Species Spotlight: Chum Salmon
Name: Chum Salmon
Also known as: Dog Salmon, Keta Salmon and Silverbrite Salmon.
Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus keta
Description: This big bruising Salmon is renowned for its dog-like battles on the end of your fly rod. Depending on how long the Salmon have been in fresh water, they range from sporting colours with dog-like teeth through to fresh ocean chrome colours. These Salmon have often been very underrated as a species as they are not the best-eating fish. However, if you were to judge these fish by their fighting capabilities it would be a different story. Pound for pound they fall just under King Salmon for the best fight.
Average Size: The size of fish you expect to catch varies between 12lb to 40lb the actual size of the fish depends on how many years it has spent to sea before deciding to return to spawn and die.
Where to catch: Chum Salmon have the largest natural range of any Pacific Salmon and undergo the longest migrations. Chum Salmon are found in a vast and wide range in the Pacific Ocean, right from the North Pacific Ocean to the Arctic coast of Canada aswell as throughout the northern coastal regions of North America and Asia. In Alaska, some of our favourite areas to catch these fish are Naknek River, Kanektok River, Agulawok River, Agulukpak River and the Goodnews River. In British Columbia, we love to target these fish on the Frazer River, Kitimat River, and the Skeena River.
Fishing Methods: As Chum Salmon migrate up the river from the ocean, they can be found holding in the softer water of a river’s plentiful gravel bars. The fact that these fish are fished with the same fly set up as you would for King Salmon really is a measure of the impressive strength of these fish. Similar to fishing for Kings, you need to get your flies down to Chum Salmon, quite often they will be sitting just above a group of King Salmon as they are more than happy to run upriver together.
With this in mind, the ideal set up is a 12 to 15ft rod in a 8 -9 #. Chum are true dogs when it comes to the fight. They are not aerial fish like most of their cousins, they pull like a pit bull and don’t give up. Reels should have medium to high line capacity and a sturdy drag is a must. Not only do Chum Salmon blow through rods, but they easily burn through a weak drag system as well.
Chum like to sit in deep fast water, where they can dart away from predators such as bears and eagles. Aa lighter Scandi Head with a floating or intermediate sink tip is good for throwing smaller flies in softer water whilst a Skagit tip with both medium and fast sink tips for the faster water and deeper pools.