With lakes frozen and stocked, it is time for ice fishing in the Fairbanks-area

Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 7:59 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Two of the main components necessary for ice fishing are, of course, ice and fish. Fairbanks-area lakes now have both, as the ice is thick enough and the waters are stocked with tens of thousands of fish.

Stocked lakes include Ballaine, Chena, Cushman, Tanana, as well as Birch and Quartz Lakes, which were recently named one of the top seven ice fishing destinations in the United States by, the largest online service to book fishing trips, according to their website.

“They’re easily accessible, they’re right off the road,” said Tanana Area Management Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Division of Sport Fishing, Heather Scannell, said of the lakes’ popularity. “Quartz is a very productive lake, we are already getting great fishing reports from there and it grows some pretty big fish. People looking to catch a lot of fish and some bigger-sized fish, that is your best bet,” she added. “Birch also has a pretty high catch rate, maybe not as big, it is not quite as productive as Quartz, but they’re both very popular with families. If you want to bring kids out, that is your best bet that they’re going to have a good time and catch some fish.”

A legion of lakes are stocked by the Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery, operated by ADF&G, throughout the spring and fall seasons. Most recently, they released over 10,000 Chinook salmon (also known as king salmon) into the Chena and Cushman Lakes, for the last stocking of the season. Other types of species that are stocked into local lakes include arctic char and grayling, lake and rainbow trout, as well as coho salmon.

“For like, Chena Recreation Area and Tanana Recreation Area, those are very popular lakes,” said Scannell. “They’re kind of considered a ‘put and take’ fishery, so as many fish as we put in, people seem to take out, so by stocking them this late into the year, it gives ice fishermen a chance to have some fish left.”

A minimum of four inches of ice is widely considered thick enough to walk on. While ice conditions change throughout the course of a year, it is believed that just about every lake is safe for fishing, as the thinnest reading was six inches, according the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Sport Fishing Division. One lake to monitor is Harding Lake, as it is typically the last to freeze over.

“It is a big, deep lake,” added Scannell. “We did do an ice check a couple of weeks ago and it was eight inches [deep] 200 yards out.”

With so many outdoor recreationalists in Alaska, it is important that the lakes are filled with gilled creatures.

“It is to take pressure off wild stocks, promote urban opportunities for fishing and diversity fishing opportunities,” said Scannell of why they have the stocking program. “[This way] people don’t have to try to catch the elusive lake trout in Harding Lake or northern pike in the Tanana River, so that makes our wild fish more sustainable while providing a great opportunity for the public to go out and fish.”

More information of ice fishing safety, stocked lakes and obtaining a fishing license can be found at

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