In the Field

Chum Salmon – Alaska Fishing

Chum Salmon - Alaska Fishing

Oh boy! Chum salmon! I get excited just thinking about those big-toothed, wild looking critters! Over the years I’ve gained great appreciation for chums and I always look forward to going after them with my fly rod. Whether it’s their prehistoric-looking, dinosaur-like skin and coloration, their enormous teeth, or the fact that they fight like a fat Missouri catfish when hooked, there’s just something that fires me up about the notion of pursuing big, freaky, monster chum salmon. In fact, I like them so much that I even make awesome necklaces from their huge teeth! However, yanking them out of dead, stinking, spawned out fish can be a rather nasty chore!

Chum Salmon Tooth Necklace
A beautiful chum salmon tooth necklace.

Chum salmon are also known as dog salmon, as they have traditionally been used to feed sled dogs for many generations. Chums are widely distributed throughout Alaska, and like the other species of Pacific salmon, they spend most of their life out in the ocean and return to freshwater rivers to spawn and then die. While generally not the most sought-after fish for human consumption, in the interior and northern regions of Alaska, they are harvested more than any other species of salmon and they’re highly sought after as a traditional source of dried winter food.

For the commercial fishery, chum salmon are commonly marketed and sold as canned or smoked products and exported to Asia and Europe. Their roe/eggs are especially prized as they are the largest of all the Pacific salmon species and they make fantastic salmon roe caviar! By the way, if you’d like to learn how to make this healthy, delicious delicacy, check out my video. The flesh/fillets of the chum salmon is light in color and low in oil as compared to other salmon, but it’s quite tasty when fresh in from the ocean.

Chum salmon - Alaska fly fishing
Joe Classen with a Kodiak Island chum salmon caught on the fly rod.

In the world of recreational fishing, much like the pink salmon (which I recently made a video about) the chum salmon typically gets no respect! This is, in part, due to the fact that they begin to deteriorate quite rapidly once they reach freshwater and become half-dead, rotting zombie fish pretty quick. However, when they’re fresh in from the ocean, they are extremely exciting to pursue and catch, as they can reach enormous proportions, and they fight hard…making long, deep, powerful runs! Popular flies for chum salmon fishing include egg sucking leeches and similar patterns, but I’ve had great success catching on them my world famous Deadly White Jig.

All in all, in my humble opinion, the chum salmon is a most worthy salmon to pursue. So don’t be shy about going after these big, gnarly-looking, awesome fish! And, be sure to keep the teeth to make into a beautiful necklace for that special someone in your life!

To see more photos, check out the video version of this story by clicking here.

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