The Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, is the largest species in the pacific (Oncorhynchus) salmon family. Other commonly used names for the species include King salmon, Quinnat salmon, Spring salmon and Tyee salmon. Chinook are an anadromous fish native to the north Pacific Ocean and the river systems of western North America ranging from California to Alaska. They are also native to Asian rivers ranging from northern Japan to the Palyavaam River in the Siberian far east, although only the Kamchatka Peninsula supports relatively persistent native populations. They have been introduced to other parts of the world, including New Zealand and the Great Lakes. A large Chinook is a prized and sought after catch for a sporting angler. The flesh of the salmon is also highly valued for its dietary nutritional content which includes high levels of important Omega-3 fatty acids.
The Chinook is blue-green,red or purple on the back and top of the head with silvery sides and white ventral surfaces. It has black spots on its tail and the upper half of its body. Its mouth is often dark purple. Adult fish range in size from 33 to 36 in (840 to 910 mm) but may be up to 58 inches (1,500 mm) in length; they average 10 to 50 pounds (4.5 to 23 kg) but may reach 130 pounds (59 kg). The current sport-caught World Record is 97.25 pounds (44.11 kg) and was caught on May 17, 1985 in the Kenai River (Kenai Peninsula, Alaska). some were found dead at well over 100 lb. The commercial catch world record is 126 pounds (57 kg) caught near Rivers Inlet British Columbia in the late 1970s.x
Length = 36 inches (Record: 58 inches); Weight = 30 lbs (Record: 126 lbs).
3 to 7 years
North America “– Monterey Bay, CA’ to the Chukchi Sea. Asia – Hokkaido, Japan to Anadyr River, Siberia
Diet / Feeding Type
Plankton, insects, amphipods, and fish
Birds and fish eat juveniles; marine mammals eat adults
Official state fish of Alaska
Anadromous and semelparous
Chinook, chins, king. quinnat, tyee, tule, blackmouth, and spring salmon.
A Note from Captain Steve on King Salmon…
We catch King salmon year round. There are three distinct runs; the first run starts in early May and runs through mid June. We slow troll or motor mooch in the saltwater with cut plug herring and an assortment of lures, the sinkers are usually three to four ounces. We normally fish in waters less than 40 feet deep so we can use light tackle as the fish average 15 to 35 lbs. There are usually a lot of fish because they are returning from the open ocean to the many rivers along the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage, and further North to the rivers where they started their life.
The second run of King Salmon begins in late June and runs through the entire month of July. This run goes up the Kenai River where there are Big Alaska King Salmon! They average 20 to 50 lbs. with some as large as 70 – 80 lbs. Our largest Kings were caught out on the saltwater weighing 83 3/4 and 84 lbs.! We intercept some of these fish on the saltwater using the same techniques as the First Run King Salmon, but there are far less fish so the best chance to try to catch one of these Trophies is on the Kenai River.
The third run of King Salmon is our winter or ‘Feeder King’ and we catch them year round. These immature King Salmon feed and mill around, but they are not spawning during that time. They average 15 to 35 lbs. like the first-run Kings. We use herring, an assortment of lures, flashers and sometimes downriggers to get the bait 30 to 90 feet deep. Some of the winter Kings we catch are white meated and taste real good, not like your typical King Salmon. You’ll be sure to get your Omega 3’s because they are so oily; these are the ones we BBQ with fresh made cilantro pesto!
Season: Year Round
Licensing: You can fill out the Pre-Arrival Packet and your license will be taken care of for you, or you can go directly to the Fish and Game website to buy one and print it out yourself. If you intend to fish for King Salmon you will need to have a King Salmon Stamp, which you can get through the Fish and Game website.