Chum Salmon in Alaska

The Chum Salmon is also known as the dog salmon because as it matures and enters freshwater its canine teeth grow longer giving it the look of a dog's mouth. Chum Salmon will typically grow between 24-28 inches in length and weigh between 10 and 13 pounds when mature. These fish are plentiful in Alaska but spawn once and then die. They are an odd colored salmon when they make that spawning run - seeming almost calico with colors of dark olive green and red that appear along their sides in alternative stripes almost as though they have been tie-died. These salmon are not known to swim far to spawn, and many excellent places to fish for them will be found around the mouths of major rivers and inlets. On the Yukon, however, they may travel upwards of 2,000 miles to reach their spawning grounds - although that is limited mostly to the Yukon River run. Chum Salmon run mid-summer on the Bristol Bay Watershed located in Southwest Alaska, which is another excellent area to fish for Chums.

Chum Salmon caught at Angler's Alibi Lodge - Alagnak River, Alaska
Chum Salmon caught by Rebekka Redd at Angler's Alibi Lodge - Alagnak River, Alaska

Where to find Chum Salmon

One of the best things about Chum Salmon is that they make two runs a year - one in the summer and one in the fall. Since most other species also run in the summer (June, July, August), the fall becomes a time for fishing Chum Salmon.

Chum Salmon are some of the oddest salmon you will find - they are not that particular about where they spawn. Most spawn fairly near the mouth of a river or where a tributary joins a major river. You might head to the smaller and medium rivers if you are looking for Chum Salmon.

It's important to note that, like other salmon, chum prefer to hang out in the deeper channels The deeper channels with slow-flowing waters that are replenished by spring run-off are a very typical spawning bed. If you can find a deep channel that abuts a rock cliff you will likely find these fighters banked up there. They have evolved to make it difficult for bears to get to them, so keep that in mind as you hunt for the perfect Chum fishing spot. Water that is at least 2-5 feet deep, with a slow current and situated along the cliff is ideal.

How to fish for Chum Salmon

Let's talk about fly colors for chum salmon fishing. Like many other salmonids, chum salmon are very fond of hot pink, fuchsia, and purple that is almost black. Dry flies are almost useless because Chum Salmon like the deeper water and the best bet is usually a jig combo with a bobber. You will have to estimate the depth of the channel, but the goal would be to have the jig sitting 2-8 inches off the bottom. That is where the Chum will be resting. If you can get the jig into the right depth, then you will fight Chum Salmon all day long. Once you get them to hit, you can fish them for as long as you want - and fishing them is fun because they fight like crazy.

Plunking is another technique that works well for Chum. This is a method of fishing that uses a large lead sinker to plunk down in the Chum channel. The sinker holds the jig in place and the current moves it around, then you can use the jig motion with your pole to move the sinker around the hole. These fish will be crazy active hitting your jig if you can get the plunker and jig into the right spot. Do note that plunking is usually done with a spinner rod rather than a fly pole while jigging is easily done with either the spinner rod or a fly pole.

Common Jigs and Flies for Chum Salmon

These are just a few of the common Chum Salmon flies. Be sure to stock up before you head out because salmon are smart fish and will eventually catch on if you use the same fly all day long. For the same reason, it is good to have a variety of colors - for Chum Salmon, that means bright pink to bright purple and then fade to black. They will sometimes chase a chartreuse green fly or jig, and they will also hit the leech flies and jigs too.

Overall, the Chum Salmon are amazing sports fish. They fight well, and they strike hard. They are excellent fish for fishermen of all skill levels, and they have something exciting to offer everyone.

Additional Resources

Excellent Video on fly fishing for Chum Salmon