Alaska Salmon are divided into 5 varieties: Chum, Sockeye, King, Silver (also called Coho), and Pink. They can be found at different times of the year in Alaska, the land of 12,000 rivers, millions of lakes, and over 6 ,000 miles of ocean coastline.
The Life of a Salmon
Alaskan Salmon start out life in freshwater, and are called Alevin, identified by their attached orange yolk sack. They next become Fry, and begin to venture out of the safety of the gravel bed in search of food like plankton and insects. Next, they become Smolt, when they move downstream to brackish water and prepare for their ocean-going journey.
Once in the ocean, salmon will mature, Kings for 6 years, and Pink for only 2 years before returning to their birth river in their spawn stage. The distances they travel upstream varies, but some Chum Salmon in the Yukon River travel 2,000 miles. As the Alaska Salmon move upstream to spawn, their bodies undergo drastic changes. Males develop a hook jaw or “kype”, and the coloration changes to dark reds and browns.
When Alaska Salmon arrive at their birthplace, they pair up. Eggs are laid in the gravel by the female, and the male fertilizes them with his milt. After spawning, the adult fish dies. The fertilized eggs begin to grow, and the cycle of life continues.
Fishing in Alaska
Sport fishing for Alaskan Salmon is like nowhere else. Where do you start in such a gigantic wilderness? The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a website (https://www.adfg.alaska.gov) to get you started and keep you safe, legal, and informed with excellent information and brochures. In addition, fishing regulations can change immediately by executive order to meet fishing conditions.
License are required for non-residents 16 years old, or residents 18 years old. King Salmon require a special stamp, so it’s imperative that you be able to identify the fish you catch. Wherever you fish for Alaska Salmon, chances are you’ll not be fishing alone. Bears know where all the good fishing spots are, so always be aware of your surroundings. Bears don’t like to share.