Discovering the King Salmon

In the salmon family, the King Salmon is the biggest species. Native from the Pacific Ocean it’s also called as the Pacific Ocean salmon. While it is more popularly known to Alaskan and Siberian natives as the Chinook salmon, it is also referred to in a variety of other names such as Black, Quinnat, Hook Bill, Tyee, Columbia River, Winter, Spring, Chub, and Blackmouth. Now that is a lot of names to call a single kind of fish.

The King Salmon may have a lot of other names, but it has a distinct look that anglers can recognize. From the top of its head all the way to the back, you will notice the blue-green or purple with a silvery shade on its side and a white front. On top of that unique look, it has black spots all over the upper half of the body and tail. It earned the name Blackmouth because its mouth is often seen in a dark shade of purple. A full-grown King Salmon can measure from 33 inches to 36 inches long (840 to 910 mm). It can possibly grow up to 58 inches (1,500 mm) in total length or approximately 5 feet. It weighs an average of 10 to 50 pounds or 4.5 to 23 kilograms. It can live up to 8 years in the ocean — but has an average of 3 to 4 years before it returns to the river where it was born and breeds.

The current world record for the King Salmon caught by sport is 97 lbs. or 44 kilograms in the Kenai River in 1985. However, the commercial catch hit the world record at a whopping 126 lbs or 57 kilograms. It was caught in the late 1970s in the Rivers Inlet British Columbia. As big as these catches were, fish of even half that size are very rare. Their utter size makes them a challenge to catch, but it’s very much worth it. They are considered the second best salmon to eat after all — after reds, that it.

This fish is very pricey due to its rarity as compared to other salmons that are common in the Pacific coast. It can be found along the northern sections of the coast, but the famous fish runs occur in Alaskan rivers. They can also be found in the San Francisco Bay, the arctic waters of Russia and Canada as well as in the islands of Japan in Asia.

When trying to catch this fish you will have better luck in faster currents as well as in overcast or rainy weather. When a King Salmon begins a swim up a freshwater river, it stops feeding and will not strike at bait out of hunger. More often than not, they appear to take on bait out of irritation and often get loose salmon eggs and carry them in their mouth. For some people who know about this, some salmon-catchers consider salmon eggs as bait. If you’re thinking of doing this though, take note that this is punishable by law on some rivers. Rules and regulations on fishing salmon can be complex. If you want to try your hand at catching a King Salmon, get in touch with your local Department of Fish and Game to get a complete list of license fees and know the necessary fishing regulations so you won’t get yourself into trouble.

All photos on this page are of actual sport-caught Alaskan King Salmon. Photos used with permission by J-Dock Seafood Company, Seward, Alaska.