King -- or chinook -- salmon, are the largest of the Pacific salmon species and quite sought-after by anglers. Native to the Pacific Ocean from California to Alaska, they have been widely transplanted into and thrive in the Great Lakes. King salmon can reach 50 pounds or more and can be challenging to catch, but helpful tips might just shift the odds in your favor.
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Timing is Everything
Throughout most of the year, the only reliable way to catch king salmon is trolling in deep water. Their fall migration into rivers and tributaries for spawning creates the best time to catch them. The run usually takes place between August and November, and you can catch kings right from the riverbank.
Flashy lures like spoons, spinners and crankbaits are often effective at catching king salmon, though some anglers catch them by fly-fishing. Kings are most aggressive as they first enter rivers, becoming less inclined to strike bait as the season progresses. Later, only live offerings like herring and shad work.
King salmon are tough and require tough tackle. Medium to heavy salmon rods and sturdy spinning reels spooled with 30-pound monofilament line is standard gear. Spinning reels are generally better for salmon fishing than bait-casting reels, allowing you to cast farther with heavy line.
Before hitting the water, familiarize yourself with your area's seasons and limits. Required fishing licenses can be obtained at most bait and tackle shops or online through the Department of Natural Resources or corresponding agency in your home state.