There are Chinook in Chile? That’s right! Some 30 years ago, Chinook salmon were raised and planted in a few river systems in Southern Chile. The stocks were taken from two Washington State rivers, the Kalama and Cowlitz, both tributaries of the Columbia River. Since then these strains have naturalized and flourished, now inhabiting more than ten watersheds. It only makes sense that these fish have thrived so well as the geography and climate of southern Chile is very similar to that of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Over the past few years Chile West has been researching Chinook fisheries in Southern Chile. Our goal is to anticipate the beginning of the Chinook runs and catch them on flies fresh from the sea – ‘chromers’!
Since these fish are a spring run Chinook or ‘Springer’, they start their run in the spring and stay in the river until the fall to spawn. These fish tend to run deep and seek out the deepest of holes to rest until spawning time. It has been said that the spring Chinook is of the hardest to catch. In our research and experimentation, we have found this to be true, as we have not yet dialed in the techniques to catch them on flies during the first few months of the run. However, we have indeed caught them on hardware and so far, ‘pulling plugs’ has proven to be most effective.
These fish are indeed ‘chromers’ and totally un-blemished. Apparently Chinooks can get pretty darned comfortable in Southern Chile.
Klint Borozan says
Those are really nice. Anectdotes around chinooks are the bigger they get the harder it is with a fly…not sure if its true however? How big a streamer did you throw at the Chile fish? Keep this story going, I would like to try it.
Chris Price says
In answer to your question about the size of the flies we were throwing at these Chinooks, well… We threw everything at them. All sizes, colors, shapes and all different sized sink tips, even a floating line! Just when we thought we weren't getting down deep enough. The fish would roll in close, almost behind us! We haven't given up. Season opens Saturday. I have a date with a certain river on Sunday.
Klint Borozan says
Hi Chris, Any update on Chinooks on flies since the season opener?
Chris Price says
To tell you the truth… I haven't had the chance to get out but once for the salmon. The weather has been poor and the rivers high plus it is quite a drive to the river of choice. This is where we first see the Kings. Although I ran into a friend who lives on the river and he hooked 4 and landed one but using spoons. Another report of salmon at 11 kilos and 14 but again not on flies.
The rivers in my area should be getting some salmon and as soon as the rivers drop i will get at it.
I'll keep you posted.
Hi Chris any updates this year on chinooks in chile? Best Klint
I would like to know about the ocean journey of these nativized chinook runs.
Up north, the chinook that spawn in the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest are genetically programmed to travel to the North Pacific. They follow the coast north and then make a counter-clockwise circular journey through the North Pacific. That’s where they feed voraciously and grow large.
Now, obviously, Chilean nativized chinook would not be served well if they headed north in the ocean the way their ancestors did. Northward, the ocean gets warmer. And salmon a cold water fish.
So, what do the nativized Chilean runs do? Where do they go once they leave their estuaries and venture out into the open ocean?
I tend to assume that they go southward, toward the waters of the Antarctic. I have not been able to find any research confriming or disconfirming this hypothesis. Does anyone have any knowledge of he ocean migrations of nativized Chilean chinook runs?
Mike O'Connor says
You mention being able to catch “chromers” on plugs but that you have trouble with flies as the fish are in deep holes. In the Puget Sound area tube flies are popular with some fly anglers. The tubes are generally light, clear plastic like teflon. Sometimes chinook can be caught on them but they are great for silvers.
But… I got and read a book on spey-rod fishing in Europe (probably Ireland but I don’t recall) and it said that they too use tube flies at times for sea-run browns and the like but that the tubes are of brass! So that’s how they get down in the holes. So indeed you may have to do something drastic.