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Drift Boats in Southcentral AK

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  • Drift Boats in Southcentral AK

    Drift boats pretty much rule the rivers of the Pacific Northwest, but don't seem nearly as popular up here.

    Perhaps Southcentral rivers aren't suitable for drift boats because these waters tend to be shallow, boulder-strewn and murky from glacier silt. Another reason may be the lack of upstream access and availability of improved boat launches.

    I'd like to buy a boat before next summer and had originally planned on a drift boat with an 8 hp long-stroke kicker motor. Now, I may need to reconsider because of the limited applicability on local streams.

    I've heard the Parks and Seward highway streams aren't at all friendly to drift boats, and the best options are the Kenai and Kasilof. Think I might be able to do some trolling in tide water areas, as well as inshore at Seward and Whittier.

    What's a good all-around boat and motor for salmon fishing in this area? Would like to stay under $12k and ideally in the neighborhood of $7k with the versatile option of launching in fresh or salt.

    Is this a realistic possibility in Southcentral Alaska? Thoughts?

  • #2
    Drift boats in AK

    I'll reply to this for several reasons. The first is that after I moved here 1.5 years ago this subject was about my first post on this forum. I have been drift boating in Oregon since I started rowing the Rogue River when I was about 14 years old. Second, I bought a 17 foot Willies drift boat as a college graduation present to myself in 1999, and brought it up here. I bought a Willies because although he's a little strange, I believe he makes the best one, with innovative options like rod holders that slide up and down the gunnels along the entire boat, and he also has so much history with aluminum drift boats. I bought a new 8hp honda long shaft because I believed it was the best, and still believe it, although I gave it to my dad and bought a 9.9hp honda and it's a little better. If I had it do to over I would have bought the bigger boat with four seats up front instead of two. You are correct about the Kenai and Kasilof being the primary drift boat rivers, but there are more, it's just that most people don't brave them, they use rafts. There are other rivers to float though and I plan to do a few of them this year. On the river drift boats are way better to fish out of than rafts. As for trolling, they perform poorly. The wind blows you all over because you have a giant bow that acts like a sail, and no keels to keep the boat straight , so you are all over the place. It's also difficult to keep it straight with the motor in current because of the shape. Also if you try to pour on the power it is like a football being pushed through the water making a three foot wake. Having said all that, it's nice to have that motor when you need it and I use it. As for a drift boat, I love it. I have used it on nine drifts the first summer I was here, and I'm about to take it again on Tuesday on the Kasilof. A drift boat should last you a lifetime too. It is a wonderful experience to take your family or buddies fishing on the river in a drift boat, 100 times better than fishing off the bank in a crowd, whether you catch fish or not.
    Hike faster. I hear banjo music.


    • #3

      Thanks for the insightful post. I'll be sure to take your words of wisdom into account during the decision-making process.

      Sounds like there's no such thing as a solid all-around boat for the varied opportunites up here. Seems as though it's best to settle on a boat that's suitable to a particular type of fishing and focus on that.

      This summer I simply plan to explore the area, while observing and learning as much as I can. This should give me a better idea of the type of fishing I want to concentrate on and help determine the kind of boat I need.



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