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Selawik Lake, Alaska’s Sheefishing Paradise Add to Flipboard Magazine. Selawik Lake - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 

Selawik Lake, Alaska’s Sheefishing Paradise

If you like the challenge of sheefishing, experts say Selawik Lake offers the best in the world. Anglers love this lake, an amazing 263,000 acres in size, for its year-round catches.

The Selawik Lake, the third largest in Alaska, is part of the huge Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses 2.15 million acres close to the Arctic Circle.

What Fish Can You Catch?

Sheefish are the biggest draw. Fish up to 50 lbs. in size are common here. And if you want to try for other species on your Selawik Lake fishing trip. The list of fish available include:

  • Sheefish
  • Arctic char
  • Burbot
  • Grayling
  • Northern pike
  • Whitefish

In summer’s warmer months, you can catch fish out in a boat on the lake. The chance to fish to the light of the Midnight Sun is a very popular draw. March through May, anglers come for the ice fishing.

Fishing Tips

Because of its size and power, sheefish are considered a sport fish by seasoned anglers. They stay close to the bottom of the lake, where it is deep, cold and has some strong lake currents.

On your Selawik Lake fishing trip, use lures for sheefish, especially those with flashy spinners or deep diving spoons. They need to reach deep so the fish will spot them. Imitation fish lures also work well.

Grayling are attracted to natural colored flies, especially black wooly bugger, mosquito, black ant and foam beetle. Burbot like lures of all types.

Northern pike like large bait, about 6-8 inches. They respond well to lures in the shape of minnows or daredevils. Whitefish like all types of artificial lures. Arctic char do well with spinners, dry flies, spoons and streamers.

The Place to Stay

Selawik Lake is remote. The closest accommodation is in Kotzebue, located more than 500 miles from Anchorage. This tiny town, with a population of 3000, is 26 miles from the Arctic Circle. Native Eskimos make up 80% of that number. Access to the town is by boat, snowmobile, bush plane, jet, foot and dog sled.

You can stay at the Nullgavik Hotel in Kotzebue for your Selawik Lake fishing trip. The hotel has a restaurant. There are also two other eateries in town offering American and Chinese food.

The town of Selawik and its 800 inhabitants is located about seven miles from the lake. It has no accommodations. Most people fly in from Anchorage to Kotzebue.


This wilderness is home to a wide range of species. Birdwatchers can see literally hundreds of thousands of migrating fowl, who use the area for breeding and resting. A short list of birds include:

  • Ducks
  • Loons
  • Sandpipers
  • Sandhill cranes
  • Geese
  • Tundra swans
  • Yellow wagtail
  • Yellow warbler
  • White-crowned sparrow
  • Lapland larkspur

Many mammals call the refuge home, including wolves, red fox, arctic fox, black and grizzly bears, moose, marten, musk-oxen, wolverine, beaver, and lynx. It has the biggest herd of Western Arctic Caribou in the state, made of up almost half a million of these animals.

Other Attractions

The Selawik National Wildlife Refuge is a land of diverse landscapes, including mountains, grassy meadows, taiga, forests, alpine and arctic tundra, open grass, river valleys and wetlands. And of course it has lakes, ponds and rivers, an incredible 22,000 of them.

With this type of variety, photography, hiking, bird watching and wildlife observation are prime activities for visitors. The area is undisturbed, making it hospitable for all types of wildlife.

Rafting trips on the gentle Selawik River are popular. It flows for 168 miles from the Purcell Mountains down to Selawik Lake. Many visitors make a point to stop at the hot springs, located at the river’s headwaters, especially in winter. Even during the coldest months, the waters stay open because of the thermal springs.


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