King Salmon

Other names: King, Chinook, Spring, Springer, Tyee
-The largest and most powerful of the Pacific Salmon

King is Alaska’s state fish, and an important sport and commercial fish.  The largest on record was found in a fish trap near Petersburg in 1949 and weighed 126 pounds. A King gives an incredible fight which can often last hours.

Color: Bluish green on back with silvery sides and white belly in ocean Irregular black spots on back, dorsal fin and tail. Darker colored and increasingly reddish when spawning

Size: 15 to 20-pounds, Up to 80+ pounds

Method: Ocean trolling with bait. Cast and retrieve in rivers, fly fishing

Range: Kenai Peninsula to the Southeastern panhandle

Season: Year-round for “Feeder” Kings in ocean., May – August in salmon streams

Table fare: Delicious pink to red meat, highest fat content, sporadic “ivory” or white flesh

Records: 97-pounds, Kenai River, 1986

Adults have black irregular spotting on the back and dorsal fins and both lobes of the tail fin. They also have black pigment along the gum line. In saltwater, Kings have bluish-green coloration on the back which fades to a silvery color on the sides and white on the belly. Spawning Kings in freshwater range from red to copper to almost black, depending on location and degree of maturation. Males are more deeply colored than females and develop a ‘ridgeback’ condition and a hooked nose.

In North America, Kings, or Chinook Salmon, range from Monterey Bay, California north to the Chukchi Sea area of Alaska. In Alaska they are abundant from the southeast panhandle to the Yukon River with major runs returning to the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Nushagak, Susitna, Kenai, Copper, Alsek, Taku and Stikine rivers. Important runs also occur in many smaller streams. Streams normally receive a single run of Chinook usually sometime from May through July.  Water clarity is important when choosing a river to sport fish.  Rivers that continually run muddy with silt, such as the Yukon, are nearly impossible to fish successfully.

Upon entering the ocean, young kings feed on herring, sand lance, cod, rockfishes, sand fishes, smelts, sticklebacks, wolf fish, squid and even crab larvae.  During the year prior to returning to freshwater to spawn, the salmon feed voraciously in order to grow and build strength for the journey ahead.  Upon entering freshwater, the salmon stop eating altogether and will only strike at other fish or a fisherman’s tackle in aggravation.

Angling Method
You’ll need heavy-duty gear, whether casting and retrieving with a spinning rod, drifting eggs with a bait caster or presenting a streamer with a fly-rod.  Kings are tough on equipment.  Be sure to use hardly reels with strong fishing line appropriate for the method you choose.  Tackle is usually large, flashy and sometimes noisy, such as Wiggle Warts that rattle underwater.  In freshwater, the key is to usually place your hook directly in front of the salmon in an effort to aggravate it into striking.  Another method is to rig a bare hook with cured salmon eggs and drift it downstream.  Salmon will instinctively pick up the eggs in an effort to return them to a redd.

Life History
Hatched in freshwater, spending part of their life at sea and returning to the fresh water to spawn and die.  Kings occur in a variety of situations, sometimes making identification difficult. In some saltwater there are “feeder” kings year round.  These are immature kings that can weigh from 2 to 30 pounds.  Some Chinook that mature after spending only one winter in the ocean are referred to as ‘Jack Kings and are usually males.

Kings become sexually mature from their second through seventh year, and as a result, fish in any spawning run may vary greatly in size. Spent adults usually die a few days after spawning. Migration from the sea begins in December, and the first fish are near river mouths by spring. The females select a spot and begin to dig, and defend her nest. While she prepares the nest, or redd, the dominant male is in attendance, with several other smaller males usually nearby. Upon completion of the redd she drops into it immediately followed by the dominant male. They release eggs and sperm and at this point smaller males may dart in and release sperm. One female can deposit 3,000 to 14,000 eggs.  Afterward, she moves to the upstream edge of the nest and begins to dig a new one, covering the previous nest in the process. This may be repeated until the female releases all her eggs. The male then leaves and may mate with another female.  After spawning, all Chinook die.
The eggs hatch in the early spring or winter depending on water temperature.  The tiny fish are called alevins and stay beneath the thin covering of gravel for weeks.  During this time, they are nourished by yolk sacs leftover from their eggs.  When strong enough, the tiny salmon, now called fry, emerge from the gravel and enter the stream current.  The fry will continue to grow in the freshwater until migrating to the ocean at the age of two.

Between the ages of two and seven years, Chinook reach sexual maturity.  As a result, a three-year-old ready to spawn may be less than four-pounds while a 7-year-old may be 50-pounds or more.  Yet, both may belong to the same spawning run.  The smallest of Chinook that spawn are called “jacks,” which are usually two-year-old males.

Coho Salmon

Other Names: Coho
-The most acrobatic of all Pacific salmon when hooked

Yet another member of the family ‘Salmonidae’, the Silver or Coho Salmon is one of the most exciting to fish for largely because of its antics when hooked, but it is also a delicious tasting salmon that can sometimes run in very large numbers.

Color: Silver sides, white belly and dark metallic blue to greenish colors on back and upper sides. Gradually reddens and darkens when in freshwater streams

Size: 8 to 12 lbs average and 24 to 30 inches long.  Up to 20+ lbs

Method: Cast and retrieve in freshwater, trolling or drifting near shore in saltwater Pixies, Coho flies, streamers, big spinners or eggs.  When fishing saltwater, trolling with herring or artificial lures.

Range: Southeast to the Chucki Sea and lower Yukon River near Canadian border

Season: Peak from June to September, year-round in ocean

Table fare: Delicious, but less pleasant when close to spawning

Records: 26 lbs, Icy Straight, 1976

Adult Silvers will weigh between 8 to 12 pounds and span 24 to 30 inches long; however, trophies of up to 26 pounds have been caught.  Fish in the sea are dark metallic blue or greenish on the back and upper sides, a brilliant silver color on middle and lower sides, and white below. There are small black spots present on the back and upper sides and on upper lobe of the caudal fin. During breeding, fish turn dark to bright green on head and back, bright red on the sides and often dark on the belly. Females are less brightly colored than males.  When in prominent spawning colors, males develop a hooked nose called a kype.
Cohos range all the way from the arctic coast of Point Hope, through the Interior and south to the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula, and southwest panhandle.  However, the largest populations are found in the southern regions of the state, closer to Cook Inlet and the Gulf of Alaska.
Silvers primarily feed on herring when in saltwater, but their second favorite meal is sand lance.  Juvenile silvers eat more crustaceans and invertebrates.  In some populations, adults will eat less fish and will tend to be smaller. When reentering freshwater streams to spawn, salmon stop feeding altogether.
Angling Methods
In Alaska, Fall is still ‘the time of the Coho’, and Alaskans look forward to their return. They are easy to fish for, requiring less skill than fishing Reds or Kings, and putting up an excellent fight, leaping repeatedly and not giving up until landed.  They are distinguished as being the most acrobatic of the Pacific salmon.  Tidal estuaries offer the most exciting fishing because the closer the Silvers are to the saltwater, the harder they fight.
Life History
When it is time to spawn, the female finds a spot and digs a pit, called a redd, all the while becoming increasingly aggressive toward other females. While digging, her attendant male protects his domain, driving away other males. As soon as the redd is done, the female drops down into it, immediately followed by the male. They open their mouths, quiver and release eggs and sperm. One female will drop as many as 2,400 to 4,500 eggs. Afterwards, other males move in and release sperm into the nest. The female moves quickly to the upstream edge of the nest and starts digging a new redd, covering the eggs. The whole process will repeat for several days until the female deposits all her eggs. The male then leaves and may seek another female.  The spent female covers the redd with gravel and usually continues to dig until she dies. The spawning ritual typically occurs at night.
Eggs hatch in the spring, but the tiny salmon will remain under the gravel; feeding off their yolk sacs. About 25 days later, the fry emerge and will live in fresh water for one to three years in streams, after which time they migrate to freshwater lakes or to the sea. Silvers will reside up to five years in lakes, but will eventually seek saltwater. Upon reaching the sea the smolts remain inshore for a time feeding on plank tonic crustaceans and moving farther out as they grow larger.  Silvers reach adult sizes by 18 months, at which time they return to freshwater to spawn in their native streams.  However, some males, called jacks, will spend only six to 12 months in the ocean before departing inland.
Angling History
In many native cultures, salmon have a great impact on the way of life, and it can even be said that native life largely revolved around the annual salmon runs. Salmon had a place in the stories told by elders, in the artwork of the people, and some of the names for the months of the year had to do with the salmon running at that time. The coast ‘Salish’ people called September ‘chen’thaw’en’, or ‘time of the Coho’.

Chum Salmon

Aka: Dog
Chum Salmon are a hardy fish that can be found nearly everywhere in Alaska’s fresh and saltwater.  They’ve been nicknamed “dog salmon” because of their age-old use as a subsistence food for both Native Alaskans and their sled dog teams.  Chums are easily caught and are often an unexpected byproduct of fishing for other species.  If you accidentally hook into one while fishing for grayling, get ready for an exciting fight.

Color: Dark metallic blue on top with silvery sides, white belly in ocean. Spawning colors are a deep red with dark green bars and purple blotches

Size: 7 -18 lbs 20 – 30 inches, Up to 30 lbs
Method: Trolling with herring or artificial lures in salt water. Cast and retrieve tackle / flies, drift eggs in current,

Gear: Medium- to light-action spinning and fly rods

Range: Fresh and saltwater nearly statewide

Season: Peak June to October, ocean year-round

Table fare: Edible near saltwater, traditionally an oily subsistence fish, good smoked

Record: 32 lbs., Camano Point, 1985

Chum in or near saltwater are a dark-metallic blue on top with silvery sides and white belly.  When spawning, the colors are of complete contrast.  Both sexes turn a deep, muddy red with irregular dark green bars and purple blotches throughout.  Males are the most colorful and also developed a hooked nose, called a kype, which resembles a toothy snarl.

Chums are prevalent throughout the state; the only exception is a portion of inland northeast Alaska.  Otherwise, they can be found from the Arctic Coast, south through the Interior to the Aleutians, Kodiak Island, and west to Southcentral and Southeast.

In the ocean, chums eat fish, squid, tunicates, copepods, mollusks and crustaceans.  Upon entering freshwater, the salmon stops feeding altogether and will live off stores of body fat.??Angling Method??Light to medium-action spinning and fly rods offer the most excitement.  Chum will readily hit spinners, spoons, streamers and jigs.  Casting and retrieving directly in front of a chum’s nose will usually trigger a strike.  Drifting salmon eggs downriver will also work.  Chums are instinctively driven to pick up loose eggs and carry them back to a redd or other protected area.

Life History
The life cycle of a chum is very similar to other anadromous salmon species. Adult fish enter freshwater rivers during the summer months and arrive at their natal spawning grounds in the fall.  The female digs pit, known as a redd, which is in the shape of a ditch and is usually a little longer than the fish itself.  Attracted males will join the female in the redd; where she will deposit up to 4,000 eggs.  The fertilized eggs nestle into the gravel bottom of the redd and will hatch in the winter.  Adult chums instinctively choose nesting areas near ground springs where river ice will not disturb the eggs.  All chums die after spawning.

Upon hatching, the young salmon, called alevins in this undeveloped stage, will remain underneath the gravel and subsist from attached yolk sacs.  Between 60 and 90 days later they emerge as fry and almost immediately begin a downstream migration towards the ocean.  Like pink salmon, young chums are less tolerable of warm freshwater and will reach either the Bering Sea or Gulf of Alaska by autumn.  In the ocean, the small fish will feed on zooplankton and small crustaceans before preying on other fish, such as herring.  Chum mature between 4 and 6 years of age, at which time they, too, will join the annual spawning migrations.

Sockeye Salmon

Aka: Reds
Sockeye salmon, are an excellent species of sport fish as well a tasty Alaskan treat.  A hooked sockeye puts up a feisty fight, readily leaping from the water and giving fishermen a run for their money.

Color: Bright silver sides, white belly, darker bluish green back and head. When spawning, bright red and green heads Males develop arched back and hooked nose

Size: Average 6 – 10 lbs, Up to 15 lbs

Method: Trolling with herring or artificial lures in salt water. Cast and retrieve with flies and tackle, drifting eggs, dip netting,

Gear: Medium-action spinning and fly rods??Range: Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island, Southcentral, Southeast

Season: Peak June to September, year-round in ocean

Table fare: Orange-red flesh, excellent smoked or canned

Record: 16 lbs, Kenai River, 1974
Prior to spawning, sockeye are a shiny greenish blue on the top of the head and their back, bright silver on the sides, and white on the belly.  Adults may carry small black dots on their backs, while juveniles may have dark marks on their sides.??When late in the spawning run, all sockeyes have a bright red body with a dark-green head.  The skeletal structure of males transforms into a humped back while their jaws become hooked and elongated.  Their teeth also begin to protrude from their twisted snout.  The upper jaw of both sexes turns a greenish color and the lower jaw contrasts in white.

The largest populations of sockeye are found in the Bristol Bay area of southwestern Alaska, including Kodiak Island.  Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound are also well known for sockeye.  Salmon streams along the Alaska Peninsula, Kenai Peninsula, Southcentral and eastern panhandle will almost always have an annual run of sockeye. Sockeye populations have had an encouraging hand from hatcheries in some areas, such as the Copper River and Kasilof River on the Kenai Peninsula.

Young sockeyes in freshwater mainly eat zooplankton, benthic amphipods and insects.  Once in the ocean, they continue to eat zooplankton, but add crustacean larvae to their diet.  As they become larger, they will prey on small fishes and sometimes squid.  Upon entering fresh water to spawn, salmon stop feeding entirely.

Angling Method
Working a stream by casting and retrieving with spinning or fly rods is a simple and productive method.  Tackle such as spinners and lures or large streamers or Coho flies work, as well as drifting eggs.  Dip netting, which involves wading waist deep into the current with a large net, is one quick way to fill the freezer.  But be sure to consult the regulations before doing so.

Life History
Like other salmon, sockeyes are anadromous.  Annual spawning runs of sockeye occur every summer in many of Alaska’s rivers and streams.  Although actual spawning takes place in rivers or streams, the ones most favored by sockeyes are those that are interconnected with lakes.  Females, which can carry between 2,000 and 4,500 eggs choose the exact spawning grounds by digging a redd with her tail.  She deposits the eggs while a male, possibly more than one, fertilizes them.  The female then hides the eggs beneath a layer of gravel.  The sockeyes, weakened by their journey and exposure to freshwater, die soon after spawning.

The eggs hatch in the winter and the young sockeyes, called alevins, stay hidden beneath the gravel and subsist from their still attached egg sacs.  By spring, the fry move from the gravel into the shallow areas of the stream or river.  A young sockeye may stay in fresh water for one to three years before migrating to sea, at which time they are called smolts.  At this stage they will still only weigh a few ounces.

Once in the ocean, the salmon grown rapidly and can reach four to eight pounds within two to four years.  Juvenile males that only spend one year at sea before returning to freshwater to spawn are called jacks.  However, most sockeye will wait longer (usually two to four years) before returning to their native streams to spawn.

Some sockeye populations have been recorded as staying in fresh water indefinitely. The fish grow at a slower rate than their nomad counterparts; rarely spanning larger than 14 inches.  In many places they are known as “kokanee.”

Pink Salmon

Aka: Humpies
The Pink is the smallest of the true salmon and is a member of the ‘Salmonidae’ family. They are sometimes called “Humpies” due to a large hunchback that occurs during spawning runs.  Not as highly sought after as some of the other true salmon, there is still a commercial market. Mostly sold canned, and they are valued for caviar, especially in Japan. As far as sport fishing goes, not too many people set out for Pinks.  They are mostly a byproduct of fishing for another species, like Silvers, whose runs coincide in most places.

Color: Deep blue to green on back, silver sides, white belly in ocean. Spawning males are red with blotchy brownish green patches

Size: 3 – 5 lbs average, 10 – 18 inches Up to 12 lbs

Method: Cast and retrieve flies / tackle or drift eggs, ocean trolling

Gear: Light-action spinning and fly rods

Range: Aleutians, Gulf of Alaska, Southcentral, Southeast

Season: July to September in most salmon streams

Table fare: Good smoked or canned, best quality when near or in saltwater

Record: 12 lbs. 9 oz. Moose River, by Steven A. Lee, 1974

Pinks in the sea are steel blue to blue-green on the back, silver on the sides and white on the belly, with large oval spots on the back, adipose fin and both lobes of the caudal fin. Breeding males become dark on the back and red with brownish green blotches on the sides. The mouth, with normally very little oblique shape, becomes greatly deformed and the spine becomes curved to a humpback. Breeding females are similar but less distinctly colored.

Pinks can be found as far north as the Arctic Ocean and as far southeast as the Aleutians.  Fishable areas include the Gulf of Alaska, Alaska Peninsula, Kenai Peninsula and the southeastern panhandle.

Angling Method
Pinks are readily caught on the same gear and tackle that works for Cohos.  Considering the smaller size of Pinks, light-action spinning and fly rods offer the most excitement.  Spinners, eggs, streamers and spoons all work.  Ocean trolling with spoons and bait is also productive.  No matter which Alaska salmon stream you fish, there’s a chance you will catch a Pink while trying for another species.

Life History
To reproduce, the female builds a redd by lying on her side.  Using her tail, she displaces silt and light gravel to produce a deep trough. The male spends most of its time driving off intruding males. When the redd is completed, the female drops into it, immediately followed by the male. They open their mouths, vibrate and release eggs and sperm. One female can carry between 800 and 2,000 eggs.  The eggs are covered by female as she digs a new redd at the upstream edge of the previous one.?The eggs hatch during winter and the young fish, called alevins at this stage, receive nutrition from the still attached egg sacs.  Upon emerging from the gravel in spring, the fry immediately move downstream and remain inshore for a few months before going out to sea.  However, unlike most other salmon, young pinks spend very little time in freshwater and will reach the ocean by fall.  ?After about 18 months, the spawning migration to the natal river or stream occurs, but this species seems a little confused, and sometimes uses streams hundreds of miles from their intended destination.  Pinks have the shortest lifespan of all salmon, usually on two years.??Angling History??Like all the things we know here in Alaska, the Native Alaskans knew them long ago. In the ‘Inuktitut’ language Pinks were known as ‘Amoktit’,’Atakak’,’Ikalugruak’ or ‘Tixtiq’ depending on where in the state you were. In Alutiiq’ (Prince William Sound), it was ‘Amarturpiaq’and ‘Haida’ knew it as ‘Ts’iit’aan’. The early native people preferred the larger males for smoking or fish stew (jum). Pinks weren’t utilized as much as Chum Salmon because of the timing of their run, their smaller size and higher fat content decreased shelf life. The small heads, tails and backbones were generally not used.  Today, Pinks are ranked one step above Chums by the commercial fishing industry.?Although not nearly as acrobatic as the Silver or as tasty as a Red, they are still fun to catch and the large males can be good smoked or canned. Anything we don’t want to eat we release unharmed so that it can continue it’s part in the cycle of life and re-enter the food chain where all species play an equally important role.

Pacific Salmon

The largest of all flatfish

Not only do Pacific Halibut frequently grow to barn door dimensions; these bottom dwellers are also prized for their succulent white meat.  For safety, catching a big one usually requires the use of a harpoon or handgun before hauling the fish aboard. Halibut are a member of the family Pleuronectidae (Right eye Flounders).  Found in the North Pacific and as far south as Mexico, Halibut is harvested commercially as well as being a sought after game fish.

Color: Dark topside with white underside

Size: Average 15 to 50+ lbs, many caught over 150+ annually. Body width is 1/3 of length

Method: Usually deep water, but sometimes as shallow as 40 feet
Bait fishing on the bottom from a boat most popular

Gear: Strong, stubby rods and large reels
Bait hooks, jigs, some light tackle

Range: Gulf of Alaska and adjacent bays and inlets

Season: Year-round, but peak May to October

Table fare: Delicious, best white meat fish

Record: 495 lbs. near St. Petersburg

Halibut are a flatfish with a body width of approximately one-third the length.  Both eyes are located on the top, darker half of the fish.  As you can see in the photos, the underside is much lighter, making the Halibut harder to spot from below as it swims. Likewise, the dark top-side of the fish acts as camouflage alongside the sea floor.

Halibut are prevalent throughout the Gulf of Alaska, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound.  Halibut charter boats operate nearly year-round from Homer, Valdez, Seward, Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Kodiak Island, Sitka and Cordova.  Many of these small towns offer the excitement of Halibut derbies for the season’s biggest catches.  ??Diet??Halibut are excellent swimmers and are able to feed on other fishes such as cod, burbot and Pollock.  They are also known to eat clams, crabs, squid and other invertebrates.  Although they usually stay near the bottom, they will rise to lesser depths to feed on sand lance and herring.

Fishing Technique
Halibut are an incredible sport fish, and catching a big one (100-180lb. average for ‘big’ Halibut) is an experience you will never forget. We fish for Halibut with a short stiff deep sea pole and a heavy bait caster reel with 100lb. Spider Wire. Halibut gear is not expensive as fishing equipment goes because it is relatively simple, heavy duty gear. We bait up with herring or squid we buy, but you almost always catch cod as a byproduct of fishing for Halibut, and Halibut seem to like them. Sometimes I’ll split a cod right down the middle and put half of it on the hook (gets those big Halibut).  Often, a fish reeled up from depths deeper than 60 feet will have their air bladder or stomach bulge from their mouth due to gas expansion.  Halibut, however, do not.

Another thing unique about Halibut fishing is you never know what you’ve caught until it reaches the surface, and Alaskan waters have some strange creatures to observe. While fishing for Halibut, I’ve caught Cod, Skates, Irish Lords and even some things I couldn’t identify. Some anglers have even found themselves battling sharks. However, the desired Halibut can surprisingly be even more dangerous. If you fish Halibut in Alaska, be prepared for the size and strength of the larger ones, and most of all, be careful. Large Halibut are routinely harpooned or shot in order to safely bring them into the boat.

Life History
Halibut is a bottom fish, which lays flat on the ocean floor and can change the color of its skin to help conceal itself.  Mature Halibut have two eyes on one side of their head, but they don’t start out that way. When young, they have an eye on each side.  Yet, as they mature they undergo a unique morphology as one eye travels over to join the other eye on the darker, topside of the fish. ?Found on various types of ocean bottoms, Halibut typically come in to shallow coastal water in the summer and move to deeper waters along the edge of the continental shelf in the winter. The young are generally found near shore, moving out to deeper waters as they grow older.  Spawning takes place along the continental shelf between December and February.  Males are capable of spawning when 7 to 8 years of age, but females will remain fertile until they are 12.  One female is capable of laying 2 to 3 million eggs per year.  The maximum reported age for a female Halibut is 42.  Meanwhile, the oldest male on record is 27.  As Halibut age, the span of their ocean migrations lessen.

Angling History
The earliest record of the harvesting of Halibut is from the native tribes of the Northwest Coast. For them, the Halibut was an important resource, as it was a large fish, available all year long and had good preservative qualities. In the ‘Alutiiq’ language it was called ‘Sagiq’. In the ‘Salish’ language it is ‘Thotx’. The ‘Tsimshian’ language it is ‘Txaw’ and in ‘Haida’ it is ‘Xagu’. In those days they fished for Halibut with ‘wooden’ circle-shape hooks which they suspended from floats, sometimes made of inflated seal stomachs. For fishing line they would use cedar bark and spruce root for shallow waters and a line made of kelp for deeper waters. A kelp line properly cured, coil stored and soaked in seawater prior to use could last for years. Like most of the early inhabitants of this planet, they utilized every part of the animals they harvested, wasting nothing. The head was boiled in fish stew. The skin was lightly smoked and eaten after being blistered over the fire. The backbone was boiled fresh or preserved by sun-drying or smoking. The meat was filleted and fillets were sliced into strips that were sun-dried or partly smoked, then stored in wooden boxes. The cheeks of the Halibut were then, as today, considered a special treat.


Lingcod are an excellent sport fish that put up a worthy fight when hooked.  The rewards of landing one go from beyond a glimpse at an interesting bottom dweller and onto the dinner table.  In fact, some people even prefer them to halibut.

Color:  Dark brownish-green with copper blotches

Size: Average 20 – 30 lbs, 20 – 35 inches Up to 60+ lbs

Method: Bottom fishing from a boat with bait such as herring, jigging or mooching

Gear: Medium- to heavy-action rods and reels

Range: Aleutians, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula, Southeast

Season: Year-round

Taste: Succulent white meat

Record: 67 lbs., near Sitka by Clint Hooper, 1993

Lingcod belong to the Hexagrammid family and are not a true cod.  Body color ranges from an overall dark brownish-green characterized with patterns of copper blotches.  The only exception is the undersides of the gill plates, which are usually white.  Lingcod have a lengthy dorsal fin that is equal to ¾ of the fish’s overall length.  The fish has two sets of large pectoral fins; adding to its aggressive maneuverability.  As a predator, the bottom dwellers are armed with a large mouth that sports 18 sharp teeth.

Lingcod have been found at depths of up to 1,000 feet, however, they are usually found around rocky reefs between 30 and 330 feet.  They are prevalent in the saltwater of Prince William Sound, the Aleutians, Kenai Peninsula and Southeast Alaska.

Lingcod primarily eat other live fish and will begin predation within their first year, at which time they are only 3 inches in length.

Angling Method
Jigging from a boat with bait near the bottom or around rocky reefs is a popular way to find lingcod.  Mooching with herring or other bait is also successful.  When playing in other species of fish, such as rock fish, lingcod will sometimes bite your catch.

Life History
Most lingcod populations begin spawning in early December through January.  Females mature between 3 to 5 years, at which time they span 24 to 30 inches.  Males mature more rapidly and are capable of reproduction by age 2, at which time they are 20 inches.

Prior to spawning, females and males gather along reefs subjected to strong tidal currents.  The wave action is necessary to aerate the eggs and stimulate growth.  Actual spawning closely mimics that of other fish.  However¸ the male fiercely guards the fertilized eggs until they hatch; 5 to 11 weeks on average.  If the male were to leave, the eggs would most likely be consumed by predators such as rockfish, starfish, sculpins, kelp greenling, and cod within 48 hours.  The aggressive nature of the male may keep such threats away, but the father’s confrontational behavior can also be his doom.  For instance, a battle with a seal or sea lion will usually not end in his favor.

Newly hatched lingcod are ¼ to ½ inch in length and are unable to move about on their own.  Instead, they rely on surface currents to move them through areas of food; usually copepods and other larval fish.  Within a few months, the lingcod will average three inches in length and will be able to break free from the surface currents.  At this stage, the fish become true predators as they settle into kelp beds to consume juvenile herring. Young lingcod will continue to favor shallow water until about the age of two, at which time they will move into adult habitats.  ??The oldest recorded lingcod is 25 years and the largest one caught commercially has been 85 pounds.


ROCKFISHES – 32 species in all

Rockfish are Alaska’s only sport fish that contain venom in their spiny fins.  But despite being mildly toxic to the touch, most of the species have a delicious white meat.  Rockfish species, 32 in all, can be individually unique; some are colored dark black while others are entirely hot orange.  Incredibly, some yelloweye rockfish are known to live up to 140 years old. The large family of fish is also ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young rather than eggs.  The most sought after are the yelloweye, quillback, dusky, copper and black rockfish.

Color: Varies by species from dark colors to fluorescent orange

Size: 5- to 41-inches, Average 20- to 24-inches

Method: Bottom fishing from a boat with bait such as herring, jigging or mooching

Gear: Light-action bait rods and reels

Range: Aleutians, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula, Southeast, Bering Sea 32 known species

Season: Year-round

Table fare: White meat, delicious

Record: 47 lbs, Clarence Lake, 1970

There are 32 different species of rockfishes, which can vary between 4 to 41 inches in length.  The overall average length is between 20 and 24 inches.  The body of a rockfish is armed with venomous spines on its head and body alongside various bony plates.  As a predator, the fish have a large mouth and large pelvic fins for easy maneuvering.  To small undersea attackers, the venom of a rockfish can be deadly; however, to creatures as large as man it is only mildly toxic.  In general, most rockfish resemble bass or perch and are sometimes called sea bass.

Rockfish frequent almost all of Alaska’s coastal waters.  There are 12 known species living as far north as the Bering Sea, but most inhabit the Gulf of Alaska and are separated into three biological groups.  The first type, called “slope,” live the farthest from shore and stay mostly in the deep water along the edges of the continental shelf.  The second type, are known as “shelf pelagic” and live along the shallower areas of the continental shelf closer to shore.  Lastly, the “shelf demersal” type live near the shore in shallow water with rocky bottoms.

Juvenile rockfish subsist on mainly plankton, copepods, fish eggs and small crustaceans.  As they grow in size, rockfish will prey on sand lance, herring, smaller rockfish and larger crustaceans.

Angling Method
Medium-action spinning rods with 14- to 17-pound test line and fly rods in the 6- to 8-weight range offer the most excitement.  Casting and retrieving or jigging with small spinners, lures, bait or streamers (or minnow style flies) works well.  Most rockfish will be near rocky outcroppings and kelp beds and tend to be the most abundant at a specific depth.  Depth finders can help locate the fish and methods such as basic weights, leadheads, sink-tip lines and sinking jig heads will help you reach the fish.

Rockfish can be caught from the surface to depths much deeper than 60 feet.  However, fish taken from deeper than 60 feet will experience gas expansion in their swim bladders.  As the fish is quickly pulled to the surface, water pressure decreases and the bladder expands and pushes the stomach partially out of the mouth.  Such fish rarely recover and should be kept as part of the daily bag limit.  When fishing very deep water, the eyes can even begin to bulge due to rapid decompression.

Life History
Each individual from the three different types of rock fish (slope, shelf pelagic, and shelf demersal) are fond of a specific area or a home site.  If removed and released elsewhere, they will quickly find their way back to the preferred area.  Their impressive memory and ability to navigate might be tied to their age.  Some rockfish can live to be over 100 years old and biologists from the Alaska Fish & ?Game say yelloweye (Sebastes ruberrimus) may live up to 140 years.

Rockfishes grow slowly and most pelagic species become sexually mature at about 10 years of age.  Meanwhile, shelf demersal and slope type may take 15 years to mature.  The fish are unique because they are oviparous, meaning they reproduce by internal-fertilization and give birth to live young.