Salmon season is upon us here in Alaska, but as we all know, it won’t last long so you’ll want to make sure all your tackle is up for the challenge. Making sure you have the right rod and reel is important whether you are planning on keeping fish or releasing them. In general, an 8 to 10-weight fly rod and matching reel can manage most Alaskan salmon species. You will find that fishing for particular species in certain rivers will call for a heavier or even a lighter rod than you would normally use for that species. One example is the Kenai River and its second run sockeye. These fish come into the river in mid-July to August coinciding with high water from snowmelt. Most places in Alaska you can use a 7-9 weight fly rod for sockeye, on the Kenai in July using a 10-weight is not a bad idea. That 10 weight will also help you land that sockeye in a timely manner so as not to let said sockeye get tangled in the lines up and downstream of you. A larger weight rod on smaller Alaskan salmon will certainly do the trick, it just may not give you the pull you were hoping for, but sometimes it’s necessary due to the situation you are presented with.
Check out the visual to see how they match up.
Pound for pound, I think the Coho salmon are the Roy Jones Jr. of Alaskan salmon, with sockeye being a close second. Coho salmon are strong, acrobatic and will give one heck of a rodeo when you hook one. Sockeye have incredible acceleration and change of direction skills that will have you spinning, and they taste great! Chum hardly ever jump, but pound for pound they pull just as hard as all the rest and they are easy to catch since they will chase everything in front of them, including topwater flies and lures. Kings pull the hardest, down and dirty, not much for jumping, but they more than make up for it with sheer power, but they are the toughest to hook up with as well. Then we have pinks, we should all love them! They are the smallest salmon, but they have a feisty spirit and will hit anything pink, they fight great for their size and for newbie anglers they are probably the best salmon to target first before you make your way to playing with the big boys of the salmon world!
In general, all Alaskan salmon are great fighters and can work you over so it’s best to have gear that can handle them since you hope to catch a bunch!