Trout Fishing in Urban Alaska (Winter Edition)

Today we’re winter fishing. The majority of Alaskans do their fishing in the summer months, but there are some that take advantage of the peace and quiet that winter lends to their favorite fishing holes, which in most cases, are still full of fish.

“You don’t see them a lot in the winter but they’re there. Sometimes I forget about them, like they just hibernate or something over the winter, but they’re there,” says local fisherman Lucas Rowley, my guide for the day.

Right now, Rowley is leading me to one of his favorite fly fishing spots in Anchorage. After parking at a midtown baseball field, we’re able to walk to the creek in just five minutes. Today we’re fishing for trout.

“10 years ago only the frontiers people on the cutting edge were doing this, but word kind of got out, and now there’s a lot of people who fish in the winter. Not as much as in the summer, but before it kind of used to be a secret,” Rowley says.

On this snowy morning, it still seems like a secret. It’s quiet, and not only is nobody fishing, there’s almost no one out here at all. As far as humans go anyway.

Rowley points out a bald eagle in a nearby tree.

My guide, Lucas Rowley, fishes as a bald eagle looks on.
My guide, Lucas Rowley, fishes as a bald eagle looks on.

“That’s another neat thing about this; you get to see a lot of wildlife. I think he’s just sitting up there looking for fish. It’s kind of a neat thing that adds to the ambiance and the feeling of being out here.”

Rowley has been fishing in Alaska for a long time, but he just started winter fishing last year. He quickly discovered there are places all over the state you can fish right now. And we’re not just talking about trout.

He says there’s a winter run of silver salmon in the the Russian River and part of the Kenai. They start about December 1st, and they spawn all the way through March. You’re not allowed to keep them, but you can catch a silver salmon in the middle of winter.

Currently though, we aren’t catching anything, so it’s time to find a new spot. We pick one where the water is warmer, and more turbulent.

One hazard, according to Rowley, is that the eye holes on your fishing pole will ice up.

“When it’s really cold you have to take time to pull your pole back and knock all the ice off so your line can be free. Another thing is toes and fingers getting cold. I like to keep the gloves on but it’s kind of awkward to hold the fly line and then if you catch a snag and you have to break off, you have to take your gloves off. So that’s kind of a pain.”

When asked his favorite way to cook a trout, Rowley says he likes to keep it simple.

“I think pan fried with a little oil, with my eggs in the morning when it’s fresh, is probably my favorite.”

Sadly there will be no fresh trout for breakfast on this morning. After about an hour of no action, we decide to call it quits. Rowley says he wasn’t expecting to catch much today, but for him, that’s not important.

“It’s just like a zenful experience, you have the sound of the water, and then it’s an art that you have to learn. It’s nice when you get that fishing bug and you don’t have to wait five months for summer to hit. You can do a little fishing in the winter.”

Click to listen to the audio story:

TS49 Radio Winter Fishing