Fishing is practically the state sport when you’re in Alaska, so there’s no need to stop just because winter arrived. Ice fishing is a tried and true reason to get out of the house, and there are plenty of places in the Anchorage area to parlay effort into a meal.
Ice fishing is fun for all ages and abilities, and you don’t have to be masters of style or technique to land a fish.
The ice is usually thick enough on Southcentral Alaska lakes by mid-November or early December to safely support an angler's weight (6 inches of clear ice for foot traffic). Always play it safe; if you are unsure of the ice thickness, punch a hole near shore and measure before venturing farther on lake ice.
Many of the same kind of fish caught during the summer are your target during winter. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocks more than 180 lakes in Southcentral Alaska, 30 of which are in the Anchorage area. About a dozen Anchorage area lakes are stocked with chinook salmon in time for winter ice fishing, and many lakes still have good populations of rainbows, grayling, arctic char and lake trout left from summer stocking.
Anglers usually use jigs or bait such as cocktail shrimp, canned clams, corn or salmon eggs under bobbers. You’ll also need a short pole with 10-pound test line, either a gas-powered or hand-cranked auger to create a hole and a skimmer or strainer to keep the hole clear of ice. Or take a steel bar and reopen a hole created by an earlier angler. A 5-gallon bucket provides a seat and is perfect for carrying your gear.
Clothing should be worn in layers for maximum heat retention and pay particular attention to footwear, since it’s your feet that are in contact with the ice all day.
The Jewel Lake Ice Fishing Jamboree is typically held the second weekend in January and is hosted by the Swim Like A Fish Foundation and sponsored by Anchorage Parks and Recreation. The event offers an ice fishing experience for disabled or underprivileged children in the Anchorage area, although all anglers are welcome to participate. Holes are pre-drilled, and bait and poles are provided.