Pink Salmon

Pink salmon return in August to Port Valdez near the Solomon Gulch Hatchery, where workers release about 230 million salmon smolts to the ocean each year. 

It’s a long drive from Fairbanks to Valdez, but it’s worth it for the scenery along the way and the marine fishing once you get there.

When Fairbanksans want salty air and ocean fishing, they often drive the entire 366-mile Richardson Highway to reach the Prince William Sound port town of Valdez. Prince William Sound and the open waters of the Gulf of Alaska hold some of Alaska’s tastiest and most iconic fish species.

Halibut are white, buttery-tasting flatfish that can grow to more than 350 pounds in Gulf of Alaska waters near Valdez. The area is also home to five species of Pacific salmon. The king salmon, also known as chinook salmon, can grow to more than 90 pounds.

Anglers can catch salmon from shore but need boats to reach halibut habitat. Full-day halibut charters in Valdez take fishermen out to the open waters of the Gulf of Alaska and usually cost $355 to $400 per person, according to charter booking business Fish Central. Other marine species such as lingcod and yellow-eye rockfish can be caught from Valdez-based boats. Salmon charter trips usually cost about $250 for a full day.

Another option is a self-guided fishing trip. Groups of up to six people can rent a covered 20-foot boat for a day for $550.

Valdez hosts a series of fish derbies in the summer. They include contests for halibut and silver salmon, which are also known as coho salmon. The derbies include special classes for female fishermen and children.

Buy a derby ticket before going fishing for a chance to win cash prizes of up to $10,000 for catching the biggest fish. Last year a Clovis, California, woman won the halibut derby with a 285.8-pound fish. A Valdez man won the silver salmon derby with a 17.28 pounder.