Talkeetna Lakes Park is known for its quiet canoeing and trophy catch-and-release trout fishing. The lakes offer stunning views of Denali and a shoreline with numerous coves and islands that support a healthy, thriving trout habitat making this a peaceful, secluded, and great fishing destination within minutes of downtown Talkeetna.
Talkeetna Lakes Park encompasses over 1000 acres, including six lakes and 10 miles of hiking trails, with convenient canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals on-site. Short portages between lakes and several docking sites give anglers plenty of options and quiet space to catch big fish.
According to Dena’ina elder Shem Pete, the Bartlett Hills east of the Talkeetna Lakes Park were originally called Beaver Stream Ridge, and the Talkeetna Lakes area was referred to as Beaver Water Ridge Lake. You can still see beaver and other wildlife in the park, including foxes, moose, bears, and an excellent selection of bird species.
X and Y Lakes were first stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (AFDG) with rainbow trout fingerling in 1980. Stocking continued on and off throughout the 80s and ’90s, and both are stocked annually with rainbow trout.
Y Lake was stocked with arctic grayling from 1987 to 1989. Grayling still appear in Y Lake even though this stocking program was discontinued.
Talkeetna Lakes Park is the result of cooperation between conservation and nature enthusiast residents who developed the plans and secured funding for the park and the Matanuska Susitna Borough, which owns and manages the park.
Today the park is a popular natural attraction in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of Alaska, located 1.5 miles south of Talkeetna with miles of 20-foot wide, groomed trails through old-growth forests and convenient non-motorized boat rentals on site for those who prefer a paddling experience.
X and Y Lakes Location and Access
To find Talkeetna Lakes Park from mile 98.7 on the Parks Highway, turn east on the Talkeetna Spur Rd. to mile 13. Before you reach Talkeetna, turn right onto Comsat Rd. and take the first right into the park. A short trail connects the parking lot to X Lake. To reach Y Lake, paddle across X Lake, staying to the left. You’ll find a short portage where you can easily carry a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard across to continue fishing.
Fish Species in the Talkeetna X and Y Lakes
X Lake is home to decades-old resident rainbow trout. If you are lucky, you may also find a few arctic graylings in Y Lake. Both X and Y lakes are landlocked, and X Lake is designated catch-and-release only.
Both arctic grayling and rainbow trout grow and prosper with much more effort than salmon that feed in a richer ocean environment for a few years before returning to fresh waters. In particular, landlocked trout and grayling, like those in the Talkeetna Lakes, have an even harder time than salmon reaching noteworthy sizes as they are limited by what is available. A rainbow trout may take ten or more years to grow to 10-12 pounds. Catch-and-release fishing helps to allow these fish the opportunity to reach older ages and larger sizes.
Photo by Nick Thornton, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
You can identify rainbow trout by:
- black spots along the body and tail
- pink or red band from the cheek to the base of the tail
- white mouth and gums.
They are one of the most acclaimed and sought-after native Alaskan game fishes. Anglers worldwide travel to Alaska to experience the exhilaration of challenging this hard-fighting fish.
Arctic grayling are beautiful freshwater fish with a unique, sail-like dorsal fin that extends across most of their back. They appear in various colors with golden eyes, generally dark back, sides ranging from silver, gold, or blue, and a white belly.
Photo by AKSMITH, CC BY SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Arctic grayling are identified by:
- A large dorsal fin
- Small black spots on the sides of the body and head
- A small mouth
- Silver or greyish body with gold or blue tones.
Fun Fact: Arctic grayling can live up to 32 years in Alaska!
How Seasons and Temperature Affect Fishing for Rainbows and Grayling
Rainbow trout and arctic grayling behavior in lakes in Southcentral Alaska can vary depending on the time of year, water temperature, and food availability.
Generally, these fish are most active during the summer when water temperatures are optimal for feeding and spawning. They tend to feed more actively in shallow areas near the shoreline or water’s surface, where food sources like insects and smaller fish are more abundant in the mornings and evenings. During hot summer days, they often move to deeper lake areas where water is more stable to avoid warmer surface water temperatures.
In the early spring and late fall, insects are less available. Rainbow trout generally move to deeper lake areas to feed on baitfish during these seasons.
Rainbow trout may also exhibit territorial behavior, defending their preferred areas in the lake, such as near underwater structures or weed beds, from other fish.
View a map of X and Y lakes with water depth on pages 81 and 82 of this publication from the ADFG.
Fishing Techniques for Talkeetna’s X and Y Lakes
Rainbow trout are aggressive feeders and strong swimmers, willing to reach for a meal. They readily bite a wide variety of lures, baits, and flies. Spin anglers can try weighted spinners or wobbling spoons. Fly anglers find success with streamers, muddlers, and egg patterns. In the middle of summer, traditional dry stone and caddis fly imitations often produce a thrilling fishing experience with a great catch.
Arctic grayling are voracious feeders during the brief summers. Drifting aquatic insects, especially black flies, mayflies, stone flies, and caddis flies, are their primary food items, but they will eat almost anything that moves. Grayling is a favorite among fly fishers because of their willingness to rise out of the water in pursuit of a dry fly.
When flyfishing for either species, match your flies to the current insect hatches to improve results.
Catch and Release Methods
Both X and Y lakes are non-motorized, and X Lake is catch-and-release.
When handled gently, rainbows and grayling can live to spawn or bite again and maintain healthy fishable populations. Get familiar with and practice proper catch and release methods.
- Land fish quickly when possible.
- Handle fish gently and support the head and tail.
- Keep fish in the water whenever possible.
- Keep hands and fingers away from gills.
- Carefully remove the hook or cut line.
- Revive fish by moving it gently back and forth in the water before releasing it.
Familiarize yourself with current fishing regulations and enjoy your day fishing on the X and Y Lakes in Talkeetna. Find current regulations here.
In this 2-part video series, world flyfishing expert Philip Rowley provides a lesson on fly fishing for rainbows with a sinking line in Alaska lakes.
Prepare for weather
Weather can range from the mid 40’s to the mid 80’s in the summer at Talkeetna Lakes Park. Check the forecast before your trip but always plan for mixed conditions with layers and all-weather gear.
Fish with a partner
There are many reasons to bring a friend. Here are a few:
- it’s easier to get your boat launched
- you have a photographer along to document your trophy catches
- fishing is an affordable way to spend quality time and get to know each other better
- you can split the cost of gas and boat rentals
- and if there is a problem, you have a friend on site to help solve it.
Know your limits
While access to the X and Y Lakes is relatively easy, and parking is close, remember to enjoy your adventures within your physical limits. Even experienced Alaskan adventurers can find themselves in trouble quickly when things go wrong. Wear a life jacket if you are on the water, dress appropriately, and tell people at home where you are going.
Talkeetna Lakes Park and X and Y Lakes are secluded yet accessible opportunities for trophy rainbow trout and arctic grayling fishing. The curvy shorelines offer mini private fishing bays that give you the feeling of fishing solitude without a long hike. Denali Southside River Guides makes it even easier to get on the water with boat rentals on site.
Talkeetna Lakes Park truly offers a remarkable combination of natural beauty, rich history, and abundant fishing opportunities. The destination captures the hearts with memories of tranquil waters, breathtaking mountain views, and the thrill of reeling in the sought after rainbow trout and arctic grayling.