Ranging from San Francisco Bay to the top of the Bering Strait, Chinook (King) Salmon are also fond of arctic Canadian and Russian waters, including the Pacific coast in between. They originate in rivers between Oregon and British Columbia. During migration Chinook travel through southeast Alaska, British Columbia’s inside passage then continue along the coast of Washington. They hug shorelines during migration, and this is where to find the best opportunities to catch good numbers. From November to April Puget Sound hosts millions of hatchery Kings. Two other significant runs occur in the Oregon’s Rogue River and the Columbia River in Canada, Washington and Oregon. Introduction of this species has also flourished in New Zealand and the Patagonian waters of South America.
Blue-green on the back and top of the head, King Salmon have silver sides and a belly that is white in front. Black spots decorate the tail and upper body, while their mouths are dark gray. They are distinguished from their cousins by a black gum line, as well as by actual size. No other salmon is larger than the King, which averages 10-50 pounds. The sport caught world record is 97 pounds, 4 ounces, caught in Alaska’s Kenai River. One larger King Salmon weighed in at 126 pounds, but was caught in a trap near Petersburg, Alaska.
Estuaries are home to juvenile Chinook, who diet mainly on insects and crustaceans. When they are strong enough to reach open ocean water zooplankton, crustaceans, and other fish are added to build size, weight, and strength. During summers in the ocean King Salmon grow fast and big, frequently doubling their weight in one season. Most cover thousands of miles to be first of other salmon species to return to rivers each spring, for spawning.
Best tasting of all salmon, the official state fish is the most popular sport fish in Alaska, for a number of reasons. Extremely valuable commercially, the population is maintained through assistance from hatcheries and conservationists. Chinook Salmon are truly ‘King’, also revered by Alaskan natives for a deep spiritual significance, symbolizing rebirth and harvest.