by David Johnson
Did you get a chance to eat any of the summer chinook from the Columbia this year? I did and it was AWESOME! While I was at a friend of mine's house he pulled some out of his smoker. We devoured it! It was so tasty and packed with oil.
You want the best smoked fish? Start with some of the best salmon, and by far these summer fish are some of the best.
I think I took in enough Omega-3 to erase at least a few milk shakes from my arteries.
My favorite part, the fatty, gelatinous fin meat
Most years I miss out on the short summer chinook season we're given since I am usually fishing estuary sturgeon the last two weeks of June.
This year I didn't have a sturgeon season so I targeted some of these summer chinook farther up river. But since most of the time all the fish caught on my boat go home with my clients it's been a long time since I've actually gotten to eat one myself.
Summer chinook fishing is relatively new to us. It's only been about the last dozen or so years we've been able to fish for them. Before that the run was pretty darn small.
It wasn't always small though. Originally, in the 1800's, these summer chinook were the #1 commercially harvested salmon on the Columbia River. Once that run of fish was wiped out they moved on to harvesting all of the springers and after the springers were gone they moved on to fall chinook.
Then in the 1930's they started building the hydro systems on the Columbia and the summer fish were just barely holding on.
One component of the summer chinook run included the "June Hogs". A large strain of chinook that migrated all the way into Canada. Those fish went extinct with the construction of Grand Coulee Dam. It is said when the dam was completed there were thousands of salmon jumping against the base of the dam until they beat themselves to death.
People still call the summer chinook June Hogs even though the real ones are now gone. But there are some big fish still swimming up-stream. The biggest we have caught was 42 pounds.
In reality, the summer run of chinook gets very little pressure, especially compared to springers. Which is funny since they are every bit as good to eat. They are bigger, they bite well and the weather is a heck of a lot better.
I encourage you to get out next year and catch some of these great fish.