The importance of salmon in our household cannot be overstated: we eat salmon at least two times a week. The act of catching and processing our own meat and fish has become a part of our lifestyle that we realize we can never give up.
After almost 40 years in Alaska, it’s ingrained in us now.
My discovery of the feeder king fishery (aka, “winter king”) in Kachemak Bay 20 years ago began a lifetime of learning and love. Like steelhead fishing to some, recognizing, understanding and building on knowledge absorbed through years of fishing turned into a love affair with the species.
And like steelheaders, winter king fisherman have to be crazy in love to do it.
From the first time I felt the power of a feeder king stripping line from my reel like there was no end to Dec. 31, 2013, when I caught my last king of the year, the feeling remains excitingly addictive. First-timers and veteran anglers can’t help but show their joy.
Feeder kings are salmon that are not ready to spawn. Kings normally live 5-7 years, and during that time before spawning they do what fish do: Eat! The fish in Kachemak Bay are here year-round, and locals fish for them year-round. It’s a quiet little fishery with dedicated local boat owners and a few charter boat operators keeping their boats in the water through the winter.
Biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a 2007 study that these immature fish are harvested throughout the summer (mixed in with returning spawners) and “are of non-Cook Inlet origin, including Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and to a lesser extent Washington and Oregon.”