King Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) AKA Chinook, Spring, Blackmouth.
King salmon are the largest of the salmon species we fish for. Kings have been widely prized by native communities from Alaska to California, and were even regarded as ”the best fish I’ve ever eaten” by Merriweather Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Kings are the only fish in Alaska that require an additional “stamp” to be retained…afterall, they are the State Fish of Alaska. Kings are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids and can be successfully prepared many ways. However, before they can be prepared, they must be caught. That is where we come in!
Kings are the least abundant of the salmon species and quite frankly, that makes them a prize to catch. Most of our fishing around Ketchikan is done by trolling with herring as bait, however, we pack an entire arsenal of baits to ensure maximum success. When fishing for King Salmon, we typically are fishing a broad column of water. Most of our fish come from a depth of 30-80 feet, but it is not unusual to fish as shallow as 20 and as deep as 150. It is tough to fish at much greater depths, but we have accidentally hooked them while halibut fishing at depths of 300 feet or more. Kings can be particularly tricky to fool. They may follow baits for miles (literally) before striking. Some underwater videos have shown this to be true along with seeing it happen on the sounder. We try to target King Salmon near schools of bait fish commonly called “bait balls”. Kings will lay and wait for an opportunity to feed near these bait balls, and our gear is set to resemble a weak, injured bait fish. As we troll the shoreline, the gear is working, the fish are there, and suddenly…….FISH ON!!!!!
The rod arcs hard to the water, and recoils upward as the line is released from the downrigger clip. In an instant, the rod tip begins to pulsate violently toward the water. As you bring the rod out of the holder, you get your first feel of these powerful fish. The rod is being pryed from your hands, the reel is singing, and you are hooked up. Kings typically hold deep, but are capable of anything. They may turn and run at the boat as you try to take up line to prevent slack, they may put on an airshow or thrash the surface of the water, and they may certainly try to tangle in another boat’s gear. One thing is for sure, they will raise the heart rate of everyone on the boat. These fish are commonly called Smilies by charter captains for this reason. Even if it’s not your fish, you can’t help but grin as the battle ensues.
If you would like to live this story out, and do go into battle against a King, Contact Us today to book your trip!