WHAT IS THE BEST SALMON TO CATCH? — WINTER KINGS
There is no doubt, summer fishing in Ketchikan, Alaska is spectacular, but some would say the best fishing is winter kings.
While Summertime is the time for salmon fishing, there are some locals who persistently hunt the infamous Winter King.
This type of king salmon that we generally refer to as “winter” kings are simply feeder kings that we target in the winter months. A feeder king is a salmon that is on its four to five-year ocean run as it feeds and grows toward its inevitable demise as a spawner in its natal river. Now there are many anglers who may target these fish year-round in Kachemak Bay, and that is because they are known for their high oil content and delicate flavor. Sometimes in the course of targeting the returning kings that are running up the inlet toward the myriad of tributaries that drain into Cook Inlet, we are lucky enough to catch some of these feeders as they all chase the same bait fish. Many times when we are fishing for silver salmon in the middle of the inlet, we will encounter a school of feeder kings and again, feel very fortunate.
Are winter kings white? Well, some of them are. I would guess that over the years, I could say that about ten percent of the feeder kings I have caught have been white kings. These fish lack a gene that allows the secretion of an enzyme that assimilates carotene in their diet that makes their flesh orange or pink or red. Some people think these white kings might have a higher oil content, but side-by-side taste testing would reveal little or no difference in taste or texture.
What Is The Best Month To Target King Salmon?
There really is no best month to target king salmon, rather it is a function of convenience and when you have the time. I like fishing the tides. I prefer building tides and the hour or two before and after the slack, high water in some places, and low water in others. Many think there is no better time to fish feeder kings than January. You are likely to encounter very little competition and in January, you really get the feel for “winter’ king salmon fishing. Although I have seen anglers bundled in Carharts and fur hats fishing from open skiffs, most serious winter fishermen have a good heater of some sort in an enclosed cabin. A bundle of hand warmers is good insurance just in case the heater malfunctions.
Although it may be possible to catch feeder kings by mooching around the kelp beds, the preferred and most effective method is by trolling with downriggers. A downrigger can be simply a two-pound ball attached to a quick-release mechanism, but you lose your weight every time you get a strike. There are many players on the market that will take your bait and flasher to depth, but not necessarily the particular depth that you desire.
We would say that the best way to assure that you are fishing the target depth is to use a hand-operated or electric downrigger. There are many brands and styles, and every fisherman has an opinion of which one is best and why. It might be the very best one is the one that is available at your local garage sale. As you use your downrigger, you will decide which is best for you. I buy mine from a local tackle shop, which assures that I will get treated well when it comes time for warranty work. In the case of the electric models, many times there will be warranty work and that’s always a hassle.
If you’d like some advice, feel free to reach out to us, we love talking anything about fishing.