The King Salmon (a.k.a. Chinook, Springer, Blackmouth, Smiley, Purple-back, Oncorhynchus Tschawytscha)
The King Salmon is the largest of the salmon species available in Alaska. It is possible to catch King Salmon in Ketchikan all year, but the peak season is in June and the first part of July. These fish have to be at least 28 inches to legally keep them while sport fishing, and their is no upper size restriction. They average somewhere around 15-20 lbs. and each summer a few in the 40-50 lbs range are caught in the same waters where we regularly fish. Each year, Ketchikan holds a King Salmon Derby over 3 weekends, usually starting in May and ending in June. We have had great fun fishing the derby and offer a King Salmon Derby Special. For more great information about King Salmon, please visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.
The Fighting Characteristics of King Salmon
Generally speaking, a King Salmon will dive deep and stay down for most of the time you are fighting them. Often when we are trolling with downriggers for Kings, they will strike with such force and dive so quickly that it is quite difficult to get the rod out of the rodholder! Once you have the rod in your hand, the amazing power of the fish becomes clear as they alternate between diving deep and swimming straight at the boat, then diving deep all over again. The best technique for landing these incredible fish is to just keep your line tight and wait for them to tire out, which at times can take over 20 minutes! The key to winning the battle against a King Salmon is to have patience and try not to rush it to the boat before the fish is ready. A fish that is not yet tired (referred to as a “green” fish) is the most difficult to land and is the most likely to either spit the hook or break your line when you try to bring them to the net. After many years of catching (and sometimes losing) these fish, it always seems that the people who slow down and really enjoy the fight are the ones that land the most fish.
The Best Time of Year For King Salmon
The question often comes up, “when is the best time to come to Ketchikan to catch King Salmon?” The generic answer is easy, May and June, but the much more specific answer is the 2nd or 3rd week of June. This is the time of year that the south end of town around Mountain Point and Herring Cove usually is redefined as a “Terminal Fishery” for a few weeks by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. What this means for the angler is that when fishing in this area, the limits are changed to allow for everyone to retain 6 Kings of any size. While this is never guaranteed, it has happened for many years in a row now and I expect it will continue unless we have a very sharp decline in the number of King Salmon coming back in to our hatchery (right now they are still on the rise). This is the time of year when we are able to have some truly epic King Salmon fishing, the trips where we catch 6-12 large beautiful kings in just a few hours and you end up with more King Salmon meat then you know what to do with. This is also the time of year when the “Night Bite” can be very productive and fun, those few golden hours where the fish really start feeding right before dark.
Are you ready to try your hand at catching an Alaskan King Salmon? Contact us now to experience Ketchikan Salmon Fishing at its finest!