Fabulous Fall Chinook
The river acts as
a funnel, giving fisherman ample opportunity at battling one of these
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To a salmon die-hard,
the fall season brings great joy. Thousands of large chinook wind down
their life long journey and venture upstream to spawn, completing one
of natures most amazing life cycles. The river angler follows a
cycle of his own, strategically placing himself on different bodies of
water throughout the season, trying to optimize his chances of hooking
that life-long trophy.
As a die-hard myself,
I endure the long, dry summer anticipating the first fall rains. The slow
but definite transition of seasons in British Columbia brings an array
of rich colors, replacing the usual deep green landscape with vibrant
bursts of reds and oranges. Mother natures artful display also triggers
the Pacific salmons instincts; a keen sense of smell draws them
to their freshwater birthplaces and the final lap of their life-long race.
If you were to rate
British Columbias trophy fish, the chinook salmon would probably
top your list. For more than one hundred years, anglers have traveled
endless distances at great expense to battle this king of
the salmonid species. From the angler who frequents the most extravagant
lodges to the basic weekend spin-caster, the thrill of hooking one of
these great fish is the same.
One warm morning last
October, a couple of friends and I ventured to one of my favourite Vancouver
Island chinook salmon rivers. With old growth cedars and brilliantly colored
maples lining the trail, we told fish stories of years past and worked
our way to the stream.
these waters in earlier years, we thought we would have the upper hand
by knowing where the salmon would be and what these sometimes spooky
fish would be most susceptible to taking. As with most fishing, we were
The first pool we
came across held a few chinooks, but a large black bear had already staked
his claim and was not about to share. We proceeded on to other pools and,
after brisk hike upstream, (a 300 lb. black bear behind you
somehow makes you pick up the pace) we came to a slow, deep pool. There
was a log jam for cover and a small patch of rapids at the pools
head; ideal conditions for this small river.
Peering into the pool,
we saw numerous, large shadows lurking in the light green water. There
must have been fifty chinook ranging from 20 to 40 plus pounds. After
seeing that, we had a hard enough time tying knots let alone deciding
on who would get the first cast. Mark Pavesic rigged up and tossed his
green wool, bottom-bouncing setup into the pool.
The salmon swam by
his presentation, seemingly unaware of the lure that lie just a foot below
them. I am a teelheader at heart, so my rig mirrored Marks, but
with a float. Frustrated, Mark gave up after a few casts and let me have
a crack at the ill-tempered salmon that lay in front of us. After adjusting
my float to match the depth of the fish, I placed my first cast at the
head of the pool and watched as my gear made its slow journey toward the
school of chinook.
As I viewed that six-inch
piece of foam, I detected a slight hesitation and set the hook. I was
pleased to feel a savage tug on the other end of the line and held on
as the chinook leaped like a tarpon. Due to a relatively light river current,
my gear choice was just right to subdue the salmon in a ten minutes. It
was a strong fish of 25 pounds or so, with light, crimson colours covering
its body. A nice fish in my books. Soon, Mark was rifling through his
vest for a float of his own. Quickly adding this new weapon to his arsenal,
he quickly tied into a large chinook himself. The madness went on for
hours, fresh school of salmon after another to pushed into the hole.
Cast after cast, the
fish struck all day. The key was in presenting our lures at the proper
depth. The chinook salmon in this river tend to hold just off the bottom.
Therefore, we adjusted our rigs to match the depths the salmon were held
Tackle used for these
river brutes must be able to handle extreme strain. I have seen moderate-sized
chinook blow the gear in reels, explode steelhead rods like they were
twigs, and snap 20 pound test with one good head shake. With that in mind,
premium gear in top working order is essential.
My personal favorite
set-up consists of a 10 6 medium action rod with plenty of
backbone to steer these largeish, but with a sensitive enough tip to detect
the sometimes soft takes. A reel with a smooth drag and a large line capacity
(able to hold at least 150 yards of 15-lb test) is a must because of the
freight train runs the chinook are famous for. The lines I personally
prefer are the new braided lines now available on the market. Most British
Columbia rivers that hold chinook usually host numerous stumps, submerged
branches, and other obstructions that large chinook salmon love to hide
under. These lines can save the day when that occurs, due to the incredibly
high abrasion resistance that most monofillament lines lack and a no
stretch factor that allows for a more sensitive feel and a more
solid hook set.
For the pork
n beans of the gear, a basic steelhead float system works
wonders. A foam float, a weight and wool on a hook is all you need. Due
to numerous bait bans, anglers are having to adapt to alternative methods.
Widely available and inexpensive, wool is a great substitute for traditional
methods, and with proper presentation can work just as well. Color combinations
can vary from day-to-day, but reds, greens, and oranges are always a good
bet when placed on a size 1 to a 3/0 hook. Over the years, traditional
steelhead gear has worked its way into chinook fishermans vests.
Corkies, Spin & glos and Gooey bobs are also a great substitute
for bait and I have found chinook will readily take them on a daily basis.
Dont be afraid to mix and match sizes and colors until you find
what works for your self remembering that there is no need to match
the hatch here.
Chinook salmon tend
to be found in medium to large river systems. Over the years, rivers like
the Fraser, Skeena, Kitimat and Alaskas Kenai (home to the current
rod-caught world record 97 pounds 4 ounces) have been found to produce
larger fish, or host larger runs than others, but due to the size, offer
limited opportunities to the bank fisherman. Many of these rivers smaller
tributaries offer the same fishing benefits, but with the ease of bank
fishing. Local tackle shops in these areas will have up-to-the-minute
information on the rivers, run sizes, and which have been producing most
The best months for
chinook fishing vary from location to location. Because of their migration
route from Alaska downward, the farther north the river lies, the earlier
the run. As with everything, there are plenty of exceptions to this rule,
but for the most part, I have found this to be true. Alaska hosts healthy
run sizes from mid-May through late June, while Vancouver Island and lower
mainland British Columbia tend to receive the bulk of chinook in September
through October span.
From the Queen Charlotte
Islands to Campbell Rivers Tyee Pool, Skeena to the Columbia rivers,
uncountable hours are spent looking for that once-in-a-lifetime fish.
For the angler, that search will never end. The possibility of larger
fish lies in every cast on every salmon-inhabited body of water. This
is what gets most of us out of bed at 5 am, driving endless miles just
to have the chance of obtaining that trophy of your own. If youre
a seasoned pro, you already understand what I mean, and if you are new
to the challenge of chinook fishing, then start working out those arms
in preparation for some of the largest, unbelievably powerful fish on
the west coast
the chinook salmon.
the next world record chinook?
The current world record chinook salmon caught by rod and reel
stands at 97.4 pounds, caught by Lester Anderson in the Kenai
river, Alaska. and the all time record stand in at 126 pounds,
also caught in Alaska by net. Thinking all big fish come from
Alaska, not true. The Skeena river hosted the Canadian record
at 92lbs, and just this past summer an 82 pound chinook was landed
in the Queen Charlotte islands. Biologists over the years have
found numerous carcasses of fish that would of pushed the magic
century mark on numerous river including the Skeena, Fraser, Chuckwalla,
Kilbella and others. With that in mind, it seems that the time
is ticking until someone hooks the record. Numerous stories
over the years have told of huge fish being battled for hours
on end to have the monster pop the hook right next to the boat.
So the battle goes on
which river will host the next world
ÂÂ© Copyright Geoff Hobson