King salmon or chinook salmon in the largest species in the salmon family. These fish can easily weigh +50 pounds. King salmon can be caught in the saltwater, trolling herring and flashers or they can be caught in the rivers as they return to spawn. King salmon fishing Alaska is some of the best king salmon fishing in the world.
Due to numerous factors there has been a decrease in the number of king salmon as well as the size. If you’re planning on going on a guided trip, be sure to explain to the guide your intentions of the fishing trip. Let the guide know if you are trying to target large king salmon and if you wish to release the fish after catching. This will insure everyone understands the plan and can take care of the fish properly. As a guide myself, I wanted to discuss my three favorite places to catch big king salmon in the Alaska rivers in hopes that you might book a trip and attempt to hook a fish of a lifetime.
King Salmon Fishing Alaska: The Kenai River
When discussing king salmon fishing in Alaska, it’s nearly impossible to not have the Kenai river come up in the conversation. The Kenai river is home to the world record king salmon caught on rod and reel.
May 17th, 1985 Les Anderson caught the world record king salmon at 97 pounds and 4 ounces on the Kenai River. Les caught the monster fish using a spin and glo with salmon eggs. The same set up Les used in 1985 is still catching 50+ pound king’s today.
Les Andersons King Salmon – Image Credit: Alaska Sports Hall
The Kenai river, located in south-central Alaska, is around a 3 and a half hour scenic drive from Anchorage. The Kenai is a popular fishing destination due to its close proximity to anchorage, and moderate road access. The Kenai river is 82-miles long and is broken up into three sections the upper, middle, and lower river. Your upper river is predominantly where you will do the majority of your trout fishing. The lower and middle river is where most of your sockeye, silver, and king salmon fishing will take place.
The Kenai river is a large, fast moving river. Many believe the kings are larger on the Kenai due to the fast moving water, salmon have to fight as they work upstream to spawn. King salmon are a difficult fish to catch. It takes time, knowledge, and execution to hook and net a king salmon.
The most effective method for catching king salmon is to back troll using a spin and glo with salmon eggs, or using a sardine wrapped Kwikfish.
The best time to catch large king salmon on the Kenai river is in July. Specifically the last two weeks of July can be the most promising time to fish. During this time of the year you give yourself the best opportunity to catch a king salmon that is in the 40-pound range.
King Salmon Fishing Alaska: The Kasilof River
The Kasilof river is my favorite place to fish for king salmon! I love this place because it’s one of the best kept secrets in the Kenai Peninsula. The Kasilof river is located just a short 15-mile drive south of the Kenai River and is located in the town of Kasilof. This river is a glacier fed river from Tustumena lake and provides excellent scenery, peace and quiet, and rod bending King salmon!
The Kasilof river is a drift boat only river.
Meaning when you are king salmon fishing you can not use a motor. The greatest part? This makes it nice and quiet for you to get that true Alaskan wilderness experience. The other fun part of fishing for king salmon in a drift boat is the fish will have a lot more control. This makes it more challenging to land your hook ups.
However, this can enhance the experience as you chase the king down the river maneuvering it out of rapids and obstacles.
The king salmon on the Kasilof river tend to be a little smaller than your average kings on the Kenai River. A good king salmon in July on the Kasilof river is anywhere from 30-pounds to 45-pounds. You do see 50-pound kings caught as well, just not as commonly as you would on the Kenai River.
The best time to fish this river for king salmon will be June 10-24 or the last 3 weeks of July.
King Salmon Fishing Alaska: The Nushagak River
If you are searching for days full of 25-pound king salmon, the Nushagak River is the place to be. The Nushagak river is what you would call a true Alaskan wilderness experience. There are no roads and it is only accessible by float plane or boat. The most accessible way to the Nushagak river would be taking a float plane from anchorage to Dillingham. Most lodges on the Nushagak are non-permanent structures usually comprised of wilderness tents or yurts.
What the Nushagak river lacks in luxury, it makes up with the high quality king salmon fishing.
The main king salmon season on the Nushagak river will be the first two weeks of July. This river also has some of the largest sockeye salmon and silver salmon runs in the world. Depending on when you schedule your trip you can fish for a number of different salmon species and trout.
King Salmon Fishing Alaska: Takeaways
The Kenai river, Kasilof river, and Nushagak river are my top three recommendations to fish for king salmon in Alaska. Each river provides a unique experience that you will never forget. Each river features world class fishing that provides excellent scenery and wildlife.