Alaska salmon fishing for coho conjures images of full fish boxes of red-fleshed, silver-skinned salmon fillets.
When it comes to coho (silver) salmon, Alaska has very generous daily bag limits in saltwater, both for resident and nonresident anglers. If you’re looking to maximize your salmon haul during your trip to Alaska, targeting coho makes good sense. The daily coho salmon bag limit in Sitka saltwater for both residents and nonresidents is six fish per person, per day, with no annual limit!
Coho grow rapidly in their last year of life—especially in the last couple months of their time in saltwater. They might weigh six pounds in early July, but those same fish might weigh in the teens by late August, since it’s estimated they grow about a pound per week during that timeframe. Though not common, 20-pound coho are caught every year in Sitka.
Although Alaska salmon fishing in Sitka typically kicks off in May, summer and early fall are the best times for Sitka silvers. Mid-July through August and into September is the window when most coho are caught. During this period, it is common to hook four of the five Pacific salmon species native to North America—coho, pink, chum and Chinook—while targeting coho. The bottomfishing for rockfish, halibut and lingcod is excellent during “silver season,” too, so you’ll likely be taking home a bountiful harvest of both red and white fillets.
Many anglers troll for silvers using similar gear as the Chinook anglers (Pro-Troll flashers, Silver Horde Ace-Hi flies, Coho Killer and Kingfisher spoons, herring). However, silvers are much more numerous than their bigger cousins, and when a concentration of coho is located, mooching works really well. A plug-cut herring descended through the depths with six ounces of lead, then retrieved to the surface a few feet at a time can produce coho after coho.
When in Alaska salmon fishing, coho can be caught at depths as shallow as the surface to as deep as 180 feet. Savvy captains will keep a sharp eye on their electronics to determine where baits or lures need to be presented, then instruct their crew. Once the baits find their way in front of ravenous silvers, it’s not uncommon to hook multiple fish at the same time, depending on how many people are fishing. Doubles are common. Triples aren’t unheard of either, especially since we employ the highly effective and fun method of mooching for silvers.
The same locations Chinook were being caught earlier in the summer often produce well for coho later in the summer. During the “silver season,” silvers are caught from as far north as Fortuna Strait to as far south as Tava Island.
If you’re interested in Alaska salmon fishing and want to maximize number of fish boxes you take home, come to Sitka during silver season. You’ll be glad you did!