Northern pike (Esox lucius linnaeus) are at home in many of the lakes, rivers, and sloughs of Alaska. They range from the Interior to the Arctic coast, from the Canadian border to the Seward Peninsula, and southwest to the Bristol Bay drainages. A small isolated population is found near Yakutat. During recent years, pike have become established in streams of the Susitna River drainage south of the Alaska Range and also on the Kenai Peninsula.
General Description: The Alaskan pike is the same species that is so popular with midwestern anglers. It has an elongated body and head. The snout is broad and flat, shaped somewhat like a duck bill. The jaws, roof of the mouth, tongue, and gillrakers are armed with numerous sharp teeth which are being constantly replaced. A single soft-rayed dorsal fin is located far back on the body. The pike is variable in color. A fish from a clear stream or lake will usually be light green, while a pike from a dark slough or river will be considerably darker. The underparts are whitish or yellowish. The marking on the sides form irregular rows of yellow or gold spots. Males and females are similar in appearance but females live longer and attain greater size. Pike up to 20 pounds are common in some Alaskan rivers, lakes, and sloughs, and fish weighing up to 30 pounds and measuring 4 feet in length have been caught.
Sport Fishing: In Alaska, the pike has been a maligned fish. Old-time Alaskans and commercial fishers scorned them, and their only use for many years was as dog food. With the settling in of former Midwesterners, the stature of the pike has increased, and it is now one of the most important game fishes in Interior Alaska. The major pike fishing areas are accessible mainly by airplane or riverboat. The Minto Flats area west of Fairbanks is composed of 800 square miles of interconnected lakes, rivers, and sloughs, and contains an abundant pike population. Trophy-size pike (over 15 pounds) can be caught in the area. Even larger pike can be taken in the clear water tributaries and sloughs of the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. Some lakes of the Tanana River system contain populations of pike and receive considerable angling pressure. Pike can be taken with medium action spinning, bait casting, or fly fishing gear. Almost any type of hardware will produce a strike. A wire leader is a must when doing battle with these sharp-toothed monsters. Pike have delicious firm, white flesh. Small pike are somewhat bony, but the larger fish filet easily for frying or baking.
Overnight hunting accommodations can vary from a small tent on the side of a mountain to deluxe wilderness lodges with more comforts than home. Some Alaska guides maintain first-class hunting lodges in good big game country. Other operators provide fine lodging without a guide. Some provide weather-tight cabins with few luxuries.
The state and federal governments maintain public use cabins, especially in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska. These cabins are fairly primitive. They may have plywood bunks, a wood or oil stove (check in advance as to which is available in your cabin), a table and benches, and a nearby outhouse. Users should bring their own food, cooking equipment, fuel, water, bedding and amenities. Check directly with Alaska State Parks, the U.S. Department of the Interior/Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service for current information on available locations, access information and restrictions, reservation policies, and rental expense.
Securing the services of a guide might seem expensive, but the chances of a successful and enjoyable hunt are higher. Hunters who lack precise knowledge of game distribution, access points, and Alaska geography, yet attempt to put together hunts themselves may face frustration, danger, and disappointment. For example, only a relatively small proportion of the out-of-state hunters who stay on the road system to save money will successfully harvest a moose.
The chances of safely harvesting a big game animal improve if one hires a guide or transporter to take them to remote areas. Guides are familiar with their areas, hunting regulations, own facilities, and possess equipment that the average hunter might not care to purchase for one-time use. Indeed, many hunters may choose to contract with a guide for species other than those for which having a guide is mandatory (see list in Guide Requirements for Alaska Hunting).
A guide’s knowledge, experience and equipment do not come cheaply. Although figures vary from guide to guide, expect to pay $6,000-$15,000 for a brown/grizzly bear hunt, $4,000–$6,000 for a Dall sheep hunt and $1,500–$4,000 for a goat hunt. Moose and caribou vary considerably depending on transportation methods. Guides can also help prepare and pack out your meat and trophies. Imagine carrying 750lbs of dressed moose through a few miles of muskeg with a bear watching.
The best way to find a reliable guide is via references. Ask around. Have any of your hunting partners hunted in Alaska before? Do they know someone who did? Which guide did they use and how satisfied were they afterwards? You can also check advertisements in hunting magazines and search the internet since most guides have detailed web sites. Ask guides for references, and follow up on them. Discuss your experience level, physical capabilities, and expectations with prospective guides so that you can make the most of this adventure. There are many types of hunts to consider such as comfortable shore-hugging boat-based hunts, river float hunts, horseback hunts, fly-in hunts, lodge-based hunts, or long-range foot hunts out of spike camps. You might even want to plan to add additional species such as elusive wolves or do some salmon fishing and gold panning.
More experienced and independent hunters may wish to hire a transporter instead of a guide. These are licensed individuals and companies are able to move hunters to more remote areas by bush plane, boat, horse, ATV, snow machine, or even highway vehicle. Many resident hunters use transporters as well since they tend to be much less expensive than full guide services. Guides might also offer outfitted-only hunts at lower rates where they still provide transportation and camps.
Alaska law requires a big game guide to possess a current active guide license. You can check on guides and their licensing in several ways. A printed list of licensed Alaska guides is available for $5.00 payable to the “State of Alaska.” The list includes all currently licensed master guide-outfitters, registered guide-outfitters, the areas where they are licensed to operate, as well as a list of all currently licensed transporters. If you are interested in obtaining the licensed Alaska guide-and-transporter list or wish to check the status of a guide’s license, contact the Alaska Division of Occupational Licensing. You can also look up guides and/or transporters and have a list emailed to you by using that division’sProfessional Licensing Data Retrieval System. Another source of information is the Alaska Professional Hunters Association, which represents many guides and outfitters. Finally, you can locate a guide in your game management unit and find out what contracting guides are available in that area by visiting:http://www.dced.state.ak.us/occ/apps/GuiUseReg.cfm.