Of the five species of Pacific salmon, the Chinook and Coho salmon are the most important to anglers. The two are often found in the same waters and pursued in much the same way, but the Chinook salmon is the larger of the two and highly prized among anglers. The Columbia River Gorge is a prime area to target Chinook salmon. When hooked, Chinook like to slug it out, while Coho are acrobatic and quick.
Chinook are also known as the king salmon or spring salmon. Chinook salmon are powerful swimmers that migrate hundreds of miles up northwest Oregon rivers to their spawning grounds, and they can grow huge. The rod-and-reel world record was taken in Alaska’s Kenai River in 1985 and weighed 97 pounds, 4 ounces. The Slietz River on the central Oregon coast provides many fish in the 50 pound range each year. Most fish caught by northwest anglers, however, range from 15 to 40 pounds. At the end of a fishing line, Chinooks are absolute brutes – hard-running, stubborn fighters that will give you all the challenge you can handle, and sometimes more.
Return Timing: Spring Chinook adults spend three to four years in the ocean before returning to the hatchery. Averaging 15 pounds and weighing up to 40 pounds, these fish are a prize catch of anglers from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Sandy River and upper reaches of the Willamette river and its tributaries.
The eating quality and flavor of their meat is highly regarded as some of the best. Spring salmon are available in the Columbia River March through June and in Sandy River April through June.
*Does Not Include: Steelhead and Walleye & Bass