At 140 miles long and more than 2,230 square miles, Prince of Wales Island is the country's fourth-largest island, after Alaska's Kodiak Island, Hawaii's Big Island and Puerto Rico.
ABOUT PRINCE OF WALES ISLAND-Hidden Adventure Island
Prince of Wales Island is the traditional Tlingit territory, although the Kaigani Haida moved into the area in the 18th century and its indigenous residents today are primarily of Haida descent. Although Russian, British, Spanish and French explorers passed by the island throughout the 1700s, Western interest in the island didn’t come until the late 1800s, when rich deposits of gold were found on the island. Later, the primary industry became logging – Prince of Wales Island is located in the heart of the temperate rainforest that defines most of the Inside Passage and northwest coast of British Columbia, and much of its towering Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock were thoroughly harvested in the 1970s and ‘80s. With the decline of the logging and timber industry in the 1990s, workers on the island shifted their focus to commercial fishing, which remains the primary economic force today.
The beauty about rivers on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska, other than the obvious beauty itself, is that no boats or even waders are required. Elaborate rigs, gear or chartered flights are completely unnecessary. There isn’t a river on the island that isn’t able to be cast across, despite Prince of Wales being the third largest island in the United States.
Southeast Alaska, especially Prince of Wales gets most of its notoriety from the ocean fishing. King, coho, and halibut fishing is tremendous and accessible during June and July, but the river fishing that starts in July when the silvers start up the Neck Lake drainage and Thorne River is fantastic. Even before the salmon run, the Karta River is rich in rainbow trout and provides an alternative to salmon, or supplements the experience.
The Klawock river’s late summer run of silvers brings fly-fishermen to the 49th state as late as mid August and even in to September. At the peak, the riverbed is awash in salmon from shore to shore. Sounds nice and easy for the locals. For those that want Alaska to be 1/52th of their year, the options are as good as the fishing.
Attacking Alaska is done by air, sea and…sea.
Option 1: Flying into Alaska, and to Prince of Wales Island, AK.
Prince of Wales is the first major island in the chain but is only accessible via Ketchikan. There is only one airline that flies to Ketchikan, driving up the expense a bit being there is no competition. Once in Ketchikan, you can hop on to Island Air , Pacific Airways , Taquan or Alaska Seaplanes.
Option 2: Driving the great Al-Can
If you have the time, driving up will provide plenty of stories to tell friends back home, and fishing along the way can be tremendous. Fishing in Canada like anywhere else is best done in season. The salmon season is starting to heat up in the rivers, but the Skeena is so large, it can be difficult and intimidating for bank-anglers. Its better done in boats. Conservation stamps for different areas of the river, barbless single hooks only and other regulations make for a lot of reading, but getting the license itself isn’t. You can go online, check what you need, pay and print it yourself. The river is beautiful, and is squeezed between glacial carved rock which resembles Yosemite, but is miles longer providing a nice backdrop for lure tossing. If you want to get into serious fish without the regulations, a day charter out of Prince Rupert would be the way to go. From Prince Rupert, legendary Alaskan salmon fishing is 8-hours north by way of the Alaska Marine Highway.
Option 3: Marine Highway & Inter-Island Ferry
The AMH fleet features boats with plenty of space for dozens of RV’s, trucks or whatever you are running, and the price is very reasonable. This summer the AMH was offering a driving rides free special out of Rupert, which knocked $116 off the tab.
Once in Ketchikan, there are two ways to Prince of Wales Island. If you have driven, there is one way, because an RV would be considered too large for a 6-seat float plane.
The Inter-Island Ferry takes about three hours and crosses major whale migratory highways. Humpback and killer whales are seen so often that many no longer get up from their seats, or look up from their reindeer sausage breakfasts in the galley. The ferry docks in Hollis. Most lodges, if not all will pick you up as Hollis is a town of a couple hundred and there isn’t really an island-wide taxi service.