Story last updated at 6/25/2014 - 2:13 pm
To be crowned the royal king is an acknowledgement of supremacy and a statement of dominance. This month in the sporting world, we crowned the "Kings" of hockey with Lord Stanley's Cup to the Los Angeles Kings.
In another sporting circle, the NBA, we saw one king, the Miami Heat, dethroned by a new king of basketball, the San Antonio Spurs.
For recreational sport fishers in Southeast Alaska, June brings the crowning of our own local king, the king salmon or Chinook, the largest and most robust member of our five species of Alaska salmon. June is the best time to intercept and endure battle these large and very aggressive kings of the salmon family, and here is why.
Precisely timed, most if not all of the returning king salmon that will begin milling and lurking around local Southeast Alaska communities during the month of June will be of hatchery origin. These hatchery king salmon represent a program by the ADFG Sport Fish Division's efforts to enhance sportfishing opportunities in select Southeast Alaska communities with a terminal (hatchery) fishery.
The Sport Fish Division has focused its efforts on king salmon because their surveys suggest king salmon angling in maritime environments supports a majority of the angling effort in our region, and second, hatchery-reared king salmon - and this is important - do not contribute to the strict quota of king salmon harvest numbers under the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
Because of this, hatchery kings allow the ADFG to provide anglers with more liberal harvest regulations that do not affect our precious and limited wild king stocks. These new regulations went into affect on June 1 in the Juneau area, and recreational sport anglers are not only advised to review them, but also know and abide by them.
Targeting king salmon on fly gear is exhilarating and challenging. Although we are still using fly gear, king salmon with their enormous size and power represent a formidable quarry.
To tame them requires fly rods that are not only advanced in their construction, but also in their design. In fact, rod manufacturers no longer refer to such rods as standard fly rods, but instead they label them as high-tech, contemporary angling tools.
These specialty fly rods are equipped with the superior backbone strength required to tame, curb and also lift large, aggressive fish in open or fast-moving water.
They are also designed to be light in the hand in order to cast big, bulky and heavy flies all day and on many occasions into windy conditions with minimal arm fatigue. And lastly, rods for kings also have highly refined tappers, either fast action or progressive, which allow them to generate fast line speeds essential for punching tight, accurate loops.
Given these criteria, I recommend a fast-action, progressive taper 10-weight fly rod in an 8-foot, 8-inch to 9-foot 6-inch length for Southeast Alaska king salmon. Recently, there has been an increase in the popularity and use of two-handed rods, or spey rods, in Southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for chasing king salmon.
These "two-handers," as they are often called, are longer rods, usually 12 to 15 feet in overall length. The added rod length provides anglers significant advantages in the field.
For one, it enables the angler to make prodigious casts with relative ease. Second, with longer casts this translates into covering and fishing more water, and doing so with much more efficiency. And finally, it offers significant advantages in overall line control. Together, these features of longer casts, better searching, more efficiency and added line control have fueled the popularity and their use in the Pacific Northwest.
Much like fly rods for kings, fly reels designed to pursue king salmon are more specialized than their trout counterparts, as they must be able to reliably endure the rigors of big game angling, salt water and - many times - boating abuse. They must be large enough to hold at least 200 yards of 30-pound test backing and be equipped with a smooth, highly adjustable drag system.
Another feature I strongly recommend is the large arbor. Large arbor reels allow the angler to rapidly pick up line with each retrieve rotation. This feature is critical when targeting fast swimming big game fish, such as king salmon in our estuaries or open salt.
June is waning, and it is time to think king salmon in Southeast Alaska if you haven't already. Most if not all of these kings will be the product of hatchery programs but that should not deter you from grabbing your gear and tide book and heading out.
With ADFG announcing new, more liberal regulations specifically for this terminal king salmon fishery, we as sport anglers all benefit and we should take advantage of this fortunate local fishery. Here's to the wonderful summer season and to a healthy king salmon return. Yes, it is time to crown our local king!
Happy angling and tight lines to all!