King Salmon Fishing The Copper River

A king salmon. King salmon fishing on the copper river often is done in fast murkly water.
A king salmon. King salmon fishing on the Copper River often is done in fast murky water.

The Copper River is said to be one of the world’s few remaining salmon strongholds, and although other salmon are available, the King salmon fishing the Copper River is the highlight.

I will discuss the river, the salmon, the fishing methods, and the gear you will need to be successful on the Copper.

Introduction To The Copper River

The Copper River, nestled in the heart of Alaska, is not merely a river; it’s a realm where the illustrious King Salmon, with its formidable size and elusive nature, captivates anglers worldwide.

Key Takeaways Table

Peak SeasonMay to July
HotspotsCopper River, Chitina, Cordova
Techniques And BaitsDrift Fishing, Float Fishing, Plunking – Eggs and Lures
License NeededYes, Alaska Fishing License
Trophy Size30-50 pounds
Keep LimitsVaries, adherence to Alaska Department of Fish and Game

When Is King Salmon Fishing The Copper River Best

King Salmon, also known as Chinook Salmon, or Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, embark on a fascinating journey from birth to spawning, navigating through the challenging, large, and fast Copper River to reach their spawning grounds, formed by glacial runoff.

After spawning, their carcasses enrich the river, contributing nitrogen and phosphorus compounds that are vital for the development and survival of the new generation.

The runs of king salmon start in May and can continue into August with peak fishing time in late May and June.

Techniques and Gear: Crafting the Perfect King Salmon Rig

A successful King salmon fishing trip on the Copper River requires various fishing techniques, good baits and lures, and the right gear for each method.

From the meticulousness of drift fishing to the strategic setup involving hooks, a corky, a bit of flash, and some cured salmon eggs, each element plays a crucial role in ensuring a successful catch.

One thing to keep in mind is that due to the size and speed of the currents and the fact some of these salmon are 40 to 50 pounds, going with slightly larger gear is a good idea.

Effective Methods to Catch King Salmon On The Copper River

  • Spinning/Casting: Casting lures such is spinners and spoons can be very effective.
  • Bait Fishing: Involves various methods like float fishing, plunking, drift fishing, bobber doggin with specific baits like salmon eggs, shrimp, and skein.
  • Trolling: Involves pulling lures or cut bait behind a moving boat, covering various parts of the water column adn this is mostly done on the lower river and mouth.
  • Back Trolling: The boat drifts down the river slower than the current, holding lures or plugs in position downriver.
  • Back Bouncing: This involves lifting and dropping your bait rig off the bottom from a stationary or slow-drifting boat.
  • Side Drifting: Drifting down the river in a boat and drifting your bait beside it.
  • Fly Fishing: Involves streamer fishing, swinging flies across the river, and nymph fishing, mostly with egg patterns.

To see all of these methods, check out King Salmon Fishing: A Complete Guide.

Bait For Copper River King Salmon

Common baits include salmon eggs, shrimp, worms, skein, and imitation baits like Berkley powerbait, as well as artificial flies.

Gear and Tackle Insights: Ensuring a Fruitful Expedition

When King salmon fishing the Copper Riverm the tackle and gear should be heavy-duty, with mono line between 20 and 30 pounds up to 80-pound braided lines, and leaders of 30 to 40 pounds.

To fish the king salmon of the Copper River, a heavy salmon rod with substantial backbone and power, such as the St Croix Mojo Inshore rod (7’11” heavy power), ensures the ability to handle large fish in the faster currents, while still providing the necessary sensitivity for maintaining bottom contact. See Best Rods For Salmon Fishing.

Additionally, a size 5000 to 8,000 spinning reel and an 80-pound braid line are recommended to battle the powerful salmon effectively. There are some anglers that prefer baitcasting reels for other methods. See Best Reels For Salmon Fishing.

Remember, upsizing is often required on this river especially in the big faster water sections.

Sensitivity and Responsiveness: The Key to Success

Detecting the bit and quickly setting the hook is paramount as King Salmon do not hold onto the bait long in this river, thus, a swift hook set is imperative.

Utilizing a method or rig like a float, or a drift fishing rig with a 120-pound grade swivel with a pencil lead weight on a long tag end helps you feel the bottom of the river when drift fishing. See Best Salmon Fishing Rigs.

Fishing Strategies: Navigating the Currents

It help to know where to fish when King salmon fishing the Copper River. On the Copper River, the King Salmon tend to follow current seams along the side of faster water as they move up the river. This provides them with a resting spot while navigating the river.

Anglers should locate these seams and currents, intercepting the salmon at strategic points where they are likely to pass by, ensuring a higher probability of a successful catch.

In the murky water, salmon will also move closer to the banks where they are out of the main current. Look for any water that is slower.

Copper River Salmon Fishing Guides and Charters

The Copper River is remote and can be dangerous, so many anglers choose to fish it with an experienced fishing guide.

The river guides in the Copper River area provide valuable insights and expertise on salmon fishing methods and the best fishing spots.

Guides offer various packages, including guided short and long-day fishing trips, lodging, and food. If you want a guided trip, check out Copper River Guides and Copper River Salmon Charters.

DIY Fishing: Potential Fishing Spots For Salmon

The Copper River is said to be the most dangerous river in Alaska, with sections of the river being fast, turbid, and lined with steep banks. However, there are sections up river where you can walk the banks and access it without a boat.

Many anglers and guides use inflatable rafts to get through the best water sections, and it’s these sections we recommend that you fish.

There are bears in the area so it is important to be aware and have knowledge of what to look for and how to protect yourself when fishing near bears. See Fishing Near Bears.

Dip net fishing for salmon is common among Alaska residents. This method involves using nothing but large nets to catch salmon.

Many anglers access the river near roads and bridges or along hiking trails along the Copper River.

Final Thoughts: The Enduring Call of the Copper River

King Salmon fishing in the Copper River is an exploration into a world where nature, adventure, and memories intertwine, crafting experiences that linger in your heart, long after the trip concludes. It’s about the stories forged amidst the river’s flow, the triumphs, the challenges, and the unbridled joy of being one with nature.

Ensure to Adhere to Regulations

If you are going to be king salmon fishing on the Copper River, you must adhere to the regulations set forth by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, ensuring sustainable and responsible fishing practices that safeguard the future of King Salmon and the vibrant ecosystem of the Copper River.

Tight Lines



  1. Copper River Salmon
    • Source: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
    • Note: Overview and data on Copper River salmon fisheries.
  2. Copper River – Alaska Department of Fish and Game
    • Source: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
    • Note: Sonar counts and data for Copper River salmon.
  3. Frequently Asked Questions About a New Federal Salmon Fishing Opportunity in the Lower Copper River
    • Source: U.S. Department of the Interior
    • Note: Info on a new federal salmon fishing opportunity.
  4. Copper River Salmon Harvest and Escapement
    • Source: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
    • Note: Data on salmon harvest and escapement in the Copper River.

Feel free to explore these sources for detailed information!

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