I just came back from vacation in Alaska and it seemed as though everyone there was obsessed with catching fish – in particular, salmon. The salmon season, the time in which the fish swim upstream to lay their eggs, occurs between July through August. During this time, there are hundreds of people fishing on the sides of streams in order to catch their precious salmon.
The catch: I remember standing on top of a long dock with many people spread out over it. I went to Alaska with seven other people, so we were all excited to catch our own fish. The air was cold but the sun was hot. I never would have thought I could tell people that I actually got sunburned while fishing in Alaska.
The group I was with began fishing and it wasn’t long until we saw locals from both sides of us catching fish so quickly. We had just learned to fly fish; so saying that we were rookies would be an understatement. However, as we fished longer, I began perfecting the method and then I felt the hook snag.
At first, I figured I snagged the bottom yet again. But then the line moved and the tip of the pole bent. I inadvertently screamed because it was stronger than I thought and I almost fell into the water. The guide came to my aide and assisted in giving me advice on how to get the fish in. Apparently you don’t reel in the fish because it can make the line susceptible to snapping.
He told me to move backwards and lift the pole up to pull the fish up to the top of the water. You also are better off letting the fish tire itself out. The guide said not to fight the fish. If the fish wants to fight, let it swim away and tire itself out and that will make it easier to bring it back to the surface.
It was another couple minutes of struggle until the fish came to the surface, my guide swooped it up in the net and I had caught my very first Sockeye Salmon!
Bait: The bait was actually a method very foreign to me. We had to catch salmon using a method called “fly fishing.” Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the salmon, when on their way to spawn, do not eat. So, using bait to catch them doesn’t work.
In order to catch them, you have to have a good weight and then attach a hook at the end of your line. What you do is you throw the line to the right side of you and let it drift to the left and then yank it up. What you are hoping to do is to “snag” the fish in the mouth and pull it out of the water, instead of having it swallow any bait.
There are five different types of salmon: King, Sockeye, Coho, Chum and Pink Salmon.
King Salmon are the largest and can range up to 58 inches long and over 120 pounds! Coho Salmon grow to around 28 inches long and up to 11 pounds – or on rare occasions even more. Sockeye Salmon range 24 to 33 inches and can weigh up to 15 pounds.
The one I caught was a Sockeye an weighed around 12 to 13 pounds. Adult Chum are around 24 inches long and weigh up to 22 pounds. Lastly, Pink Salmon range close to 10 pounds and can reach up to 30 inches long!
Fun fact: If you aren’t a local, you can only catch three salmon and then you have to stop. But it is different for the locals!