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Everything You Need To Know About Alaska Fishing Rules and Regulations

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Everything You Need To Know About Alaska Fishing Rules and Regulations

6 guests at Pybus Point Lodge showing off their freshly caught Alaskan halibut!

Alaska is easily one of the most popular destinations in the entire world for fans of both saltwater and freshwater fishing. Halibut, rockfish, ling cod, and all five different types of American pacific salmon are plentiful in the state, and that’s no accident. 

The fish populations in Alaska are carefully managed by a surprising number of federal and state agencies to ensure that Alaska remains a world-class fishing destination for generations to come. Therefore there are a seemingly endless amount of laws and regulations that fishermen must follow while on and off the water, and the consequences of breaking these laws can be quite severe.

This is one of the many advantages of planning your Alaska fishing trip with an all-inclusive resort. When you stay at Pybus Point Lodge, you never need to worry about accidentally breaking any of the trivial (or not so trivial) laws, and you can simply kick back and enjoy yourself while on vacation. Throughout the entire duration of your stay, you’ll have a full-time guide who will help you find and catch a wide variety of local species while staying within the law.

All that being said, it’s still important to have a basic understanding of Alaska’s fishing laws–even if you have a guide to help you. We’ll teach you everything you need to know about Alaska fishing rules and regulations before your all-inclusive fishing trip with Pybus Point Lodge.

Pybus Follows The Rules

A crab being measured to see if it's legal to keep.

Unfortunately not all lodges share Pybus Point Lodge’s respect for wildlife, and some lodges in the past have allowed their guests to break laws or do things that harm the local ecosystem. In the long run, breaking these laws hurts all of us by harming fish populations which causes tighter regulation from various government agencies. 

At Pybus Point Lodge, we fish by the book. All laws are followed at all times– no matter how trivial or silly the law may seem. That means that our guides might have to make some tough decisions while out on the boat. Sometimes the legality of a fish comes down to a fraction of an inch. At the moment, it might seem ridiculous that a guide throws a fish overboard for being a few centimeters too short or long, but we assure you that the consequences for keeping an illegal fish are severe and can even result in the guide losing their state guiding license. 

Even if you think that a fish is perfectly within the legal limit, it’s important to remember that things can change as rigor mortis sets in. After they die, some fish shrink a bit while some relax or stretch when people hold them by the tail to take pictures. Ultimately, with fish that need to be measured, it will be your guide that will make the final determination as to whether the fish should be kept or safely released. 

A party showing off their impressive amount of halibut, salmon, and rockfish caught near Pybus Point Lodge!

That doesn’t mean that we’re here to get in the way of having a great time, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’ll catch less fish than you would at another lodge. All it means is that you won’t end up getting fined thousands of dollars for keeping the wrong fish. 

The fishing conditions around Pybus Point Lodge are some of the best in the world, and there’s no shortage of fish to catch. No matter what (legal) species you want to target, your expert guide will help make your fishing trip a success! All in all, the guides are here to make sure you have the trip of a lifetime, so just live in the moment and focus on having a great time and let us sweat the small stuff. If we have to throw a fish back, no problem, let’s just find you a better one!

Who Determines Alaska’s Rules and Regulations?

Another successful group of fishermen! These guys caught their daily halibut, a whole bunch of rockfish, and they each caught a ling cod!

The answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as you might think. The areas we fish in can fall under the jurisdiction of multiple law enforcement agencies. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are just a few of the regulating agencies that have jurisdiction in creating and enforcing Alaska fishing laws. 

What Do I Need To Know?

3 fishermen posing with their halibut on the deck of one of our party boats.

Like we said before, your captain will be an expert on all federal, state, and local fishing laws and they’ll always be there to protect you from accidentally doing the wrong thing. There are only a few rules you need to be aware of to make sure that your Alaska fishing vacation is a success. Here are the four must-know rules to be aware of before visiting our all-inclusive resort.

Fishing Licenses

ADFG's fishing license application page.

If you’re planning a fishing vacation in Alaska, you’re going to need a fishing license. Whether you’re halibut fishing, salmon fishing, or any other kind of fishing, licenses are required for all non-Alaskan residents 16 and older. Children under 16 years of age will require a youth card, which will be provided by the lodge.

To maximize your time spent fishing, we ask that you obtain an Alaska state fishing license before arriving at our resort. If you forget to get a license however, no worries! We can always help you purchase a license online. For more information on how to obtain an Alaska State Fishing License, check out this tutorial! Be sure not to remove the section with the lines at the bottom so your guide can record any fish you catch with an annual limit. 

King salmon stamps are also available on the website. King salmon regulations often change weekly, so it is often best to wait until you get to the lodge to purchase the king stamp. Another option is to only purchase one stamp for the group. If that reel starts screaming, be sure the person with the king stamp grabs the rod! And if you’re traveling with any kids, remember that all children under 16 get a free king stamp!

How Many People Can Fish At A Time?

One rule that many people are surprised to learn is that there is actually a limit to how many people there can be in a sport fishing boat at a time. Most of our boats can only legally hold 6 paying passengers, not including crew. 

One of Pybus Point Lodge's custom-built boats on a beautiful foggy morning.

We do however have several larger party boats available with special licensing that allow us to carry up to 12 passengers. Just keep in mind that despite being able to carry 12 passengers, only 6 people can legally fish at a time. That means that a few people might have to wait for someone to hit their limit before picking up a rod for themselves. Thankfully, the fish are so plentiful in southeast Alaska that nobody should have to wait too long. Just be aware that these larger boats are only able to keep 8 halibut per day. But don’t worry, 8 keeper halibut 4 days in a row is a whole lot of meat, along with all of your other catch. 

One of our catamaran boats heading out for a day of fishing and adventure!

Bag Limit

Another successful Alaska fishing trip at Pybus Point Lodge! These folks each caught a halibut and ling cod, as well as a bunch of rockfish!

This is a term you’re going to want to get familiar with. A “bag limit” is the maximum number of a particular species of fish that you’re allowed to keep. Bag limits are in place to protect species from overfishing and are a massively important part of wildlife management. Depending on the type of fish, a bag limit can be 0, 1 per year, 1 per day, 10 per day, or really any amount that a given population can support. 

To do this, independent and government agencies carefully monitor trends in fish populations and make annual adjustments to the bag limit. This means that bag limits can change year to year. Bag limits can also vary depending on the exact location within the state. Some regions might have healthier populations than others and the local bag limit is designed to meet the needs of that localized fish population. 

Bag limits can also be different for guided fishermen than for self-guided fishermen. This is why Pybus Point Lodge offers both guided and self-guided fishing experiences. We want you to have the opportunity to catch as many fish as legally possible, and we’ve done all we can to provide you with everything you need during your all-inclusive vacation.

Size and Slot Limit

A salmon being measured to make sure it's legal to keep.

The size limit is the legal requirements for the length of a kept fish. Slot limits are when there are multiple size limits for a single species of fish. Just like bag limits, size and slot limits are designed to ensure the good health of a fish population. Most size limits are simply a minimum size, for example King salmon must be larger than 28 inches to keep. This ensures that animals have reached adulthood and have the chance to breed before they are able to be culled from the population. Slot limits are designed to protect specific segments of the population (like juveniles or breeding adults) that are most vulnerable. The largest fish in a population are usually the most prolific breeders. Slot limits allow mature adults to be harvested while preserving the best breeders to keep the overall population healthy

It’s important that there’s the right balance of fish within various stages of the life cycle to ensure that there are plenty of fish to catch year to year. For example, if the breeding age population of halibut were to be overfished, we would all have to wait a few years for the juveniles to grow up and reproduce for themselves. If you remove too many breeders, the juvenile population will not survive the natural attrition rate from predators and your whole population will crash.  

That’s why halibut have a “reverse slot” where all fish within a given length range are illegal to keep. In 2022 it was illegal to keep a halibut that was between 40 and 80 inches. By doing this, the bulk of the breeding population is protected while sport fishermen are still able to harvest the best size of halibut for eating (between 30 and 40 inches) and still catch huge trophy halibut!

Just like the bag limit, the slot and size limits are annually updated and the regulations vary over time and location. We’ll be sure to keep you updated with the latest Alaska fishing rules and regulations at the beginning of each season!

Which Species Are Off Limits

A photo from 2020 of a guest holding a species of fish that is no longer legal to keep.

It’s extremely important to know which species of fish are legal to catch and which aren’t. Keeping an illegal species of fish is one of the most serious fishing crimes you can commit. Many inexperienced, self-guided fisherman will keep any fish that they reel up and only ask if the fish was legal later on. By doing this, fishermen break the law and harm a threatened fish population. A general rule of thumb  is don’t keep a fish if you don’t recognize it! We’re not here to kill everything, just to have fun and get a chance to eat some of what we catch. 

Thankfully, all the guides at Pybus Point Lodge know the local species of fish like the back of their hand and will always help you know whether a fish is legal or not. Just like bag and slot limits, which species of fish can be legally harvested change year to year and vary by location. 

It’s also important to know how to properly release certain fish species. The best rule of thumb if you are unsure whether you can keep a fish is to leave it just under the surface and ask your guide! They will be able to tell you if a fish may be retained or if it needs to go back in the water. If a fish must be released, it is better for the fish to remain in the water while the guide prepares to release the fish. For example, rockfish have a swim bladder that will over expand and a special tool is required to help release them.

Book Your Vacation!

A fisherman showing off his massive ling cod!

Now that you understand Alaska’s fishing rules and regulations, come fish with us! Our all-inclusive resort is located right in the center of some of Alaska’s best halibut and salmon fishing destinations. While you stay with us, your expert guide will show you some of the best fishing holes in all of Alaska where you can target a wide variety of local species! And when the fishing day is done, our dock team will professionally filet, clean, and vacuum seal your fish for no additional charge.

While it might seem like there are a lot of rules and regulations, they’re actually fairly simple and you won’t have much to worry about–especially when you fish with one of our experienced guides! There are a plethora of incredible legal species of fish to catch in Southeast Alaska, and your guide will make sure that you go home with plenty of delicious fish and a whole lot of fond memories.

And don’t forget, we offer a lot more than just fishing at Pybus Point Lodge! There are so many exciting ways to experience Alaska and we’ve worked hard to make sure that our all-inclusive resort has them all. From nature tours like our sawyer glacier day trip and whale watching excursions to epic activities like our rainforest hikes and sunrise kayak tours, there’s something for everyone at Pybus Point Lodge! 

PROTIP: Not everyone in your group wants to do the same activities? No problem! After you arrive at our resort, meet with our activities director and they’ll help everyone in your group schedule out their personal dream vacation!

Book your all-inclusive Alaska fishing trip today! If you’d prefer to book over the phone, or if you have any questions about our all-inclusive vacation package give us a call at 435-412-4286!

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Discover why people like you can’t stop talking about Pybus Point Lodge. More than 30 years ago, the lodge opened as a simple fishing camp, drawing a devoted following in spite of basic accommodations. With new owners and experienced captains and crew, our corner of Alaska has become an unbeatable fishing and eco-tourism resort.

Andrea Tate

Incredible Experience!

Pybus Point Lodge has some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. I mean absolutely breathtaking! In addition to the amazing fishing, I hiked to a beautiful secluded lake, soaked in some hot pots, saw several waterfalls, went whale watching, saw bears and all kinds of wildlife and marine life. As a photographer, photographing a wedding under a waterfall will remain a highlight of my life.

Shirley Johnson

Pybus Point Lodge - WOW!

We had the best time! This was our first visit to Pybus, but it definitely will not be our last. The stunning scenery, amazing fishing experience, and the joy of meeting new friends – all outstanding! We did not want to leave!!! If you are thinking about this trip – don’t think any more, just book it. You will not regret it!!!

Sharon Hedding

Trip of a Lifetime!

We had such an amazing time the staff was so wonderful and the lodge was fantastic! capt Joe was so helpful and always doing what ever he could do to make each day special. a special thank you to both Scott and Jody for taking the time to make us feel like family. can't wait to go back next year

Jason Nielsen

Wonderful and Magical Place

We had an amazing business retreat to Pybus Point Lodge.  Everything was top notch... the fishing, the staff, the boat captains, the food, the accommodations, and especially the scenery. I really liked that Pybus took care of everything from start to finish. Chef John is an amazing cook. We had delicious hot meals the entire trip.  The cabins were amazing and very comfortable.  The fishing was awesome and that’s coming from a guy that doesn’t fish that much.

Brandon Foote

We brought home 100lbs of fish!

My wife and I spent a week at Pybus Point this Summer. We had a beautiful, private room overlooking the bay and our own new, ensuite, private bathroom. What an amazing place for couples to get away together. We set our own breakfast time, met our boat captain after, fished the day along, and returned to clean up and enjoy a nice dinner at the restaurant. Next time Alaska is on the trip list, Sherrie and I will go together, and it will be to Pybus Point!

Kent Danjanovich

Fun in Alaska

This was my first trip to Pybus Point. I stayed in one of their new cabins. The accommodations were incredible, the view onto the bay in the mornings was stunning. I loved the staff and the food was really very good. All of this and they have new boats to take you out onto fairly calm waters to fish. The fishing guides were great. Overall a great experience. Definitely going back.


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