Alaska Fish Counts
When is the best time to fish for salmon in Alaska? The best time to fish Alaska's top rivers are:
Kenai River Chinook Salmon:
June 1 - June 16
July 11 - July 31
Kenai River Sockeye Salmon:
July 11 - August 19
Russian River Sockeye Salmon:
June 14 - July 8
July 28 - Aug 24
Copper River Sockeye Salmon:
May 24 - July 15
Nushagak River Chinook Salmon:
June 14 - June 23
Nushagak River Sockeye Salmon:
June 19 - June 24
July 3 - July 13
Nushagak River Coho Salmon:
July 30, Aug 7, Aug 14
Deshka River Chinook Salmon:
June 2 - June 25
Anchor River Chinook Salmon:
June 5 - June 20
Ninilchik River Chinook Salmon:
June 14 - July 26
Want to know the peak times your favorite Alaska rivers and your favorite Alaska Salmon? Planning a vacation and want to time the salmon runs perfectly? You've come to the right place. Check out the graphs below with the beginning and end of each run labeled for easy reference. These dates are determined by averaging the last 3 years of daily fish count numbers to find the absolute peak dates for fishing those rivers.
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Kenai River Fish Counts: King Salmon
The Kenai River king run is divided into two independent runs.
The peak time of the early run is from June 1 to June 16
The peak time of the late run is from July 11 to Aug 8th, however King Salmon fishing ends on July 31st by regulation
For further reading check out:
Russian River Fish Counts: Sockeye Salmon
The Russian River sockeye run is similar to the Kenai River chinook run in that there are two independent runs of salmon. An early run and a late run.
The early run of salmon do enter the Kenai River but are primarily headed for the Russian River and other tributaries of the Kenai River. The late run of sockeye on the Kenai River is extremely large and a small percentage (3.5%) of those fish go to the Russian River creating a nice second run of sockeye salmon on the Russian River.
The peak time of the Russian River early run is from June 14 to July 8th and the minimum escapement goal is usually achieved by June 28.
The peak time of the late run of the Russian River is from July 28 to August 24 and the minimum escapement goal is usually achieved by Aug 11.
Copper River Fish Counts: Sockeye Salmon
The Copper River Sockeye runs is also one of the most impressive in the state and has about 1/2 of the total sockeye of the Kenai River. Still 800,00 sockeye a year enter this watershed making for fantastic fishing.
The Copper River sockeye run begins around May 24 when approximately 10,000 fish a day or more start entering the river. The Copper River sockeye run ends around July 15th.
The minimum escapement goal for set by ADF&G is usually achieved by July 16.
Nushagak River Fish Counts: King Salmon
The Nushagak river may be a bit difficult to get to, requiring flights into Dillingham, then boat rides to camp but it also boasts the largest run of king salmon in the state. While these fish are not as big as the Kenai kings this river see's as many as 20,000 kings in a single day!
The run starts around Jun 14th and last until June 23rd. There is another small peak afterwards continuing until around July 6th. But keep in mind, even in the "lull" between the two peaks we're talking about 2500 king salmon a day, which is an enormous number of king salmon.
The minimum escapement goal for set by ADF&G is usually achieved by June 26th.
Nushagak River Fish Counts: Sockeye Salmon
The Nushagak River sockeye run is as impressive as the Kenai River sockeye run reaching around 1.5M fish each year. What is really impressive about the Nushagak River sockeye run is how quickly it happens - 3 short weeks in a single run of fish. In 2017, more than 400,000 fish entered the river in a single day! And it was nearly that strong for several days in a row. Imagine that day of fishing! That was on July 5th if you were wondering.
The Nushagak River sockeye run starts around June 19th and last until July 13th.
The minimum escapement goal for the Nushagak River sockeye run set by ADF&G is usually achieved by June 25th.
Nushagak River Fish Counts: Silver Salmon
The Nushagak River Silver run is a very interesting run with 3 distinct peaks on July 30, Aug 7, and Aug 14.
Like most places in Alaska, the Nushagak River silver salmon run is a fall run starting in late July and going into early fall.
Alaska Department of fish and game does not set an escapement goal for this fishery.
Deshka River Fish Counts: King Salmon
The Deshka River is a river in southern-central Alaska. The Deshka River is one of Southcentral Alaska's premier sport fishing rivers, with significant runs of king and coho salmon, along with resident grayling, burbot, northern pike, and rainbow trout.
The Deshka River king run starts on June 2nd and goes until June 25th. At its's peak it will see more than 800 King Salmon a day entering it's watershed.
The minimum escapement goal set by ADF&G for the Deshka River king run is usually achieved by July 29th.
Anchor River Fish Counts: King Salmon
About 45 minutes drive south of the Kenai River you'll find the Anchor River.
King salmon begin to enter this watershed in numbers around May 28th at more than 50 chinook per day and by June 5th those numbers have doubled to 100 per day. It will continue like this until June 20th when there is usually a small lull in the run and then a nice run of additional fish that reach more than 175 king salmon daily.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game escapement goal for the Anchor River chinook salmon run is usually achieved by July 4th.
Ninilchik River Fish Counts: King Salmon
About 30 minutes drive south of the Kenai River you'll find the Ninilchik River and the locally famous Ninilchik Russian Orthodox Church.
Chinook salmon begin to enter this watershed in numbers around June 14th and continue until around July 26th. The daily run of chinook salmon on this river is between 20 and 40 a day creating a great deal of variability from day to day which is why the run experiences such daily high and low swings.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game does not set an escapement goal for this river.
Alaska Salmon Run Counts - Other Considerations
Alaska has one of the most extensive programs for monitoring migratory salmon stocks anywhere in the world. The fish counts presented here are just a sampling of some of species and rivers that are tracked, monitored, and managed throughout the state. All of them can be found at the ADF&G website but they are easiest to monitor, track, and study through the Alaska Fishtopia app available on both Android and iOS. And, you can even select your favorite rivers and it will give you text alerts daily as the numbers come in.
These fish counts can help provide some good insight into when the best times to fish might be for the areas your interested in but also keep in mind there are some really great fisheries that are not tracked, for a variety of different reasons, and local knowlege and expert guides can go a long way here. A great example of this is the Kasilof River Chinook Run. The Kasilof River has both a wild chinook run and enhanced hatchery Chinook Run but chinook salmon are not counted by Alaska Department of Fish & Game.
Another example of this is the Coho Salmon run on the Kenai River. This is one of the strongest coho salmon runs in the entire state but is not practical, or even possible really, to count by ADF&G. This is a phenomenal fall fishery that you don't want to miss out on. Your expert guides at Alaska Boat Rental and Guide Service can help put you on these fish. Check out our Kenai River Silver Salmon Fishing Page for more details on the amazing fishery.
There are many more examples like this throughout the state so consult with local guides and experts.