The king salmon, or chinook, is the largest of the pacific salmon. Their range is from Monterey California to Point Hope Alaska. They are an anadromous species and most pacific coast rivers that provide adequate flows, temperatures and habitat suitable for ascending, spawning, and rearing young sustain king salmon runs. There may be up to three runs per year; spring, summer, and fall.
The average weight for California strains on chinook is around 18-22 pounds with the record fish weighing in at just over 50 pounds. The largest kings come from Alaska where 50 to 60 pound fish are common.
King salmon return to the river of their birth at ages from 2 to 7 years. While out to sea they have been known to migrate across the north Pacific and trips of over 7,000 miles have been recorded. The longest spawning run is the Yukon River, Alaska in which the fish must swim close to 2,000 miles up river. Salmon use a combination of smell, solar navigation, visual clues, and an awareness of length of days, light intensities, and other factors to navigate.
King salmon spawn I beds of course gravel, 1 to 3 inches in diameter. The female digs out a nest, called a redd, with her tail and body. The female then deposits her eggs while the male simultaneously fertilizes them with jets of milt. The eggs then adhere to the bottom of the nest. The eggs are covered with gravel. The female may build more than one redd over several days. Both male and females die within a few days after spawning. The decaying flesh of the dead parents provide food for organism which the fry feed upon after leaving the nest. The fry stay in the nest for 2 to 3 weeks after hatching and may remain in the river system for up to 18 months before heading out to sea.
Salmon fishing regulations vary widely and are sub to change with little or no notice. Be sure you know what the current regulations are before fishing.
Ocean: Trolling with downriggers is usually done by rigging an anchovy 4 to 6 feet behind a flasher, setting the proper depth and moving at 3 to 5 knots. Trolling at depths up to 80 feet can be can be managed, depending on the current, by using a sinker release and a 2 to 3 pound cannonball sinker with a 4' leader rigged with anchovy or sardine. Hootchies and Rotary salmon killers are common devices used in combination with the bait.
Mooching is done with a 2 to 3 foot leader as light a weight as possible to control the line at the desired depth. Usually weights are under one pound. The leader is threaded through the bait, anchovy, sardine, or herring with the hook being set in the head of the bait. A half hitch is tied around the tail of the bait. Best results come from slowly working the bait through the depth range of the salmon. The bait is most often taken during a slow retrieve.
Rivers: The esophagus of the chinook soon closes upon their entry into fresh water. King salmon will not feed during their spawning runs. The only way to hook one is by eliciting an aggressive response. There are a number of lures and methods for accomplishing this. The king salmon like deep holes and channels which are the most likely places to find them. One of the most common methods is to tie anchovy or sardine filets to a large flatfish or kwickfish and drift downstream over deep holes.