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Thread: King Salmon Progression of Spawning Phase

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    Member AlaskaIsCold's Avatar
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    Arrow King Salmon Progression of Spawning Phase

    Hey everyone!

    So I was curious, with king salmon getting closer and closer I was wondering about How they change into their spawning mode and then decay and Die. I know that as they spawn their meat turns white, mushy, watery, unappatizing. I also know that a bright chrome salmon will gradually turn red/purple, decay, and die as it moves up the river. But what I havent figured out is how turned can it be before its no longer good eats.

    I figure that I can ask you guys, what is the most spawned salmon you will cook up and eat? Only Bright Chrome? or Red/Purple and decaying? Im hoping for alot of answers on this one, maybe a few photos so i can take a look and understand.

    A side question that ive been wondering, is once I catch my one salmon on the parks highway systems can I still do Catch and Release? So that if my friend is still trying to catch is one I don't have to sit on the bank and do nothing.

    Anyways tell me what you all think!

    --Chris
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    Member fullbush's Avatar
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    I'll help ya Chris. The answer to your last question is a resounding no! Once you've caught your king and punched your card you're done for 24 hours. As for fishing for blushed kings, if the kings flesh is too red, you're standing in the spawning beds! Carefully back up w/o destroying the gravel and move down stream.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fullbush View Post
    I'll help ya Chris. The answer to your last question is a resounding no! Once you've caught your king and punched your card you're done for 24 hours.
    fullbush

    Are you done for 24 hrs or until the time king fishing is allowed the next calendar day? Are you saying that if you caught a king at say 7:00 PM, you have to wait until 7:00 PM the next day? I thought you only had to wait until the time king fishing was allowed the next day, e.g. the area I fished you could fish for kings from 6:00AM to 9:00PM (I think that was the time period) each day. So if you caught and kept a king at 7:00PM one day you could fish for kings again starting at 6:00AM the next morning (11 hours later).

    ClearCreek

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    Quote Originally Posted by ClearCreek View Post
    fullbush

    Are you done for 24 hrs or until the time king fishing is allowed the next calendar day? Are you saying that if you caught a king at say 7:00 PM, you have to wait until 7:00 PM the next day? I thought you only had to wait until the time king fishing was allowed the next day, e.g. the area I fished you could fish for kings from 6:00AM to 9:00PM (I think that was the time period) each day. So if you caught and kept a king at 7:00PM one day you could fish for kings again starting at 6:00AM the next morning (11 hours later).

    ClearCreek
    A very good question....The way I read it, the daily bag limit on king salmon is one, so logic tells me that if a day is 24 hours long then you must wait 24 hours between kings

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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Default Tongue in cheek?

    I hope fullbush's response was tongue in cheek. ClearCreek, take anything you hear on this forum with a grain of salt, cause that response was somewhere in left field. So, take me with a grain of salt, too, and verify what I say regarding regs with the regulation book.

    First, there is nothing about "24 hours" in the regs. Midnight is the common divider between days. A couple streams have 11pm to 6am closures. He is correct about C&R. Most fisheries in the valley and on the Kenai, once you have retained a king, you may not fish for ANY species in ANY waters open to king fishing for the remainder of the day. A day is defined by a 24 hour period ending at midnight of that day. So if you want to keep fishing, you need to go into an area that is not open to king fishing but is open for trout or other species. Also, note that the regs allow 1 a day, and 1 in possession. So if you've kept a king, you can't just wait till midnight and keep another. The first fish must be processed, and up in camp or home. Processed means its preserved in a manner that it will keep for 2 weeks or longer. (An exception is the Deshka, when it is opened to 2 a day and 4 in possession.)

    Now, for meat quality. It will vary a little from creek to creek. If the water in the creek is really warm the meat deteriorates faster. Females get mushy quicker than males. Both are eating off their fat reserves on the spawning run, so the meat is losing fat and quality as they age. I've kept some males that were pretty blushed up and they were great. Typically, the back will still be showing light gray with a lot of silver highlights to it, even if the head and lower belly are quite red. If the back is red, too, its most likely going to be pretty poor. For a hen, if its taken on a purplish or black hue, put her back! And don't squeeze her, cause you'll probly take some eggs.

    This is a tougher one to describe, but an older fish will be slimier too, with seemingly smoother scales. If it has any white marks on the fins, then its definitely too far gone- thats fungus, and means they're about dead.

    In the valley, most of the kings prior to June 20-24th will still be in great to decent shape. By the last weekend of the month and the two July openers, the ratio switches, and quality goes downhill. By the end of the season very few fish will be fit to eat on most Valley streams. My point? Fill your limit earlier in the month on chrome fish if you can.

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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fullbush View Post
    A very good question....The way I read it, the daily bag limit on king salmon is one, so logic tells me that if a day is 24 hours long then you must wait 24 hours between kings
    Remember one thing, fullbush: you're dealing with Alaska Sport Fishing regs: leave your logic at the door.
    Also, be sure to read the definitions section. ALA a former president saying "What is the meaning of 'is'?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by willphish4food View Post
    Remember one thing, fullbush: you're dealing with Alaska Sport Fishing regs: leave your logic at the door.
    Also, be sure to read the definitions section. ALA a former president saying "What is the meaning of 'is'?"
    thanx for the clarification, guess a guy needs to fish w/ his attorney..

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    Quote Originally Posted by ClearCreek View Post
    fullbush

    Are you done for 24 hrs or until the time king fishing is allowed the next calendar day? Are you saying that if you caught a king at say 7:00 PM, you have to wait until 7:00 PM the next day? I thought you only had to wait until the time king fishing was allowed the next day, e.g. the area I fished you could fish for kings from 6:00AM to 9:00PM (I think that was the time period) each day. So if you caught and kept a king at 7:00PM one day you could fish for kings again starting at 6:00AM the next morning (11 hours later).

    ClearCreek

    As usual, ClearCreek has it right.

    One more twist to his example, though ...

    Assuming the daily bag AND possession limit is one king salmon, if the king caught at 7:00 PM is still in the ice chest when he legally starts fishing at 6:00 AM the next day, he may NOT keep another king that day.

    The initial fish must be removed from his "possession" first. It must either be consumed, given to another person NOT already in possession of a king salmon, or rendered into a state (canned/frozen/smoked) that it is still edible 15 days later.
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    you guys actually eat salmon out of fresh water
    (just giving you hard time...)

    the points about water temp affecting flesh quality are spot-on, but color-change in spawners will often begin in the salt. a pair of polaroid glasses can reveal a blushed fish that looks nearly chrome in natural light. if i net a fish with tight scales it is destined for a same-day BBQ or the smoker. feeder kings drop scales like confetti when you net them.....
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    Quote Originally Posted by willphish4food View Post

    Now, for meat quality. It will vary a little from creek to creek. If the water in the creek is really warm the meat deteriorates faster. Females get mushy quicker than males. Both are eating off their fat reserves on the spawning run, so the meat is losing fat and quality as they age. I've kept some males that were pretty blushed up and they were great. Typically, the back will still be showing light gray with a lot of silver highlights to it, even if the head and lower belly are quite red. If the back is red, too, its most likely going to be pretty poor. For a hen, if its taken on a purplish or black hue, put her back! And don't squeeze her, cause you'll probly take some eggs.

    This is a tougher one to describe, but an older fish will be slimier too, with seemingly smoother scales. If it has any white marks on the fins, then its definitely too far gone- thats fungus, and means they're about dead.

    In the valley, most of the kings prior to June 20-24th will still be in great to decent shape. By the last weekend of the month and the two July openers, the ratio switches, and quality goes downhill. By the end of the season very few fish will be fit to eat on most Valley streams. My point? Fill your limit earlier in the month on chrome fish if you can.
    Good points, but in the end, it's all relative....

    We've got a couple of members on the board that subsist in the bush and NEVER see a chrome king. Black-bellied fire engines is what they get, so that's what they eat.

    But for the rest of the members that have the luxury of access to MUCH higher quality fish, I would offer these criteria.

    I would recommend AGAINST retaining any hen that has blushed up, no matter how subtle. Chrome bright is obviously best, but with hens even a supposed "chrome" fish can fool you. This is especially true on streams where late-run kings are present (Kenai/Kasilof).... those fish come into the river very sexually mature almost ready to do their thing. They have already converted a large portion of the protein and fat reserves in their flesh to egg production. If there is ANY hint of gray in the belly, she will cut pale and soft, esp in the tail half of the fish. Let her go.

    Bucks will hold their meat quality longer, well into a blushed color phase. But there is a HUGE difference between a colored-up buck with chrome gill plates, sea lice, and intact scales vs a skanky old black-bellied fire engine with thick ropey slime over thick leathery skin, and armored scales that have not only set tight but are actually fused/reabsorbed in the skin. These are the "smoother" scales wp4f is referring to. For the discerning palate, these fish are NOT fit to eat.
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    Huh well that brings me to another question.
    How can you tell male and female king salmon apart?
    Because yeah I have no idea.

    --Chris
    A bad day fishing is still better than a good day at work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaIsCold View Post
    Huh well that brings me to another question.
    How can you tell male and female king salmon apart?
    Because yeah I have no idea.

    --Chris
    #1 foolproof sign that you have a female is the ovipositor.... that's the egg-shooter-thing-a-ma-jiggy that looks like a hemorrhoid sticking out the vent.

    On a real fresh PLATINUM early run fish, it may not be so obvious, and you might have to put just the slightest pressure on the belly to make it stick out.
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    The most common way folks tell the difference is in the shape of the head. Shorter, more rounded features on a hen.... longer pointier snout on a buck.

    Buck on the left, hen on the right.
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    OK somebody's gonna call me out on not depicting a real Alaska fish.

    Here's a couple more from the Kenai. Can you tell the difference now?
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    After looking at the images, I can tell the difference.
    Thanks!
    A bad day fishing is still better than a good day at work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaIsCold View Post
    After looking at the images, I can tell the difference.
    Thanks!

    Great!

    BTW all of the pics I posted above would be considered "eaters."

    Here's a couple of hens that I would NOT consider "eaters". Lots of folks mistakenly consider these "chrome", but the dead giveaway is the gray undertones, esp in the belly. These fish invariably cut soft and pale with very thin belly walls.... kill one, and I guarantee you WILL be disappointed. A buck of the same color would be a MUCH better eating fish. Trust me!
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    Great!

    BTW all of the pics I posted above would be considered "eaters."

    Here's a couple of hens that I would NOT consider "eaters". Lots of folks mistakenly consider these "chrome", but the dead giveaway is the gray undertones, esp in the belly. These fish invariably cut soft and pale with very thin belly walls.... kill one, and I guarantee you WILL be disappointed. A buck of the same color would be a MUCH better eating fish. Trust me!
    I cant tell the difference in the belly.
    Is there another tell tail sign that they are not good to eat?
    A bad day fishing is still better than a good day at work.

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    It can be tough with those borderline fish. I have kept fish that were redder then the shown and they were fine. But then some times they aren't. I tend to keep most Kings I catch, because they are not easy to get. If the flesh is on the soft side then I make chowder.

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