It is rare to see a massive explosion of a new run of Salmon. Premium specimens.
Well, relatively new.
Salmon have always been "Native" to the Northern Hemisphere on the Pacific Rim. Stretching from states like California, Washington and Oregon, into Canada and Alaska. On the other side of the Pacific, countries like Russia and Japan have had historic runs of many species of Pacific Salmon.
But the southern hemisphere is a new frontier for Pacific Salmon. With bountiful feed and way less over-fishing in the Southern Hemisphere of the Pacific, it has similar climates and seasonal changes as the ranges that Pacific Salmon originally occupied.
In 1924, the first hatchery produced-salmon were introduced into the Maullín, Cochamó, and Puelo rivers in southern Chile. 6 years later Sockeye and Coho were also introduced, but did not have the success of the Chinook Salmon for imprinting and producing wild spawn. Over time the Chinook strayed into virtually every other river in the vicinity.
Now in 2023, the fishery has grown and spawning areas have exploded throughout the region.
The size of King Salmon is beyond impressive. In the Northern Pacific, Salmon have a gauntlet to go through. Massive bird predation, dams and hot temperatures have major impacts on the juvenile Salmon when they are heading out to the Ocean. Predators and Commercial fishing pick through the Salmon while they're growing, to the point where it is hard for a Chinook Salmon that waits multiple years to return, to even survive. Once in the river, Sea Lions feast on the fish runs and remove even more adults from the river.
But in the Southern Hemisphere, there is a lot less predation, lots of cold water and commercial harvest of Salmon is incredibly limited. With these factors at play, Chinook Salmon are free to roam the seas, getting fatter and longer day by day. When they choose to return the rivers of Chile, they do not encounter near as many holdbacks to their journey home.
So what about the fishing?
In a general sense it is very under-developed.
This is common for remote areas that have huge runs of fish. When people don't need to work as hard to catch one fish, there is not as much need to get as technical as anglers do on rivers like the Columbia River. That is no knock on the anglers in Chile, they are very intelligent and have a vast knowledge of their rivers, but there is way less access to the latest fishing gear that North Pacific anglers have in their local tackle shops. Early on, anglers fashioned spoons and other metallics while throwing them on hand-lines.
Some fly-fishing resorts and charters are established in the region that employ modern Spey techniques, but there is not a lot of advanced trolling charters in the area.
So when Jordan Knigge got the opportunity to visit Chile and fish for Browns, Rainbows and King Salmon, he made sure he brought the kitchen sink...the refrigerator and the dining room chairs.
Fishing for King Salmon in Chile
You can find other videos of Jordan's trip, enjoying the bountiful trout fishing that Chile has to offer. But this video and article is focused purely on Chinook. Watch it below - description below the video!
Prior to the trip, without knowing exact details of the fishery, Jordan opted to bring a big amount of Salmon gear to be prepared for whatever type of water they encountered. The massively popular 360-flasher style fishing in the Pacific Northwest is so effective that introducing it to King Salmon in the Southern Hemisphere just made sense. The rotating flashers mimic a feeding salmon, while the lure behind it entices the final bite.
Finding a boat to take them on the trip required negotiating with Commercial anglers running net pens. This allowed for a boat to be used, but only a limited basis. In the video you'll see the boat being utilized, but also some bank fishing trips deep in the river canyon.
Day one the rod holders and fish-finder had not even been installed yet, so it was a bit of a guessing game. But wouldn't you know it, the Shortbus "Super-Series" 360-flasher still called in the fish and success was had even in the first boat trip! The language barrier was a little tougher at first, but it didn't take long for the chemistry of angling to take over.
After fashioning 2x4s for the rod-holder and fish-finder mounts, day two went even better. Rods were bending to the hilt with ferocious takedowns. The Shortbus Super Series 360's were working wonders to draw these fish in. You'll see in the video just how much fun was had.
But as luck would have it, the boat became unavailable and the trip had to adjust to continue the Salmon carnage. Into the canyon they went with spinning rods in hand. Jordan opted to spinner fish, as that's a favorite technique of his for virtually any Salmonoid species.
It didn't take a long until the unexpected happened...
A strong take, a steady lifting hook-set and a massive flash. A chrome Chinook of astronomical size was spotted head-shaking a few feet underwater. It only took a few seconds to know what was going. A massive head-shake means a massive fish. Jordan was scared, goosebumps on his arms and his neck. "I'm really worried guys". Fish of this size control the conversation and on a medium-heavy spinning rod there is not much one can do.
The fish ripped line upriver and down...you'll have to watch the video to see what happens, but it involves trading underwear with the camera guy and swimming across a cold, deep river.
With the bank fishing trip out of the way, the boat was available again.
At this point, the program was figured out, the confidence was there. And it ended up being a smash-fest of big chrome kings. Line ripping off reels...you know the drill. After watching the video, you'll get a feel for it!
The Future of Chile Salmon
So far, if current practices continue, the future is bright for Chile Salmon. Kings over 100 pounds have been caught, and likely the World Record already exists down there. It seems the Ocean Conditions are prime, bait is available for Kings and spawning habitat is very healthy.
If Chilean residents can learn from our mistakes in the Northern Hemisphere, it could be the best Salmon Fishery available, and...THE BIGGEST KINGS IN THE WORLD!