Fish Spotlight: Chinook Salmon

KING SALMON FISHING ON THE KENAI PENINSULA

The largest of the Pacific Salmon, the Chinook or King Salmon can be found on the  rivers of the Kenai Peninsula during the early summer months. When I say largest, I mean the absolute biggest fish in the world roam our waters. The world record Chinook was caught out of the Kenai River back in 1985 by Les Anderson and weighed an astonishing 97 lbs 4 ozs.!

After Les caught his world record, the Kenai River and Kenai Peninsula were put on the map as home to the world's biggest Chinook Salmon. Thousands of people flock from all over the planet to get a shot at tangling with a possible world-record King on one of our famed rivers.

  Using a spey rod to target Kings is a challenge, but can prove to be a very rewarding endeavor!

Using a spey rod to target Kings is a challenge, but can prove to be a very rewarding endeavor!

King Salmon are heavily regulated due to how sensitive wild populations can be to over-fishing and environmental conditions. If you decide to chase these beasts, the myriad of fishing regulations can be head-spinning and can change on very short notice. It is best to pay very close attention to current regulations and also Emergency Orders.

Our favorite type of King Fishing involves using large fly rods known as spey rods and practicing catch and release; however, we do fish for them with conventional rod and reel on the Kasilof River.

  A beautiful, wild King Salmon caught on the Kasilof River. Though we could have harvested this amazing creature, we chose to let it go to continue its journey upstream to spawn.

A beautiful, wild King Salmon caught on the Kasilof River. Though we could have harvested this amazing creature, we chose to let it go to continue its journey upstream to spawn.

King Salmon can take hours and hours to catch and once landed, it becomes apparent that they are some of the most special migratory fish on the planet. 

Chinooks arrive on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers in 2 distinct runs. The first run generally starts to trickle in around mid-May, peaking towards the end of June. First run Chinooks are generally smaller fish, averaging around 25lbs or so.

The second run begins in early July and features the true giants. Though some bigger fish can be mixed into the first run, the 2nd run fish can reach 50 or 60 lbs and can get even bigger! It would not be shocking to see a 70+ lb fish landed, though they are getting rarer and rarer these days.

  One of Kevin's 4 on the day swinging flies on a spey rod. A day that he and I will always remember!

One of Kevin's 4 on the day swinging flies on a spey rod. A day that he and I will always remember!

Fishing shore is a rather difficult means of targeting Kings and anglers have mixed results using spoons, bobbers/eggs and other attractants. We strongly believe the most effective method from shore is to use large spey rods with big flies and heavy sink tips. 

Big flies and heavy sink tips are recommended as Kings can hold in very fast and deep water. The key is to fish flies "low and slow" to give them a chance to see your fly and take it. We tie all of the King Salmon flies our clients use and also teach spey casting and fly presentation. You do not have to have any previous fly fishing or even spey casting experience to have success catching King Salmon on the fly in Alaska!

  Kenneth had a great day on the water hooking several fish with a switch rod and landing this nice hatchery keeper!

Kenneth had a great day on the water hooking several fish with a switch rod and landing this nice hatchery keeper!

The 2018 run of Kings looks promising for the Kenai Peninsula and it is the time of year we really look forward to after a long winter! We wish you success as you target King Salmon on the Kenai Peninsula and hope you will take measures to protect these amazing creatures with your own personal conservation and stewardship measures.

Thank you for reading and tight lines!

SUGGESTED EQUIPMENT:

  • 9 OR 10 WT FLY ROD (PREFERABLY A SPEY ROD)

  • LARGE ARBOR FLY REEL WITH PLENTY OF BACKING AND POWERFUL DRAG SYSTEM

  • SKAGIT SHOOTING HEAD

  • T-11, T-14 OR HEAVIER SINK TIP

  • 3-5 FT 30 LB. MONOFILAMENT LEADER

  • LARGE INTRUDER FLY WITH STRONG SALMON HOOK SIZE 1/0, 2/0 OR BIGGER (BE SURE TO CHECK REGULATIONS)