Kevin Burchfield found his calling to the hunting and fishing life when, at 7 years old, he bought a toy bow and arrow. As he walked out of the house one day his mother asked, "where are you going?” Kevin replied, "I’m going hunting.” Kevin attached a knife to his toy and returned later that day with a rabbit in hand.
Twenty-one years ago, he decided to move to the mecca of outdoor living, Alaska, to live off the land. "It was born in me,” he said.
Kevin obtained his captain’s license and started fishing commercially in 2005, the same year he founded Lost In Alaska Adventures with his wife Cindy. Today, Kevin owns his own 32-foot boat, named the Wolf Eel, and, alongside two deck hands, personally shares his intimate knowledge of Juneau’s best salmon and halibut hangouts during 4-, 6-, or 8-hour fishing trips.
5 Types of Pacific Salmon You Can Count On Your Hand
There are 5 types of salmon that swim in Alaska’s streams. Kevin offers a trick to help you remember them all: (1) chum (thumb) (2) sockeye (pointer finger sock-your-eye-out) (3) king (middle finger) (4) silver (ring finger) (5) pink (pinky finger). Kings, sockeyes, and silvers are considered the best quality and most highly sought after, although pinks and chums can taste great if prepared properly.
King (Chinook) – King salmon run between May and June and are the most prized and largest of the species, weighing an average of 30 pounds. King salmon are valued for their rich flavor and firm texture and taste great smoked, grilled, or baked.
Red (Sockeye) – Sockeye salmon run between June and July and have a deep red color during spawning.
Pink (Humpy) – Pink salmon run in July and are the most abundant and smallest of the species, weighing between 3 and 5 pounds. They are called humpy’s because the males develop humped backs during spawning.
Chum (Dog) – Chum salmon run in late July and early August and are called dog salmon, since they were historically harvested and dried to feed sled dogs. While chum have a reputation for being the least desirable of the species, fresh saltwater chum taste great smoked and their roe (eggs) are considered a delicacy.
Silver (Coho) – Silver salmon run between August and September and are smaller, weighing about 10 pounds. They are a favorite among sport fishermen because they are aggressive and fast, which make them fun to catch. They taste great grilled or canned.
Juneau Saltwater Fishing
When you fish with Kevin, just bring yourself, maybe some sunscreen. Trips generally depart from Auke Bay, a 20 minute drive from downtown Juneau, early in the morning when the salmon are most active.
Kevin and the crew first walk you through how to set your line then share with you to-the-minute updates on the latest tidal, current, and baitfish (small fish that larger fish eat) hotspots, which determine where the boat drops its line first.
In April and May king salmon can be found along the coast North of Juneau in the saltwater areas near False Outer Point, Auke Bay, Tee Harbor, the Breadline, and Point Bishop. In June and July large numbers of king, pink, and chum salmon can be found in Auke Bay and the Gastineau Channel in between Juneau and Douglas Island. Coho fishing is generally excellent between August and September but cohos will start showing up in mid-summer. By early August chum and pink salmon have peaked in the area, except during odd years when a higher pink abundance may extend the season. In August and September you can find coho salmon North of Juneau and further from shore at the Breadline, North and South Shelter Island, Point Retreat, and as far as the western shoreline of Admiralty Island.
Salmon Fishing Basics
Timing is important because salmon get more finicky about when, where, and how they eat as they get bigger and closer to spawning. It’s easy to miss the 5 or 15 minute window of opportunity to reel one in. While salmon in the open ocean may feed and chase bait all day and in all parts of the water column (a conceptual section of water that includes the surface water down to the ocean floor), as they move toward the freshwater streams of their origin they become more intent on spawning and less intent on eating. The morning is your best bet, so bait your hooks in the dark and hit your fishing spot at first light. Night owls — don’t fret. The low-light hour just before dark also spurs feeding activity.
If you want to go salmon fishing in Juneau, here are three of our favorite options (and you can book directly online!):
(2) Rum Runner Charters, owned and operated by Chris Conder
(3) Chum Fun Charters (shore fishing), owned and operated by Michelle and Paul Turinsky
Tide and current changes are also good times to fish and the good news is that tide tables are publicly available and really accurate. Start fishing when the current begins to slow and change on either side of the tide (ebb (high tide) or flood (low tide)); the best current for fishing is when the current is less than 1 knot per hour. Tide changes draw baitfish together in large congregations and where baitfish congregate, salmon come to feast! While some fisherman swear by the flood tide, others swear by the ebb tide, and they are both right: it all depends on where you are fishing. A tide change in the last half hour of daylight hours is especially productive, but never fish when the tide is dead-slack (not moving) because baitfish and salmon, disperse.
Kevin will also be sure to bring you to deep water, letting the tide carry the boat from shallow water to deep water and making sure you are fishing downhill with the current. This way you’ll move with the baitfish and be more likely to encounter an unsuspecting salmon.
A Fish Of A Lifetime
One of Kevin’s fondest memories was a fishing trip he led with Make A Wish Foundation 3 years ago with 5-year-old Luke and family. Luke’s dream was to catch a fish in Alaska. For the first 2 hours no fish were biting and Kevin was worried, but soon, his deckhand yelled, "fish on!” and Luke ran over to reel in the catch, a 30 pound king salmon — almost as big as Luke! For the next hour and half, the other boat captains sent Luke text messages congratulating him on his catch, and Luke left the boat glowing.