Pacific Salmon

Rudyard Kipling when he caught his first Chinook on the Columbia river ‘ I have lived ! The American continent may now sink under the sea, for I have taken the best it yields and the best was neither dollars nor real estate.

Pacific salmon seem overlooked by anglers on this side of the Atlantic where they are seen as an inferior version to the Atlantic salmon but the Genus onychorrynus seems to have risen nearly 20million years ago in contrast the Atlantic Salmon which evolved a few million years ago.(Ref Dr Richard Shelton)

Chinook's / King Salmon   ( Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

These are the largest of the pacific salmon. The record rod caught King was caught in 2002 on the Skeena river in British Columbia at 99lbs. The average weights in Alaska is 18 pounds , whilst those of the Skeena River in British Columbia are around 35lbs,  many however are over 50lbs.   King Salmon (Chinook) return to the rivers with  blue gray back with silvery sides small irregular shaped spots on back, dorsal fin, and usually on both lobes of tail. The gum line is black, as opposed to the white gums of the Coho. Spawning adults turn tomato red colour.
Kings/ Chinook are found mainly from the British Columbia to the Yukon.  They are the longest lived of the pacific salmon returning to the rivers between 2-9 yrs of age. Spawning occurs from July to August. The young smolts leave for the sea between 2-3 yrs before returning.
River fishing for king  / Chinook salmon.
In the larger rivers and sounds King's/ Chinook are caught with Spin-N-Glo , which can be cast  with an upstream cast and then slowly retrieved as it bounces down the river.  Plugs like Hot  Shots and magnums are caught using back-trolling where a boat is held in the current.  
Spinners Mepps Giant Killers , and super Vibrax series spinners are used along with large spoons fished closed to the bottom .
Fly Fishing for King's:  Fly rods should be 10-11 weight. Large capacity reels , with lines sink tip through to floating. The leader should be no more than 4 feet long in 20 lbs test.   King salmon flies should be in  gaudy colours , with plenty of tinsel and tied on sharp high quality hooks size 2-5/0 .  Patterns include Alaskabou, Outrageous , as well as large Woolly buggers and the Egg-sucking leech.
Kings/ Chinook should be fished for in clear water working the fly in a light strip, to place the fly deeply and as close to the fish as possible. Specific area's to target are river channels, mouths, confluences, tailouts , edges of sloughs, ledge pools and behind boulder islands.  Kings / Chinook are more active whilst in fresh water in low light of 9pm-1 am , and 5 am -8 am .  Cloudy days are better than sunny days.  

 

 

Coho / Silver salmon ( Oncorhynchus Kisutch ):
                   
Fresh run Coho's look identical to Atlantic salmon, besides absent 'gill spots'. They have notably silver sides and are referred to as 'silvers' in Alaska, there are small black spots on the back, dorsal fin, and usually on the upper lobe of the tail.  The gum line is white to light gray. Spawning adults develop greenish black heads and dark brown to maroon bodies.
The Silver salmon / Coho is perhaps been the best the pacific salmon for sport fishing.   It is aggressive, in taking the lure, and fights with gusto, often jumping and 'tail-walking' when hooked.  Coho vary in sizes from 5lbs to the largest 'Northern', found around The Skeena in Northern British Columbia which average 10-20lbs. Silver salmon will stay in the freshwater for a year or two before migrating to the saltwater where they will spend at least 2 years. Coho's  return from August to November with the peak run occurring in the first two weeks of September.
The Coho run occurs as the last of the pacific salmon, when the rivers are full of dying pinks and chum.  Coho prefer the back-eddies, and frog water, especially when the rivers are high and flooded.  When the water is lower they are found throughout the river system but particularly on the edge of the main current, in the neck and tail-out of pools.  
Fishing methods
Coho can be caught with spin-and-glo's,  spoons, jigs hoochies and flies,  but always near the bottom.  The Jig ( see Fishing Methods) is perhaps the most effective method as this consistently achieves the depth and activity to stimulate a take.   Spoons  depend on the water clarity, the largest in dirty water, with reducing sizes as the water clears.  The Kitimat spoons is idea from Size 65, 55, and 45 which should be fished deep and slowly.
Fly Fishing.   A 7-9 weight rod is ideal, and a sink-tip essential like a Airflo Depth  Finder or Teeny are ideal to achieve the depth.  Favourite flies are the Egg sucking leach and Sparkly Bugger.
                                                                    

Chum or Dog Salmon  ( Oncorrhychus keta)

Chum average   6-10lbs occasionally up to 40lbs.  They are the most widely distributed pacific salmon travelling as far as Korea and Japan.  They normally return to the rivers at 2-5 yrs to spawn.  These salmon return from the ocean in early July to early September with silvery sides and dark greenish-blue metallic backs , which change near spawning with vertical reddish yellow vertical stripes.  The male then produces a large kype with a prominent array of teeth. Chums are found in clean gravel bottom rivers with a moderate current flow.
Fishing methods for Chum in freshwater.   The ideal water is 2-3 feet, in moderately fast current, with lures fished close to the bottom.  Chum can be caught on lures , spinners, Spin-N-Glo's and flies.
Spinning . Use 20lb test with medium sized lures 1/2-7/8 oz spoons in green , blue or silver with bright orange , red and yellow highlights .
Fly-fishing  Rods  at least  7/8  with 12-15 lb test, with sink-tip through to floating lines . Chum Salmon are perhaps the best of all the pacific salmon to be caught on the fly, as they take the fly aggressively, and even on occasions on the surface.  They fight with rapid runs and take the line out to the backing in seconds. Best patterns include Comet, Boss, polar Shrimp, Egg sucking Leech, and Woolly Buggers.                

Sockeye Salmon , Reds, Red Salmon (Onorhynchus nerka)

These average 6lbs with some reaching 10-12 lbs. They are dark blue-black back with silvery sides with no distinct spots on back, dorsal fin or tail. Spawning adults develop dull green heads and red bodies.
                                          
The sockeye salmon is a plankton feeder which is unlike the other pacific salmon species and they are very passive toward lures. This salmon generally spends 2-3 years in the ocean before it returns to its spawning waterways in large schools.
Sockeye salmon enter the rivers from late May to August where they migrate along the river banks and hold up to rest in area's of slack water.  Although Sockeye salmon will take a conventional fly, this is a rarity and most are effectively snagged in the mouth with hook resembling a fly ( The Coho Fly ).  The sockeye run in such large numbers that as the fish are resting near the rivers edge the coho fly with weighted line is retrieved and by random chance is snagged into the sock-eyes mouth. Any hook-up in front on the gill is considered fairly hooked!  When casting , begin at an angle upstream of the spot you are fishing and try to keep the attractor broadside to the fish. when you feel a slight hesitation or bump you must set the hook immediately or you will miss. Sockeye generally lightly mouth the fly and let go.

Pink Salmon (Humpy) (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha):
                                                  
These have very large spots on the back and large black oval blotches on both tail lobes. Very small scales. Spawning adults take on a gray coloration an the back and sides with a creamy white belly. Males develop a pronounced hump.
The pink salmon or humpy is the most prolific of the salmon species and the smallest in size usually averaging about 3-5 pounds, although the State of Alaska sport fishing record is nearly 13 pounds. The commercial catch of pink salmon far outweighs the catch of the other salmon species. The pink salmon normally matures in two years peak in even numbered years. These smaller cousins of the red salmon run in large schools and are fished heavily by commercial fishing boats. Pink salmon enter the river in July in vast numbers.  The Fraser river in British Columnia in 2003 had a run alone of 25 million.

Fishing for the Pink Salmon
Pinks can be caught with jigs , spoons and flies.  Medium lures are best particularly chartreuse and silver.  Fly fishing for Pink's is ideal with a 5-6 wt rod using flies with a bit of flash which include the polar shrimp, Alakabou and the egg sucking Leech.

 

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