Kings and Krill; Lake Sammamish King Salmon
"The Fish Journal" Issaquah Press, Published August, 2008
By Dallas Cross

The salmon have arrived in Lake Sammamish and are making their way up its tributaries to spawn and be captured for their eggs and milt at the hatchery on Issaquah Creek.  Before they move up the creeks they mill around in the lake for a while getting ready for their reproductive finale.  The state has determined that the king, or chinook, salmon run will exceed their need to harvest eggs this year and has opened Lake Sammamish to fish for them from Friday, August 15 until November 30.

The rules are: Have a fishing license and catch card, the minimum size to keep must be 12 inches, you may keep two king salmon. Sockeye and kokanee salmon must be released, and no fishing within 100 yards of the mouth of Issaquah Creek. The easiest way to tell if you have caught a king salmon is to see the black on the inner mouth.

Admittedly, some of the salmon have been in the lake a while and are dark in color and a bit soft, however there are more recent arrivals which are bright and prime candidates for the barbeque grill. Take along an ice chest to keep your catch fresh. Also for better quality eating, cut the gills of the fish you wish to keep and let them bleed out in the water before putting them on ice. From past bad experience keeping them in the net while you do this is advisable.

The key to getting kings to bite is to fish at the right time and at the proper depth. Early morning, just at first light, is the most productive time. Past experience suggests that lures should be fished at depths of 25 to 30 feet. As of the first weekend of the season fisherman have located the Kings near the bottom and have not had any success in getting them to bite. The salmon will probably wait for a rain and cooler water entering the lake before they become active.

Of course using a downrigger is the easiest way to get to the desired fishing depth. For trolling with a sinker we can use trigonometry to determine that if we let out about 45 feet of line, and fish it at a 45 degree angle to the water surface, our lure will be close to 30 feet deep. For faster trolling speeds, let out 60 feet of line to fish at an angle of 30 degrees to get a lure 30 feet deep. Adjust the sinker weight and boat speed to get the proper degree downward angle on the line.

An oft cast line in the sea of answers

On questioning hook with lure so bright,

Attract fine species of many forms,

Some are caught, but why did they bite?

    King and most other salmon supposedly give up eating when they enter fresh water, but we catch them because they do not give up biting. I have not found much food in the stomachs of salmon I have caught in fresh water. Two reasons have been given for their biting behavior, defensive aggression and an involuntary feeding response to past, familiar food sources. Thus the lures we use generally fall into these two categories.

Metal spoons such as a Kwikfish, flatfish lures, and herring strips are popular lures in Lake Sammamish. These are usually fished behind a flasher at a medium-slow troll speed. Some are having success using jigging spoons or marabou jigs. Taking a page from the sockeye fishery in Lake Washington, more and more salmon fishers are using bare 3/0 or 4/0, red hooks behind Dodger flashers. Why is this lure so effective?

    Krill are small, shrimp-like crustaceans that swim in the seas and are a major food source for almost all salmon. The different species of krill range in size from under a half inch up to five and a half inches. One of the most common krill is Euphausia superba with an average length of 2.3 inches, the same as the total length of a 4/0 hook.

    Krill, like shrimp, curl in nature and a hook-shape would be a natural shape presentation during their swimming activities. Lots of krill have bright colors, mostly red, pink and orange blotches near the front part of their bodies with spots of color along their full length. Another characteristic is that they have prominent dark eye spots.

Some of my fishing friends are having great success with Lake Sammamish kings by adorning their 4/0 bare hooks with small bits of fur and feathers in a manner that echoes the physical characteristics of krill described above. Perhaps they should also add burnt nylon eyes at the front. Me thinks they are re-inventing a salmon fly.


Picture of Krill