Types of Fish in Alaska: Easiest Ways to Identify all Types

9 Types of Fish in Alaska: Easiest Ways to Identify all Types

Alaska is famous for many things. The mountains, the wildlife, and the different types of fish in Alaska are all a sight to see. Whether you’re planning a visit or planning to move there, you’ll want to learn all about this new and thrilling territory. Especially if you have a love of fishing, starting with types of fish in Alaska is a great place to get your bearings.

But how do you even begin to distinguish one fish from another on your next fishing trip? It depends on where you’re fishing, the type of bait you use, and when you’re out on the water. So, the next time you decide to go fly fishing in Alaska, here’s what you’re going to need to know.

Types Of Fish In Alaska: Freshwater Friends

These types of fish in Alaska reside in lakes and streams, and freshwater fishing serves as a tourist attraction. Freshwater fishing is best done between June and September when quite a few salmon return to spawn. Freshwater fishing doesn’t require anything beyond your basic gear, and you can pick up bait just about anywhere.

Rainbow Trout

A rainbow trout is a carnivorous fish, feeding off of insects, smaller fish, and other tiny life forms. You can find rainbow trout in a range of colors, all depending on their habitat, spawning conditions, and age. Also known as the redband fish, these colorful fish are a part of the salmon family. And like salmon, they can grow to be a little larger than what you’d expect.

These fish can range from 20 inches to 4 feet long. These are the types of fish in Alaska that prefer clean, cool rivers and streams, occasionally swimming out to sea. Those that venture out to sea are known as “Steelheads,” due to the silvery markings they develop.

Northern Pike

The northern pike, a rather large fish, is another freshwater fish that may be a tad bit more unfriendly. These cannibalistic fish are highly territorial, consuming not only its own kind but anything in range. Its diet consists of birds, frogs, other fish, and even small mammals. You can bet this fish gives fishers a run for their money.

Living in clear, vegetated waters, they can be found from the surface to 100 feet down. To identify them, look for their spotted sides and their long, almost eel-like appearance.

Arctic Grayling

It sounds like a bird chick, we know, but we promise it’s not. The arctic grayling is a somewhat rare freshwater fish, found in the clear streams of Alaska. These types of fish in Alaska feed off of zooplankton, which are tiny floating or weakly swimming organisms.

These fish are gray with a decent sized dorsal fin. The rest of their bodies are covered in red or purple spots, leaving them one of Alaska’s most unusual looking, yet beautiful, fish.

Arctic Char

Often confused with the Dolly Varden, these types of fish in Alaska can also reside in saltwater. Their coloring depends on the environment, the most common characteristic seeming to be the light spots against darker skin. Found in lakes, the arctic char feeds off of zooplankton, younger char, and insects. Due to their diet, they grow to be roughly 38 inches long, weighing as much as 15 pounds.


The sheefish, one of the more unique types of fish found in Alaska, can migrate over long distances, as far as over 1,000 miles in one summer! They migrate for many reasons. For example, to feed or spawn. Another interesting characteristic is their rapid growth rate. They may reach 16 inches by age 2, and 30 inches by age 8. They have a typical lifespan of 20 to 30 years, to give you some perspective.

Found in northern rivers and lakes, they feed off of insects while a juvenile, then feed on other fish as they reach adulthood. You can identify them by their white or silver scales and a mouth full of small teeth. If you plan on using live bait to catch some sheefish, it helps to keep them alive and frisky before their inevitable doom.

Types Of Fish In Alaska: Getting The Most Off The Coast (Saltwater Fish)

You can find saltwater fish in the deep, cold waters off the coast of Alaska. These waters are teeming with life, home to an abundance of species, with fishing opportunities never falling short. You can find over 30 types of rockfish, roughly half a dozen types of salmon, and other creatures, lurking beneath the depths.

King Salmon

Also known as the chinook salmon, this is one of the many types of fish in Alaska running on the larger side, weighing as much as 90 pounds! The fish caught that still holds the state record weighed 97 pounds, 4 ounces. Born in fresh water, the king salmon swims to the ocean, where it spends most of its life, only returning to freshwater to spawn.

Their diet grows with them, starting off eating insects and small crustaceans. As they reach adulthood, their diet mostly just consists of other fish. They can be identified by their blue/green sides, silver back, and white stomach, serving as optimal camouflage on all sides. If you happen to hook one of these beautiful salmon, we urge you to catch and release, as the chinook salmon is an endangered species.

Pink Salmon

The pink salmon is alive and well in the waters of Alaska, with an abundance of these sweetly colored salmon residing in the salty waters today. These fish are among the smallest of Pacific salmon in the north, only weighing roughly three to five pounds.

When found in the sea, pink salmon are steel blue to blueish green on their backs, and their sides are silver. Another name these types of fish in Alaska go by is “Humpies,” due to the distinct hump found on the backs of the males found in freshwater. Keep in mind that these fish can migrate from freshwater, where they spawn, to the ocean.


The halibut, a popular fish in the flounder family, is a rather large fish found off the coast of Alaska. They can grow to be larger than a person, with the state record halibut weighing a whopping 459 pounds! You’re gonna need a bigger fishing rod.

These giant, flat, pale-as-ghosts fish feed off of plankton in their early stage of life, with their diet developing with them. As they grow, other fish begin to make up a larger part of their diet, and as they mature completely, they even eat smaller halibut.

In its early stages of life, the halibut swims upright, like most fish do, with an eye on each side. As it grows, one eye will move to join the other, and the fish will begin to swim on its side, so both of its eyes face the surface, earning it the nickname “Flatfish.” The coloring on its back, once mature, matches the sea floor, while its stomach remains white.

Gray Cod

These types of fish in Alaska, as you can tell, get their name from their gray coloring. They can also be identified by the barbells on their chins, much like a catfish. Gray cod can be found in the Gulf of Alaska, feeding off of clams, shrimp, worms, and even juvenile fish.

These are the types of fish in Alaska that can grow up to 6 feet in length and live for up to 20 years. Not only are they a rather large species, but they live 300 to 800 feet deep in the cold waters below. I can hear the “Jaws” theme playing already.

Farewell And Adieu To You Fair Spanish Ladies

The waters of Alaska are deep, mysterious, and beautiful. The ocean is a wealth of information that we’ve barely scratched the surface of, so who knows what other fantastic creatures reside below the waves? Now that you have this guide, you’ll be able to identify types of fish in Alaska, locate spawning grounds, and hopefully take a photo with your best catch yet.

We urge and remind you to release after catching, as one of the only people who can help keep balance in our beautiful waters is you. What was the size of your largest catch? Which fish fascinates you? Tell us about it in the comments below!