King salmons also known as Chinook salmon are by far the largest salmon species in North America. These fish are an absolute blast to catch. They are one of the largest species you can catch here in the north, and are sure to give you one heck of a fight. It is not uncommon to catch a 30 lb plus king salmon, and the fight can last anywhere from a few minutes to half of an hour depending on the size. These fish are not just sought after because of their size, they are also targeted because of their taste. They taste great and have an excellent nutritional profile packed with omega 3 fatty acids. King salmon are native to the North Pacific areas but have been introduced to many other river systems; most notably the Great Lakes. Fishing Tips Guru has put together a comprehensive fishing guide to help anglers of all skill target this beautiful monster.
Table of Contents (clickable)
Salmon Background Information and Facts
King salmon are distinguished by their beautiful colors as well as their size. There are easily identifiable by their silver body, purplish head, and black spots. They have a thick black gum line and are carnivorous creatures with large sharp teeth. These fish are found in both salt and fresh waters. They range greatly in size but adults can be anywhere from 2-4 feet in length. As mentioned above, it is not uncommon to catch a 30 lb + king salmon; many get up to around 50 lbs or more. Chinook salmon will spend roughly 4 years living in the ocean and then will return to the rivers to spawn. In the great lakes king salmon are usually found spawning throughout September. Roughly a month after spawning, the adult salmon will die. Just before the spawn is the best time to catch king salmon here in Northern Ontario. The chinook salmon feed on smaller fish and insects throughout their lifetime. When freshwater fishing for chinook you need to target them in the late summer/early fall months when they being to enter the freshwater streams to spawn. They will usually head into small streams with a gravel bottom to lay their eggs.
Salmon Tips and How to Catch
So now the portion of the article that probably brought you here in the first place. Everyone wants to know how to catch this beautiful fish. First, you need to target them during the right season. If your fishing the great lakes that means late summer or early fall. You will not catch king salmon before or after these times; only before and during the spawn. So be ready and prepare yourself, because you will only have a month or so to land one of these. Below are some key tips and tricks to help you hook into a big chinook:
Troll slowly and go low. These are predators and they will attack your lure if it goes near them. During the time right before the spawn these fish will go on an eating frenzy. Troll very slowly so the fish have enough time to see and attack the lure. Many of the fish hang out pretty low as well so it’s important to ensure your lure is low enough. This is best achieved with a down rigger set up.
Color is important. King salmon tend to be picky when it comes to color. Every year there is a new “hot color” that seems to getting the kings fired up. However year after year green and fire tiger colors tend to produce over and over again. A large J-Plug and a downrigger is the preferred rig for these monsters.
If you’re fishing in a creek or shallower stream try a large spoon. The salmon are attracted to the shine of the spoon and you can cover a lot of ground using these lures. This is the preferred rig if you’re fishing off shore or in shallower waters less than 10 feet.
Use at least 30 lb test line. This fish are difficult to catch and often times it’s a good day if you and your crew are able to land one or two. The last thing you want to do is have your line snap in the middle of a battle. I recommended minimum of 30 lb test but will usually go even high than that.
Set the hook hard! These fish have very hard mouths. You need to really set the hook hard when you have one on to ensure it doesn’t slip out.
Let the fish tire itself out. There is no need to try and battle the fish. A large 40 lb king will snap your line/rod very easily if you challenge it. Set the drag to little looser and let the fish take off a few times to tire it out. Once it’s slowing down tighten up and reel it in slowly.
Don’t give up. Many times people will go out 2 or 3 times and not catch a king, so they will give up. Keep trying, it’s worth it once you finally land one of these monsters.
Lures and Bait
There are really only 2 rigs that you need to have to fish king salmon. If you’re your on boat and plan on trolling up and down a river you will need downriggers. Simply troll up and down with downriggers and J-plugs for best results. Larger J-plugs produce larger salmon so keep that in mind. Green is my go to color.
If you’re not fishing in a boat then you can use large spoons. Once again green is the go to color. Simply cast and retrieve until you land a big salmon. If you’re fishing in shallow streams late in the season the salmon are quite sluggish and will usually hang out in pools. Move around and try many spots until you find them.