Chinook salmon, also known as spring salmon, king, or tyee (for those 30 pounds or bigger), is the largest of the Pacific salmon, often hailed as the king of the seas and the prize of the westcoast angler. Like all salmon species, chinook are born in fresh water and live in their river birthplace for up to one year. Upon entering saltwater, chinook are voracious eaters, hunting whatever baitfish are abundant, most commonly herring, sardines, pilchards, squid, and needle fish. Chinook remain in the ocean for longest of all the salmon species, growing ever larger for up to 7 years, when their reproductive instinct eventually compels them to return to their home river to spawn. Chinook are the earliest spawning salmon, beginning their long journey in early spring upriver to their spawning grounds (hence their nickname "springs"). And as the chinook pass by on their way to their spawning grounds, anglers up and down the coast get their chance to tempt these opportunistic hunters.
On the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, anglers target chinook salmon from June to September, with the peak in July and August. At this time of year the fish are ready to spawn and generally weigh 15 to 30 LB. although fish up to 60 LB. are caught every year. The predominant fishing technique for chinook is trolling using bait, typically anchovies or herring, or using lures such as spoons or hootchies (resemble squid). Medium-sized chinook are found in abundance in the deep water off Swiftsure Bank (150-200 feet), but the really big ones are generally found on reefs close to shore, as shallow as 30 feet.
When you get a "hit" from a chinook, you'll know it, because the reel will make the zzzzzzziiiiinnnnnnnggggg scream that surges adrenalin into every angler’s heart! Chinook are strong fighters known for long powerful runs – you'll retrieve line, the fish will run and take it back, you retrieve, it runs, retrieve, run, sometimes up to 20 minutes. When you finally get the fish to the boat, it will be exhausted and you exhilarated. If you're lucky enough to get a tyee on the line (30 lb plus), you’ll have a fishing experience you'll never forget. The only negative is that it's so fun it might spoil you for whatever you used to consider fishing!
Many salmon connoisseurs consider chinook meat to be the best. It is packed with omega fats that sizzle on the barbecue, so tasty it makes its own sauce, no recipe needed. The meat is firm and “chunky”, with a texture some describe as closer to high quality beef steak than fish. While chinook meat is usually red, some have white meat, the fattiest and tastiest of all, ideal for both barbecuing and smoking.
Season: Year Round
Peak Season: May - September
Size: 10-50lbs and can get up to 60lbs and beyond.