The Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) Salmon is the biggest, most popular and arguably the tastiest type of Salmon. Also known as the King Salmon, it was designated the state fish of Alaska in 1962. They average 22-28 pounds and 30-36 inches long, but it is common to pull in kings that are much, much bigger. The record King Salmon, at 126 pounds, was caught in a fish trap in 1949 near Petersburg. The record sport-caught King Salmon was 97 pounds, caught in the Kenai River in 1986.
How to identify a King Salmon
King salmon can be identified by black irregular spotting on the back, dorsal and tail fins. They have silvery sides and white underbellies and a dark gray, almost black mouth. The best time for trophy-sized king salmon fishing goes from mid-May through mid-August, although they are available both before and after those times as well.
- Jan. 1 through June 30, the Annual limit for Nonresidents is three King Salmon, 28 inches or greater in length;
- July 1 through Dec. 31, the Annual limit for Nonresidents is one King Salmon, 28 inches or greater in length; and King Salmon harvested from January 1 through June 30 will apply toward the one fish annual limit.
Fishing for Kings – Mooching
When fishing for salmon at Alaska Premier Charters, Inc., you will use a fishing style called “mooching.” You will be set up with a nine foot long salmon rod geared with a Shimano Tekota 600LC wind reel with a Line Counter. At the end of your line will be a free-sliding lead that will be from two to eight ounces (depending on depth and current), a bead chain swivel and a six to eight foot leader with double hooks, baited with a cut-plug herring (herring with the head cut off at an angle.) When you gently cast your line out, the bait should spin and the lead should slide to the lowest point in the line.
To mooch for salmon, gently cast your line out across the water and let it down to between 100-200 feet. Then gradually work your bait back to the surface. A good tried-and-true method is to alternately reel five fast turns, then five slow turns. Do not jig your line because this will tear up the bait. The objective is to keep your bait moving and spinning.
All our boats are equipped with Furuno electronic fish-finders. Your captain will be able to tell you at what depth salmon or bait might be present. If you are below the depth the captain calls, quickly work your bait up near that depth. If you are already above the depth where the fish are, you have two options. You can either strip out line very slowly, or reel all the way up and cast your line back out. If your captain says there are salmon at 60 feet, for example, and you are casting out, send your bait 20 feet deeper, to 80 feet. Then reel back up through the “strike zone.” This gives you two chances at getting a bite: once on your way down, and once on your way back up.
A word of caution: because the bait spins, you cannot free-spool your line down from whatever depth you are at; your line will become hopelessly tangled and you will not have as much of a chance at getting a bite.
Salmon in Southeast Alaska like to grab the bait and swim upward with it. When they do that, your lead will slide to the lowest point in the line and your rod tip will jerk a little bit. It may not be obvious to you, but if you see that, or if your captain or deckhand tells you you’re getting a bite, you have to reel quickly to try and catch up to your fish. It may take upwards of 50 turns before you catch up with your fish and the rod feels heavy, so don’t give up—just keep cranking. Reel your rod tip right down to the water and reel your line in until it gets heavy and tight.
Once the line is tight and the rod feels heavy, set the hook in the fish’s mouth by jerking your rod upward. Then continue reeling, keeping your line tight, and set the hook again. It may be necessary to follow your fish by walking around the boat. With our full walk-around decks, this is easy and safe. You may have to go under, over, and around the other people fishing with you, which is perfectly okay. It is also very important to keep your rod tip up to prevent possible slack that allows the fish to toss its head and escape.
When your salmon is near the surface, your captain and deckhand will be there to assist you in landing or releasing your fish as needed. Should you require help with any aspect of mooching for salmon, just ask, and we will do everything we can to make this an enjoyable and successful fishing experience each day!