Illustrations © Joseph R. Tomelleri
laska’s state fish, the coveted King salmon (Chinooks), is by far the most desired salmon Alaska has to offer. They’re the largest and scarcest of the five species of Alaska salmon, bearing the highest amounts of Omega-3 oils of all Alaskan salmon.
Kings are available from May to September, with runs on the Nushagak peaking in late June and July. Although King Salmon are available in all regions of the state, the biggest runs occur in the Nushagak River. The Nushagak River flows 280 miles out of the Alaskan Range to Bristol Bay. Along its 280 miles, the “Nush” picks up many salmon breeding tributaries, including the Mulchatna, Nuyakuk and King Salmon Rivers, these and dozens of smaller tributaries, make the Nushagak River drainage the best salmon fishing in Alaska. The Nush River Camp is located on the most sought after piece of riverside property anywhere in Alaska. Join us for to experience King Salmon fishing like you have only dreamed about.
Kings are fished for in both fresh and salt water, with the best fishing occurring in the large, long rivers that they spawn in. Averaging 18-30 lbs, the chinook can reach 80 lbs or more in some river systems and represents the pinnacle of the North American freshwater fishing experience.
The adult King Salmon is a handsome, robust looking fish with many small black spots or blotches sprinkled along the gun-metal blue back and fins. The tail fin or caudal fin is spotted from top to bottom, which differentiates it from the coho, which is only spotted on the upper half of the tail. It also has a black gum and mouth lining; coho internal mouth linings are gray or white. Spawning adults lose their bright silvery coloration or take on a maroon or olive-brown coloration, with males looking darker than females. Spawning males will also develop a hooked snout and slightly humped shoulder which is absent in spawning females. The closer the fish are to actual spawning, the darker their coloration becomes.
The giant King Salmon was designated the state fish of Alaska in 1962 (also called Chinook salmon, spring salmon, quinnat, tyee, tule, and blackmouth salmon).