Snaking its way south along the western heel of the Alaska Range, the Prince William Sound (PWS) shoreline is broken by bay after bay and miles upon miles of rugged beaches. The bays mostly back up into enormous glaciated valleys and in the forested terrain separating the glaciers from the salt, small coastal streams deliver melt water to the sea. Many of these rivers have bountiful runs of several species of salmon, especially coho. Others do not. Some of the rivers are in such close proximity of their natal glacier; they are too cold to support salmon. Those with lakes between them and the retreating ice fields are able to maintain the right water temperatures and huge tide water returns of salmon are the piscatorial reward.
The primary method for accessing these remote tide water silvers is to charter an aircraft, and hope that your pilot can take you to the right spot. There are a number of established runs on short coastal rivers throughout PWS, but the key is to find one with an attached lake that is accessible by floatplane. Once on the water, the day routinely begins with a portage of gear from the plane to the beach. Many of these small rivers can be blocked by sand bars until a large enough rainfall and/or a high tide connects them to the ocean. Anxious and aggressive, schools of salmon gather in the break waters just off shore. Keenly aware of their natal river, they wait for the sandbar to open its flows. On the big swells, salmon can be seen surfing the waves onto the sand and rolling down the beach back into the surf. Just beyond the break, large concentrations of fish roll among the foam and the kelp, their backs exposed in the sunlight and their sheer numbers revealed.
Surf fishing on a remote Alaska beach can be a very physical and daunting endeavor. Even the smaller swells are powerful enough to knock you over and trying to cast above the waves without getting nailed is tricky. There are a number of different methods one can utilize from the beach. First, is to fly cast. By far this is the most technical and difficult method, although experienced fly casters will get plenty of second chances at the fish and will find the unique casting environment a welcome challenge. Long double handled spey rods deliver a distinct casting advantage in the breaking surf and prove very effective as one pursues schools of dorsaling coho just offshore.
Another method which proves equally effective to the fly rod is a conventional spinning outfit armed with a bladed spinner or even a bobber and eggs. These awaiting salmon are the antithesis of aggressive, and method or means seems secondary to simply getting something in their face to chew on. The strikes and runs are all that you’d expect from a fish taken in the salt water, and landing them in a breaking wave onto the beach is surreal.
For a day of beauty and a very unique fishing experience, this late fall fly out option is tough to beat. The flight to Prince William Sound gives you a birds eye view of the entire Kenai River drainage and takes you through the very scenic Kenai mountain range. You will see infinite glaciers and marvel at the steep, mountainous terrain. In less than an hour, this amazing flight will lead you to one of the most unique fishing experiences in all of Alaska…surfing for silvers!