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Fishing The Road Less Traveled

The Dalton Highway (Haul Road) Sport Fishing Opportunities

Reference Materials
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Dalton Highway Location Map

Highway Milepost Map

Stream Location Map southern section

Stream Location Map northern section

The Brooks Range and Alaska's North Slope were, until some years ago, accessible only by aircraft and other means of wilderness travel. Completion of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and the Dalton Highway made it possible to travel north of the Arctic Circle and to reach some of the most remote areas in North America with relative ease and a minimum of expense. Prudhoe Bay marks the farthest point north in North America that can be reached by road. Additional information about travel on the Dalton Highway may be obtained from the Alaska Department of Transportation, 2301 Peger Road, Fairbanks, 99701. Travelers should also be aware that access by road to the Arctic Ocean in the Prudhoe Bay industrial area is restricted, and unless special permission is secured, travel in the oilfield complex is not allowed.

The Dalton Highway, also known as the North Slope Haul Road, extends from near Livengood on the Elliot Highway, 414 miles north to the Prudhoe Bay industrial area on the Arctic Ocean. The unpaved road has been maintained by the State of Alaska since 1978. Prior to 1980, all sport fishing was prohibited within the pipeline corridor, a 10 mile strip centered on the highway. Sport fishing within the pipeline corridor was partially opened when the road was opened for limited public use in 1980. At the present time, fishing for all species except salmon is allowed within the pipeline corridor.

Times & Availability
This information has been prepared to better acquaint anglers with roadside fishing opportunities along the Dalton Highway. The Milepost, published by Northwest Books, provides a complete guide to the Dalton Highway and should be consulted by those seeking information about all points of interest and commercial services available along the route.

The highway provides fishing opportunities along its length. The best time to fish along the road is from July until mid-September. Many of the streams are turbid throughout much of June from snow melt runoff. Streams crossing the highway south of the Brooks Range Divide, and north of the Yukon River, primarily represent distant upstream tributaries of the Koyukuk River. Only a few chinook (king) and chum (dog) salmon spawn upstream of the road crossings.

The abundance and variety of freshwater fish generally diminish with latitude, so that the combination of high latitude and proximity to headwaters tends to result in fewer fish than in more southerly and coastal areas of Alaska. Nevertheless, good fishing for Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden, lake trout, burbot, and northern pike is available at some locations at certain times of the year. All the fish are wild stocks as there has been no effort to stock non-native fish in the area. Guided fishing along the highway may be available in some of the developed areas. Outfitters and guide services operating from the larger communities in the Interior may provide guided trips in other locations along the North Slope and in the Brooks Range.

Streams along the Dalton Highway have been fished regularly by anglers for more than 15 years since the construction phase of the trans-Alaska pipeline was completed in 1978. Personnel stationed at State of Alaska road maintenance camps, pipeline pump stations, and in the oil fields as well as long-haul truck drivers and the general public have participated in the fishery. Fishing quality, as judged by average size and catch rate, in many of the streams and lakes accessible from the highway has declined since the pipeline corridor was opened for sport fishing. Fish and game animals have been harvested for generations by subsistence hunters and fishermen residing nearby. Their demands were light and use was spread out over a vast roadless area. Now roads tend to concentrate effort to a few locations.

A Pitch For Fisheries Conservation
Fish grow and reproduce more slowly at high latitude and elevation. Fish populations in these regions are, therefore, particularly susceptible to overharvest. Reduction in average size and abundance can occur quite rapidly with increased fishing pressure. Lake populations of Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden, and lake trout are especially vulnerable to overfishing, but stream stocks are also very sensitive to fishing pressure. Anglers are encouraged to practice catch and release fishing techniques using barbless hooks whenever possible.

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