Chinook salmon (also called king salmon) is one of the most iconic fish of the Pacific Northwest. These large, aggressive fish are a favorite challenge for anglers, plus they make for a delicious meal. If you’re looking to go fishing in Hells Canyon, here are four tips to help you catch more Chinook this season.

1. Go During Peak Season

Chinook spend most of their time in the ocean but return inland to spawn in lakes and rivers. In Hells Canyon, there are three different river systems where you can catch Chinook: the Snake River, Salmon River, and Clearwater River. Each river has its own peak Chinook season:

  • Snake River: August to October
  • Salmon River: May to August
  • Clearwater River: May to July

It’s important to note that these dates are approximate. If you don’t live near Hells Canyon, you can check the Idaho Fish & Game website for the official Chinook Salmon Seasons and Rules.

2. Understand Chinook Behavior

Chinook are predatory fish, meaning they eat other fish and aquatic creatures. If you want to get good at catching them, you need to understand what they like to eat, so you know where in the water column to fish. For example, most Chinook spend their time at the bottom of the water column, where their favorite prey gather. You may want to use fishing weights to help get your line all the way down to the bottom.

Freshwater vs. Saltwater Chinook

As mentioned above, Chinook are saltwater fish who return to freshwater to spawn. The fish returning to Hells Canyon are in the spawning stage of life, so they behave differently than saltwater Chinook. These fish rely on their stored fat to survive instead of hunting, making them harder to lure.

3. Use Baits and Lures for River Fishing

The Chinook returning to their spawning grounds in Hells Canyon can be very territorial. They are also very sensitive to strong smells. Experts have found that they respond well to cured salmon eggs and shrimp, which can be easier for anglers to handle. You can also catch more Chinook this season using spinner lures in purple, blue, and brass colors. Chinook may not hunt these spinners to eat but will do so to protect their territory.

4. Talk to the Locals

You won’t be alone if you’re heading out to Hells Canyon for a fishing trip. While many anglers enjoy fishing in isolation, salmon fishing in Hells Canyon is a community activity. Take the opportunity to chat with the locals and see if they’re willing to offer up some of their fishing tricks.

Another option is to take a fishing tour with local fishing experts, like the Hells Canyon fishing trips at River Adventures. Our salmon fishing trips supply you with all the rods, tackle, and bait you’ll need, plus the expert knowledge of one of our local fishing guides. Now that you know the basics of how to catch chinook salmon, you’re ready for the river. Contact us today for more information!