FishThe Nowitna Refuge's diverse wetlands and river systems support a variety of fish populations. Some, like chinook and coho salmon, are anadromous, spending parts of their life cycle in the ocean. These fish journey 700 miles up the Yukon River to return to their spawning grounds in the Nowitna River and its tributaries. Other species, such as pike and arctic grayling, spend all of their lives in refuge waters.

Like salmon, sheefish are usually anadromous. However, the Nowitna River supports one of only three known non-migratory populations of sheefish in Alaska. Sometimes called "tarpon of the north," sheefish reach 10-15 pounds, and are popular with anglers.

The Nowitna’s most conspicuous fish is the predatory northern pike, present in the mid-to-lower reaches of almost all streams and in many lakes. Pike can live 30 years or more, and older fish attain weights of more than 20 pounds in this prime habitat.

The arctic grayling can be found in most clear water streams on the refuge. Grayling are easily recognized by their large dorsal fins. Other fish on the refuge include burbot, least cisco (one of Alaska’s most abundant fishes), Bering cisco, lake chub (Alaska’s only minnow), longnose sucker, ninespine stickleback, slimy sculpin, Alaska blackfish, arctic lamprey, and several species of whitefish.

View Fish Species List