We’ve Seen Forecasts…Now, Let’s See Some Kings!!!

With a damp, dreary Memorial Day weekend in the rear view window, it’s time to look north for the first indications of our actual chinook returns.

So why do we look north and what are we looking for? GREAT QUESTION!!! To answer that question, let’s have a quick review of what the University of Washington School of Fisheries catalogs as FISH 450: Salmonid Behavior and Life History.

As our juvenile chinook leave Puget Sound they “turn right” or head north to the rich oceanic pasture known as the Gulf of Alaska. Then, as they mature they eventually make their way back to the coast…and, bump right into Southeast Alaska!

So, it’s no secret that the tremendous salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska, the Queen Charlotte Islands, northern British Columbia and the west coast of Vancouver Island are, to a great extent, driven by salmonid production in Oregon, the Columbia River, coastal Washington and Puget Sound. Therefore, if you are looking at a real indication of what our actual returns are looking like, Southeast Alaska is the place to look!

After a winter of going blind pouring over forecasts, pictures of actual, huge summer chinook is indeed a sight for sore eyes! Our good friend Derek Floyd of Reel Class Charters in Sitka, Alaska has been providing ample evidence of what looks like a great summer salmon season here in the Pacific Northwest!

Here’s Derek with a fine 39 pound specimen which fell prey to a technique he described during his interview on The Outdoor Line this past Saturday. Here is the podcast

Then, the next day, his fishbox featured a 29 and a 39 pounder!!!

The biggest fish of the week for Reel Class Charters??? How about this chrome 41 pounder! I dare you not to smile hoisting a slab of that size!

Still not convinced??? Check out Bill Vaughn’s 55.5 pound hog which is currently on top of the Sitka Salmon Derby leaderboard. 

The Sitka Salmon Derby is a two-weekend event that ends this coming weekend (June 1 & 2) and according to Derby officials, both the numbers of fish entered and average size of the chinook are up significantly from last year. In 2012, a 44 pounder took top honors in the event. This year?….a 40 pounder may fall outside the top ten.

Other significant -and unquestionably positive reports come from Rob Endsley of Prince of Wales Sportfishing. His contacts in Craig, Alaska (approximately 150 miles south of Sitka) have also reported chinook to the mid 40 pound range!

The Queen Charlotte Islands are also going great guns right now  Larry Carpenter of Master Marine Services in Mt. Vernon tells the following tale

: “After arriving at the lodge the first afternoon with only about 5 hours of fishing 25 anglers brought 17 Chinook salmon to the dock. With the first full day of fishing we had many more Chinooks  plus halibut, ling cod and red snapper  and our first tyee salmon 31lb. The second day brought more bottom fish plus Chinook salmon another tyee 32 lb and for a bonus coho salmon ranging from 6-10lb. Wow! What a treat!!! Some anglers have played up to 12-14 Chinook salmon in a day!” 

With reports like this I hope you can see what I’m seeing… One heck of a summer season!

Sharpen the hooks boys…sharpen the hooks!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

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