be discouraged! Over the winter the fish are spawning and hungry. Give it a week or so after the water thaws, the fish will be ready to go!
Spring/Late Morning-Early Afternoon: Fish are a little more eager and are biting off and on. The water is starting to warm up and the fish are downwind near the shoreline because the winds push the warmer air along with the surface food into that region.
Spring/Afternoon-Early Evening: Fish are hungry due to their higher metabolism and digestion. The water is warmer because the sun is directly overhead and penetrating the water easier. This is a great fishing time.
Summer/Early Morning: During the summer month, fishing is prime just before sunup through mid-morning. The summer months provide an abundance of food and cover for fish, so finding them can be a challenge but they are biting.
Summer/Late Morning-Early Afternoon: Fishing is not good for most of the day as they move to deeper water to cool off.
Summer/Afternoon-Early Evening: Fishing is at its prime from early sundown through dark because the water cools off and the fish come to the surface from below.
Fall/Early Morning: Not the best time to go out. Fish aren’t biting from sunup to early morning because the water is too cool.
Fall/Late Morning-Noon: Fish are biting here and there but mainly in warmer, shallow water.
Fall/Afternoon-Early Evening: This is the time for the best fishing results! Sun is directly overhead which brings the water to a more comfortable temperature. This makes for excellent fishing tours in Alaska because fish are looking to put on weight for the winter ahead.
As you can see there are great and not so great times for fishing. So when you are planning your next fishing tour in Alaska, make sure you are taking the turnovers and time of day into consideration as it can make a big difference in the success of your trip!