How to Fish for Chinook Salmon

How to Fish for Chinook Salmon
Chinook are also known as king salmon and are highly valued by recreational and commercial anglers. Chinook are the largest salmon species available to anglers and can be caught in fresh or saltwater environments. The summer months provide chinook fishing in coastal areas where the salmon stage as they prepare to migrate in the river systems. As the late summer approaches, the salmon will swim through the river systems towards traditional spawning grounds and die once they have completed the spawn.


Difficulty: Moderate

Conventional Tackle

Things You’ll Need:
  • Rod
  • Reel
  • Lures or flies
  • Boat
  • Landing net or gaff
Step 1
Use a stout rod and reel with minimum of 20 pound test fishing line. Saltwater anglers must use equipment that is corrosion resistant or gear will begin to fail after several fishing trips.
Step 2
Fish at the mouths of rivers when chinook salmon are staging to spawn. Troll with bait and lures or cast lures at the salmon. Locate schools of salmon with a fish finder that displays the depth of the fish. Look for structure and troughs where migrating salmon are likely to rest and feed before moving upstream.
Step 3
Target chinook salmon in saltwater environments if you plan on eating the fish. The chinook are bright silver when living in saltwater and when the fish first enter the river system. The meat of fresh salmon is more valuable as food and as the salmon move upstream the fish gradually die and the flesh becomes rotten.
Step 4
Locate a group of salmon and stay in the area of the group. Use fast sinking lures and jigs that have the ability to reach the depth of the salmon and use fast, aggressive retrieve patterns to entice the fish. Use a gaff to land the salmon if you are planning on keeping the fish or use a large landing net if you plan on releasing the fish.
Step 5
Use brightly colored lures when fishing for salmon in a river. Attempt to locate salmon by sight and allow the lure to sink to the same depth of the salmon. Salmon in river systems are not feeding but will strike an aggravating lure if it crosses their field of vision and invades their territory.

Fly Fishing

Step 1
Use a heavy 8-10 weight rod for chinook salmon. Also use stout salmon leaders with a minimum of 20 pound test. Large arbor reels loaded with the maximum amount of backing will increase your chances of landing a large chinook.
Step 2
Target salmon as they migrate through river systems, and use polarized glasses to decrease the glare of the sun on the water. Locate salmon by sight and map a landing area downstream of the salmon before attempting to hook the fish.
Step 3
Use weighted streamers and egg patterns and allow the fly to sink to the same level as the fish. Bright pink, red and black are effective colors when fished in front of chinook salmon. Make multiple casts and aggravate the chinook until it strikes.
Step 4
Use a tight drag setting and be prepared to land the salmon by leading it onto a gravel bar or by using a large landing net. Keep pressure on the fish throughout the fight but be prepared to release pressure when the chinook makes a hard run.

Tips & Warnings

Salmon fishing requires patience when attempting to locate the migrating fish. Be prepared to move around if you are not finding salmon and carry tackle to fish at variable depths.
Chinook salmon are often located in areas with high concentrations of black and grizzly bears. Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to break off the fish and retreat if a bear is present.

Article Written By Zach Lazzari

Zach Lazzari is an outdoor writing specialist. He has experience in website writing as well as standard newspaper writing. He wrote an outdoor column for the Silver World in Lake City, Colo., and articles for Lazzari is currently completing his bachelor's degree online through Arizona State University and lives in southwest Montana.

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