How To Catch Arctic Pike And Sheefish

Alaska sheefish are one of the more exotic and lesser-known gamefishes swimming in Alaska waters. In this seminar, Dan Paull of Alaskan Adventures shows you how to catch Alaska sheefish and northern pike throughout the season on the Holitna River. Alaskan Adventures is based from their lodge on the Holitna River.

Alaska sheefish are sometimes referred to as the tarpon of the north because of their similarities in appearance. Both are chrome with large scales and have wide bony mouths with small teeth. They were called inconnu by early explorers which translates to “unknown fish.”

The Alaska sheefish is the largest member of the whitefish family. They can reach large sizes, with 40-pound fish possible. Not only are they fun to catch, and will eat lures and flies, but they are also very good to eat. Their meat is firm and white and is one of the best-tasting freshwater fish in Alaska. 

Alaska sheefish are separated into five separate stocks in Alaska: Minto Flats, Upper Yukon, Lower Yukon, Kuskokwim and Kobuk-Selawik. The first two stocks – Minto Flats and Upper Yukon – are year-round residents of those locations while the remaining stocks overwinter in brackish waters and the delta areas of these rivers. As such, they are labeled estuarine anadromous. They may live as long as 20 years and while some specimens spawn every year, every other year is more likely in most populations.  

In addition to Alaska sheefish, Dan walks us through the thriving northern pike population of the Holitna River. Huge pike in the 40- to 50-inch range prowl the waters and lay in wait to ambush a  lure or fly. Dan explains how the changing conditions throughout the season alter the techniques and locations where northern pike can be caught on the Holitna River. His guides are versed on the movements of the pike and sheefish, making it possible to catch both species all season long.

Alaska sheefish and northern pike are unique species in Alaska, and are not the most-common species targeted by Alaska anglers. The opportunity to catch both species in exceptional sizes, as well as several salmon species, makes the Holitna River and Alaskan Adventures an especially unique opportunity. What’s also exceptional is that both Alaska sheefish and northern pike will eat flies and don’t require perfect casts to entice a strike. To the contrary, a cast that slaps the water will draw in northern pike. This makes the Holitna River a great place to bring new fly anglers.

Anglers who want to catch Alaska sheefish and northern pike on the fly using their own gear should bring 8-weight fly rods with floating line and 15-pound-test leader. Both species will eat big streamers and baitfish imitations. Consider a bite-proof leader when angling for northern pike because they have a mouthful of nasty, sharp teeth. Anglers who prefer conventional tackle will do well on gear built for coho or chum salmon: 8 to 10-foot rods rated for 10- to 20-pound-test line. Spin or bait cast are both suitable, it’s just a matter of personal choice. Dan and his staff have everything you need, and know where, when and with what to fish with.

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