Overnight Drive to Fish in Chitina for Copper River Red (sockeye) Salmon

It was a rush decision with a really short amount of time to plan for a fishing trip down to Chitina Copper River. It was exhausting, tiring but exciting and we had a great time. Read our exciting adventure, the overnight drive to fish in Chitina for Copper River red salmon aka sockeye salmon. 

view of copper river in Chitina
Copper River

The Planning

Thursday night when my 2 friends and I decided and made a plan to make a trip down to Chitina Copper River to dipnet for red salmon. We planned on leaving Friday right after work and drive overnight. 

We contacted a fishing charter (AK eXpeditions, LLC) and paid over the phone for Saturday morning scheduled for 6:00am to 12 noon. Since it was a weekend, their charge is higher than on a weekdays. we paid $340 each plus tip.

The process of getting everything ready for the trip

Friday afternoon after work, the three of us gathered our stuff for our trip down to Chitina.
  • Fishing permit - must not forget 
  • Fishing clothes/gear
  • Food
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Warm clothes and extra cloths 
  • Coolers - got a cooler full of ice from Alaska's Premium Ice in Aurora (907-451-4423), it was a lot cheaper than bags of ice in the stores. 

My friend borrowed her husband's truck and that's what we used to drive down to Chitina. We met up at my place and we left around 7:15pm. 

sunset over the summit lake on our way down to Chitina copper river
On our way down to Chitina, sunset over the Summit lake at 10pm

The Overnight Drive

It was a long 311 mile drive from Fairbanks to Chitina.  A tiring overnight drive especially after a long day at work. Even though I wasn't driving, I had stay up to keep my friends awake especially the driver. It was in August means nights are getting darker going south than in Fairbanks.  We saw a lot of wildlife, lots of rabbits and several moose on the road. I'm glad we didn't hit any of them.

three friends inside the truck stopping for coffee and fuel
It was 11:46 pm when we arrived at Glennallen junction. It was 245 miles from Fairbanks. We stopped for coffee and fuel at Tesoro.

We arrived in Chitina around 1:00 am and proceeded to the other side of the Copper River bridge. It was dark and bit cold but we managed to nap inside the truck for I think couple hours or so. 

view of a moon shining over the cold copper river in Chitina at 1am
The moon was shining over the cold copper river in Chitina. This was after 1 am when we arrived there. 

The Early Morning Fishing

We got ready before 6 am. We met up with the charter crews right there on the parking lot next to the river. We were on the boat at exactly 6am and ready to go head down the river.

the fishing charter getting ready for our fishing trip down copper river
Fishing charter (AK eXpeditions, LLC) getting ready for fishing trip down Copper River

It was a fully guided and outfitted charter which made it easy for us and not get scared considering that fishing in Chitina Copper River is dangerous. Copper River is full of silt from the glaciers runoff and it is very cold. Few people died fishing on that river.

walking toward the boat park under copper river bridge
Under the bridge is where the boat was parked

Our guide, who also the boat driver, was very friendly and knowledgeable. It took us about 30 minutes boat ride down to our fishing hole or spot. He told us where we'll be place on the boat. I was placed in front and my friends were on each side, left and right of the boat. After that, he then demonstrated the techniques on how to dip net for salmon in Copper river while in the boat.  


going in the boat to get ready for trip down the river
Our fishing guide was really nice

picture of fisher women with a guy driving the boat
The four of us on our way down

Our trip down the Copper River

view of O'Brien Creek in Chitina from boat ride down river
Beautiful view of O'Brien Creek in Chitina - this view was the from the boat down river

Dip netters on the bank fishing for red salmon on copper river
Dip netters on the bank - so dangerous and for safety, they have to tie themselves with a long rope to a tree. I believed these people did an overnight fishing.

Brave dip netters, fishing with rope tying them so they won't fall
Brave dip netters on this beautiful but dangerous and scary river

People fishing on the side of the river

Dangerous fishing on the side of the clip with rope tie on their waist.
Other fishing charters would drop off dip netters on the banks and leave them there for a certain time then comes back to pitch several hours later...

Fishing for Copper River Red Salmon (Sockeye)

 We started fishing about 640 am. We float down the river and as soon as we drop our net down, we instantly caught sockeye salmon. It was fun! A lot of fun catching especially when we caught two salmon at a time and trying to get them in the boat. 

The first couple hours was great, we got there just in time for the salmon run. We were catching left and right and sometimes two at a time.  Then it went slow. 

We went up and down the river but catching none or maybe one. We also moved to a different spot, which we also caught some fish but it was a little harder to hold our net down due to the river current. We then decided to moved back to where we were and kept fishing. We caught few more fish but the run was so slow.

beautiful river, people fishing from shore, boat idling up and down the river
This was our fishing spot - We put our nets down while idling down the river, then when we reached the boundary marker, we pulled our nets up and power up river. 

catching two sockeye salmon at the same time, had to untangled them from the net on the boat
First caught - 2 salmon fish in the net

Showing her first catch of the day, beautiful sockeye salmon
Yep she caught a lot of fish!

Friends having a great time riding a boat fishing
Just having a great time fishing for Copper River red salmon aka sockeye salmon

It was around 1030 am or so our guide told us that it was time for us to head back. Fishing is done! We didn't get our limit but we had quite a few. 

Our trip up river

It took more time to come back up the river than going down. When we arrived at the Copper River bridge it was already 11:20am. It was a nice clear sunny morning. The view of the mountains and rivers are amazing! Overall it was a good ride.

beautiful view of copper river and the mountains
On our way back up the river to Copper River bridge

Two big river merging
We were right in the middle of two big rivers merging - The Gulkana River (left) and Copper River (Right)

The fish we caught 

We did not get our limit (which is for me would have been 55 fish) but we got enough. 

How did we divide our fish? 
There was two big coolers on the boat and all the fish we caught was thrown in there. There was no way for us to find out how many fish each of us caught. I guess this is how the charter does it, whoever was with you on the boat, you have to split it with them.

We got almost 70 sockeye salmon but I chose to only keep 20 since I know I was the weakest link. I didn't catch as much as they did.  

The charter crews helped us moved our fish to our coolers. We divided our fish right there and then and put them on our coolers. 

three friends just got done fishing for red salmon or sockeye salmon in Copper River Chitina
Came back to the shore safe and sound

Our drive back up to Fairbanks

On our way back we stopped at least three times, one with blueberry picking, the other was we took a nap, then of course we stopped in Delta for ice cream at the Buffalo Center Drive-In. When we arrived in Fairbanks it was already passed 8pm.

parked on the side of the road and went blueberry picking
Our stop at Paxson Lake Campground for wild Alaskan blueberries. We picked a few. It was a good stop and stretch a little.

Beautiful day, stopped on the side of the road and took a nap
We were tired and exhausted. We decided to stop here and took a little nap. Few miles away from Delta.

In front of Buffalo center in Delta waiting for soft serve ice cream
When we arrived in Delta we stopped for soft serve ice cream at the Buffalo Center Drive in. The best in town! 

Stopped for soft serve ice cream on our way home from fishing
Best soft serve ice cream


This overnight drive to Chitina for fishing is not unusual, in fact a lot of people from Fairbanks do this every year. This drive is also known as suicide drive. Driving all night, fishing all day then drive back.  I guess they'll take whatever chance they get to catch their Cooper river red salmon (sockeye) and kings for the season. 

It was an awesome trip but I'll probably not going to do this again. And if I do, I would at least spend a night or two in the campground.

Now the fish cleaning begins....


Copper River red salmon in the cooler ready to be clean
My share of sockeye salmon a Copper River red salmon

Watch our short video going down the canyon on Copper River. Enjoy!

The Map

Please continue to join me in my journey to blogging from A to Z this month of April. Thanks

Contact Form


Email *

Message *