River Etiquette

Proper catch and release of a fish



  • Many of Southeast Alaska’s rivers are world renowned. The good fishing is attracting an ever increasing number of anglers to popular rivers like the Situk near Yakutat. Please keep proper etiquette in mind:
  • Try to keep your distance from other fishermen whenever possible. The experience of fishing in Alaska is partly rooted in solitude. Some fishermen may be less tolerant of others fishing near them.
  • If your line is crossing other people’s lines during the drift, then you are too close.
  • Some anglers don’t mind sharing a hole, but be sure to ask.
  • Don’t camp out on one spot all day. If you catch a couple, move on and try the challenges presented by another spot.
  • Consider getting up earlier, staying a little later or hiking a little further.
  • Depending on the species you intend to target, there may be other rivers to try. There are bush pilots and outfitter guide services that can whisk you away to some place where you can find a little more solitude.

Subsistence and Commercial Fishing

While in rural parts of Southeast Alaska, you may encounter people who rely on local waters for their livelihood. Besides sport fishing, there are two other ways in which people harvest fish from area rivers.


Residents of Alaskan communities have long depended on the harvesting of fish and game to supplement their income and their freezers. With the passage of the Alaska Lands Interest and Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1981, this tradition was legally protected.

Rural Alaska residents may harvest higher numbers of certain game using gear not allowed to non-residents. For example, residents of some communities are allowed to fish using a gill net at certain times of the year and steelhead fish with bait; non-residents may not. This may seem unfair, but visitors need to keep in mind that many rural residents do not have access to large grocery stores and other conventions of the global economy available to most of the United States. For many Alaskans, “getting your fish” is an annual chore, like chopping firewood or shoveling off the roof. Subsistence use is carefully monitored by state and federal agencies for sustainability.

Commercial fishing

Commercial fishing is how many people in Southeast Alaska make money, including commercial netting on major salmon-producing rivers. Salmon fisheries are managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for sustainable yield based on the escapement model. Escapement refers to the number of salmon who “escape” harvest and return to the river to spawn. Escapement is monitored through a combination of aerial surveys, foot counts and river weir counts. Biologists monitor the number of fish entering a river and coordinate the commercial fishing openers. Escapement numbers also can be used in adjusting in-season bag limits for sport anglers.

Alaskan salmon fisheries have been recognized as sustainable by a variety of management organizations and environmental groups. It may be impossible to completely dispel the notion that user groups are in competition for fish but this is really more perception then reality. No matter how you do it, fishing is inherently a bit of a competitive endeavor. It is important to understand that rivers on the Tongass are managed to provide enough fish for all users.

Related Links