Dog salmon. Chum salmon. Calico salmon. Keta salmon. These are various names used to identify the fish pictured above.
Since 1985, I’ve fished the Kenai River and feel like I’ve seen most everything. A group this past summer called me the Farmer’s Insurance Guide because “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two…”. Well, I thought I’d seen it all until a September trip with the Bloch family. We’d been catching a few silvers and Dan hooked a fish that clearly wasn’t a silver salmon. I got a glimpse of it during the fight, and because of the dark color I told Dan he had a late, late run sockeye salmon. When the fish finally came to the net I did a double take, or maybe I said something that started out with Holy…., or What the... What I thought was a late, late sockeye salmon turned out to be chum salmon.
I was stumped.
I can vividly remember an instructor at the Kenai River Guide Academy saying the only species of pacific salmon not in the Kenai River are chum salmon. So was this a wayward fish or was it native?
I talked to several friends about our unusual catch. Almost all said they’ve never seen, or heard of chum salmon in the Kenai River. One friend, however, said his brother caught one in 1979 and a Kenaitze elder told him it was the second one he ever heard of being caught. My friend also said there’s a very small run that occurs in Quartz Creek, a tributary of the Kenai. A quick internet search could not confirm or deny this claim.
Wayward, or native, I still don’t know which. All I know is Mother Nature threw a beautiful curve on a fateful September day.