When is the Best Time to Visit Alaska?
“When is the best time to be there?” This is probably the most common question I get from prospective visitors. It seems like such a simple question, and one would likely expect a very simple answer… No such luck. There are positives and negatives to every time of the year on the Kenai Peninsula, with dozens of factors to consider before finalizing your decision. Below I have outlined what I believe are the 5 major factors to consider before you purchase those airline tickets to head north.
- What Species of Fish Do You Want to Catch? – The species that are available varies dramatically throughout the season. If you’ve always dreamed of coming to Alaska and catching a King Salmon on the Kenai Peninsula, for example, then you’d be more than disappointed if you planned your visit for September. September is possibly my favorite time of year to be here, and there are tons of fish to be caught in September, but King Salmon season closes well before September. Or maybe you’ve heard about the incredible sockeye fishing we have on the Kenai where an angler can stand in one spot and pick off sockeye salmon one after another? If you visit during late May with the expectation that you’ll have this experience, then you’re going to be very frustrated. Perhaps the most important thing you can share with an outfitter is the type of fish and fishing you would like to experience. With that information they should have no problem steering you towards a date range that helps you accomplish those specific goals.
- How Do You Feel About Sharing? – Beautiful landscapes, towering mountains, pristine waters, abundant wildlife, and solitude. These are some of the things many travelers envision when they ponder a visit to Alaska, and Alaska possesses all of these things, but solitude is a relative term. For example, the most popular time to visit the Kenai River is during the last 2 weeks of July as folks enjoy the opportunity to catch sockeye from the shore, as well as a chance of landing a king salmon of epic proportions. I can’t say that I blame them, but visiting during the most popular time means that you have to deal with some crowds, even in Alaska. If relative solitude is your objective, then there are many other times to visit that would provide incredible fishing without having to put up with the crowds.
- Is 50 Degrees Too Chilly For You? – This is Alaska, so weather is as unpredictable as just about anywhere in the world. I’ve seen high temps in the 40’s during July when temps in the 70’s are expected, and I’ve seen temps in the 70’s during September when temps in the 40’s or 50’s are expected. But if you are from Texas (for example) and find temps in the 50’s to be unbearably chilly, then you might target June, July, and early August rather than May, September, or October. Although, many of my Texan guests think the 50’s is just perfect… anything that’s a break from the high 90’s and 100’s, right! On the other hand, September and October can provide the most dynamic and productive fishing of the year, the only down-side being the chilly early mornings, so it can be well worth bundling up and enjoying the fruits of the late season. After all, they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear!
- What’s Your Budget? – There’s a common misconception that exists here in Alaska that you need to come during the peak season in order to have good fishing and have fun. Not true. The “shoulder season” still contains some incredible fishing, there’s a multitude of different things to do, the lack of crowds leave you with a lot of room for yourself, and many outfitters don’t mind providing really nice discounts! Many guests that visit during both the busy season as well as the shoulder season find that they actually prefer the shoulder season, enjoying great fishing, scenery, activities, and not worrying about crowding. The “peak” tourist season is the peak for a reason, so I’m not frowning upon a visit during July, just expect to pay full price and share the state with thousands of your new friends.
- What’s Your Own Availability? – Many guests that contact us to book fishing packages already have specific dates they have to travel based on their work/vacation schedule, their kids schooling, and many other factors. The good news is that there’s no bad time to visit Alaska! No matter when you decide to visit, there are always some great trips & fishing to experience, even in the winter months… The best advice I can give you is to over-communicate your expectations to your outfitter. With the right information from you, a good outfitter will be able to provide invaluable advice, and get you hooked up with an itinerary that has the potential to exceed your expectations and live out your very own trip of a lifetime!
Before splurging for airline tickets, lodging, various excursions, and guided fishing trips be sure to ask yourself, “What are my expectations for this vacation?” Communicate those goals to a local outfitter that can take the information and help you pick out the perfect timing for your stay, and the perfect activities to enjoy while you’re here. Disappointment is what happens when expectations and reality don’t match up…. and disappointment is something we can definitely avoid!