Alaska King Salmon Fishing Information

alaska fishing lodgeThe state fish of Alaska, the Chinook salmon goes by a variety of names, including blackmouth, quinnat, tule, tyee and king. They are known as spring salmon in British Columbia. Chinooks are a blue-green color with light spots on their backs. They have a life span of 5-7 years and can weigh as much as 120 pounds. The largest of all salmon species, Chinook salmon are extremely desirable among anglers. They have the highest oil content of any salmon, giving them a rich flavor.

alaska-king-salmon-fishingAlaskan King Salmon FishingChinook salmon habitat is a wide swath of ocean that stretches from Monterey Bay in California to Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. They are abundant in Alaska’s southeastern panhandle to the Yukon River. Smaller rivers and streams in this region of Alaska can also boast large Chinook runs. Chinook also inhabit the Asian coast, from Hokkaido, Japan northward to Siberia’s Anadyr River.

Adult Chinook are distinguished by their irregular black spotting on the back and dorsal fins and on both lobes of the tail fin. The black pigment found along their gums is how they have come to be known as blackmouths. The Chinook salmon found in the ocean is a robust, deep-bodied fish with a bluish-green coloration on the back. This coloration fades to a silvery color on the sides and eventually turns white on the belly. Spawning Chinook salmon colors in fresh water range from red to copper to almost black, depending on location and degree of maturation. Males are more deeply colored than the females and also are distinguished by their “ridgeback” condition and by their hooked nose or upper jaw. Juveniles in fresh water are recognized by well-developed parr marks, which are bisected by the lateral line.

Chinook salmon are anadromous, which means they hatch in fresh water, living part of their life in the ocean, and then later return to fresh water to spawn. Unfortunately for the Chinook, spawning is the last thing they ever do; after spawning they die. Females Chinook generally are older than males when sexually maturity is reached. Male Chinook outnumber females in all but the 6- and 7-year age groups in many spawning runs. “Jacks” are small Chinooks that mature after spending only one winter in the ocean. From May through July Alaska streams normally receive a single run of Chinook salmon. Chinook salmon often travel great distances to reach their spawning grounds. Chinook salmon, which spawn in the Yukon River, will travel more than 2,000 river miles during a 60-day period. During the freshwater spawning migration Chinook salmon do not feed, rather they live off of stored fat for the long trip and the spawning activities.

A female Chinook will lay three to fourteen thousand eggs in gravel nests, or redds, which she excavates in deep, fast moving water. These eggs usually hatch in late winter or early spring, depending on time of spawning and water temperature. The recently hatched salmon, called alevins, live in the gravel for several weeks until they gradually absorb the nutrients found in the attached yolk sac. These juveniles, which are called “fry”, make their way through the gravel and are active by early spring. Most juvenile Chinook salmon remain in fresh water until the following spring. Then they migrate to the ocean in their second year of life. Those that migrate to the sea are called “smolts”.