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Fly Fishing for Chum Salmon in the Pacific Northwest

In the Pacific Northwest, Halloween heralds more than just pumpkin carving and costume parties; it marks a thrilling event in the world of salmon fishing. Chum salmon, often known as "dog salmon" due to their dog-like teeth and formidable appearance, embark on their remarkable migration journey during this season. Halloween typically signifies the time when the chum salmon fishery kicks into high gear. In this blog, we will delve into the captivating world of chum salmon migration and explore why this season is a treat for anglers in the Pacific Northwest.

Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) are one of the five native Pacific salmon species in the region, sharing the waters with Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, and Pink salmon. What sets chum salmon apart is their late-season migration, perfectly synchronized with the arrival of autumn and Halloween festivities.

These resilient fish commence their journey in the Pacific Ocean, where they spend several years growing and feeding. When the time is right, they begin their extraordinary voyage back to the freshwater streams and rivers of their birth. Upon reaching their natal streams, chum salmon partake in a remarkable spawning ritual. The females create redds (nests) in the gravel, depositing their eggs, while the males fertilize them. The outcome is a breathtaking display of nature's beauty, as the riverbanks come alive with vibrant fish.

Around Halloween, the chum salmon run hits its peak, creating an exciting opportunity for anglers to catch these robust and agile fish. Targeting this species with a fly rod requires an 8, 9, or 10 wt rod. It's worth noting that chum salmon have been known to test the limits of gear, breaking more rods locally than any other species. While they may not be as acrobatic as some other salmon species, their sheer strength can be unmatched. Properly handling both the rod and the fish is essential to avoid gear mishaps.

When it comes to fly selection, one color consistently stands out: chartreuse. It's our go-to color for enticing chum salmon. Traditionally, sparse flies have been favored in Western Washington. However, recent years of experimentation with new fly patterns have revealed that these fish will readily take larger flies under the right conditions.

Additionally, chum salmon fishing calls for a proper net due to their size and strength. While fishpond nets are beloved, we recommend leaving them at home and investing in a sturdy salmon net from our shop. For line and leader, we rely on Maxima Ultragreen with 7-8 feet of 20-30lb test, opting for a straightforward, non-tapered setup to handle the power of chum salmon.

In the Pacific Northwest, Halloween symbolizes not just costumes and candy but also a remarkable natural spectacle—the chum salmon migration. The annual return of these determined fish to their natal waters serves as a testament to the beauty and resilience of nature. For anglers, it's a season of excitement, challenges, and an opportunity to connect with this remarkable species. As you plan your Halloween activities, consider adding chum salmon fishing to your list of autumn traditions in the Pacific Northwest, and witness firsthand the wonder of this extraordinary migration.

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