There are a total of seven salmon species that inhabit the world’s oceans, with six of those found in the waters surrounding North America and the other in the Asian Pacific. As their names imply, Atlantic salmon inhabit only the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on North America’s east coast, and five species of Pacific salmon live in the waters of the Pacific Ocean on the continent’s west coast. The maus salmon only lives in the waters of the Asian Pacific in the countries of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The five species of Pacific salmon, which include the Chinook, coho, chum, sockeye, and red, are the species most targeted by anglers, with the Chinook and coho being the most coveted.
The vast majority of salmon are anadromous, or sea-run, being born in fresh water and then spending their life at sea before returning to the place of their birth to spawn and die, sometimes traveling over 1,500 miles! Several salmon species have “landlocked” varieties that do not travel to the sea. Sea-run salmon are caught on their return to freshwater as they enter the ocean bays and inlets as well as along their journey upriver. Species and geographic regions determine season and catch limits, and some species, like the coho, have split seasons in some areas. To help you zero in on where to go, here are the five best locations in the world for salmon fishing:
The masu is the smallest of the anadromous salmonid species. It is only found in the waters of the Asian Pacific and is known colloquially as “cherry” salmon by English-speaking anglers. While Japan has populations of two subspecies that inhabit opposite sides of the country, the fishing regulations in Japan make it somewhat difficult to get your line wet. Like rainbow trout, the masu salmon has a sea-run and landlocked variation, with the latter being referred to as trout. With the highest peaks in the nation, the Baekdudaegan Mountain range spans the length of the 400-plus-mile-long Korean peninsula and is the origin of South Korea’s watersheds. All of the country’s major river systems begin in the Baekdudaegan and present the best fishing opportunity for masu salmon. However, because the Korean peninsula is split in half by the North- and South-Korea demilitarized zone, guides are recommended for anglers not familiar with the area. Still, for salmon anglers looking to experience something a little different, catching the masu salmon is a truly unique adventure.
Set in the North Sea on the northwest coast of Europe on the Atlantic Ocean, the main season for Atlantic salmon in Denmark runs from May through October when the salmon populations in the rivers hit their annual peaks. Salmon will hit on a variety of lures, flies, and baits, and the fish reach sizes of up to 60 pounds. One of the best spots in Denmark for catching Atlantic salmon is the island of Fyn. The quaint island village, where the home of Hans Christian Andersen is located, is a magical place for fishing with numerous hot spots within a 30-minute drive from town. Also located on the island is the Denmark fishing lodge, set on the beautiful peninsula of Helnaes. The inn is run by local couple Omar and Valentina Gadeand and offers all-inclusive, full-service Denmark salmon fishing tours as well as day fishing trips.
Known as the “Land of Fire and Ice,” an Iceland fishing tour offers some of the most spectacular fishing for Atlantic salmon on earth. The little island country in the middle of the ocean between the coasts of Norway and Greenland has awe-inspiring rivers and lakes full of big fish that see far less fishing pressure than in most other countries. This is because all fishing rights in Iceland are privately controlled, mainly being leased to fishing outfitters. However, this begs the question of where to fish in Iceland. Fish Partner Angling Tours, Iceland’s premiere fly fishing company, has exclusive access to the Highland rivers of Kaldakvísl and Tungnaá, as well as Lake Thingvallavatn. Fish Partner provides their guest with all-inclusive packages that include airport pickup and drop off, accommodations, all meals, and experienced guides. All fishing gear, from waders to rods, is also provided upon request.
From Canada’s west coast offering all five species of Pacific salmon to the Atlantic salmon on its eastern shoreline, Canada is renowned for its salmon fishing and is second only to Alaska for sheer numbers of fish and species. Salmon of all species on both sides of the country migrate hundreds of miles up Canada’s pristine rivers and streams. The Restigouche River Lodge, set on its world-famous namesake, the Restigouche River, in New Brunswick, is one of Canada’s premier fishing lodges. Restigouche River Lodge holds exclusive fishing rights to a 3.5-mile section of the river, beginning at the junction of the Matapedia River in Quebec. The lodge sits smack in the middle of the amazing water shed and sees thousands of Atlantic salmon, some weighing over 40 pounds, returning home to spawn every year. The lodge offers anglers all-inclusive packages that include accommodations, meals, and river guides.
Saving the best for last, the Last Frontier is both the undisputed king and the great-great granddaddy of all salmon fishing spots on earth. Wild, rugged, and magical, Alaska is home to untold rivers and streams that drain into the ocean in its north, west, and south coastal areas. The state offers long seasons for all five species of Pacific salmon that begin in May and runs through September. Records for Chinook, or “king” salmon, have tipped the scale at nearly 100 pounds! Coho, or silver, salmon have the longest season running from July through September and weigh an average of ten pounds, with some reaching 30 pounds and over 30 inches in length. Sockeye salmon are thought by many to be the best table fair. When it comes to Alaska salmon fishing trips, one of the best spots in the state is the Aniak River which sees migrations of all five salmon species and is home to the Aniak River Lodge. Located just 35 miles upriver from the town of Aniak, the lodge provides private sleeping cabins and a main lodge with dining facilities where their chef prepares gourmet meals for guests. In addition to salmon, Dolly Varden and rainbow trout, Arctic char, northern pike, and sheefish can all be caught on the same stretch of river.
From 50-plus pound Chinook in Alaska to hard-fighting Atlantic salmon of Iceland and Denmark, with all species combined, salmon are the most sought-after game fish on the planet. If you would rather book an all-inclusive trip rather than trying your luck on your own, Wildside Adventures books Denmark salmon fishing tours, Alaska fishing trips, and many other fishing excursions for salmon and other game-fish species all over the world. Owner and operator of Wildside Adventures Travel Service, Joe Rossi, hosted the popular outdoor TV show “Joe’s Wildside Adventures” that aired on FOX, ROOT Sports, and the Sportsman Channel for ten years. Visit Wildside Adventures online at WildsideJoe.com or email or call Joe at 412-352-8703. You can also watch some of Joe’s adventures on his YouTube channel.