Discover The Largest King Salmon Ever Caught in California

Written by Ella Coppola
Updated: June 19, 2023
© Dec Hogan/
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Key Points:

  • The record-breaking catch of the largest fish occurred in Alaska, weighing an impressive 126 pounds, surpassing the 85-pound catch in California.
  • These salmon are agile migrators, continuously swimming long distances within rivers to access new aquatic habitats.
  • The dietary preferences of King Salmon vary based on their habitat, but they are predominantly carnivorous fish. Certain King Salmon individuals spend their entire lives in the ocean.

You may have seen photos of massive King Salmon caught up and down rivers in California, but the largest King Salmon caught in the golden state was caught at Battle Creek at an astonishing 85 pounds.

Anderson, California

In Anderson, California, November in 2008, a Fish and Game biologist was boating up and down a creek that drains into the Sacramento River collecting data. It is commonplace to find Salmon carcasses up and down this small creek because it sits as a waterway that feeds into the Coleman Fish Hatchery, the largest in the U.S. As the biologist approached the fish, he realized this was no ordinary fish. Instead, it was a “King” among King Salmon.

The fish the biologist pulled out of the water was the largest recorded in California History. It weighed 85 pounds and was 4 feet long. Although huge, it was dead when it was pulled out of the water where it was found. Biologists speculate that it had recently died after spawning on the river and was nearly 100 pounds while alive. This beats the previous record of the 88-pound fish caught by Lindy Lindberg on the Sacramento River near Red Bluff in 1979 because biologists speculate the fish was over 100 pounds while it was still alive.

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King Salmon usually spawn in the cold clear waters of the Sacramento, McCloud, Pit Rivers, and Battle Creek. However, after the construction of Shasta and the Keswick Dams, combined with the extensive hydroelectric project on Battle Creek, they could not reach their native habitats. As a result, they are now forced to spawn downstream in the inhospitable waters of the Keswick Dam.

keta salmon head sticking up out of the water
The Largest King Salmon caught in California was caught at Battle Creek at an astonishing 85 pounds.

©The Old Major/

Largest King Salmon Caught in the World

The largest ever caught in the World was in Alaska and weighed a whopping 126 pounds (relatively heavier than the 85-pounder in California). This impressive fish was acquired in 1949 in a fish trap near Petersburg. Although this is the largest salmon ever caught, the fish above found in California is also an impressive record.

About King Salmon

This fish truly lives up to its name as the largest Salmon in North America and the most valuable. Chinook or “King Salmon” are anadromous fish native to the North Pacific Ocean and the River systems of western North America. The Chinook salmon gets its common name from the Chinookan people, a combined group of several Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest in the United States who speak the Chinookan language.

These salmon are quick travelers and constantly swim long distances through rivers to reach new bodies of water. This is why you can find them in California and Alaska. You can also find them swimming through Asian rivers in Japan and Siberia and even in farther places worldwide where they are not native, like New Zealand.

The fishing industry for giant king salmon is enormous and includes wild captures and aquaculture fisheries. Unfortunately, King Salmon is tough to catch, so it has become a competitive sport.

King Salmon
Chinook or “King Salmon” are anadromous fish native to the North Pacific Ocean and the River systems of western North America.

©Dan Thornberg/

Size and Appearance

The average king salmon weighs 15 to 25 pounds and is 38 inches long. The smallest salmon is the pink salmon, which averages 3 to 5 pounds. In addition to their large size, they are also colorful and shiny fish. They have blue-green or red-purple coloration on the top of the king Salmons head. These fish also have black spots and markings on their tail. The characteristic that makes these fish unique is that they have black and silvery marks on the upper half of their bodies. You may be used to seeing a Salmon’s insides as pink, but the meat on the inside depends on what they eat. Therefore, some King Salmon are pink inside, while others are white.


The diet of King Salmon depends on where they live, but they are primarily carnivorous fish. Some king salmon spend their whole life inside the ocean, while others live mainly in freshwater rivers and creeks; some even dwell in lakes. They are primarily born in freshwater but migrate to oceans as they mature. Adult King Salmon eat shrimp, pilchards, herring, small squids, and other small fish. Young fish consume plankton, insects, larvae, and crabs.


Despite having many different kinds of predators, the population is stable. The King Salmons’ most common predators live in water, but some of their predators live outside of water, such as grizzly bears. Grizzly bears hunt for King Salmon outside of water, but this is more common in North America. Their aquatic predators are seals, sea lions, whales, and sharks. Their primary predator in the water is Bass.

King salmon
The king salmon’s primary predator in the water is Bass.


Where is Alaska Located on a Map?

Alaska, positioned at the northwest tip of North America, is a U.S. state that borders Canada’s British Columbia and Yukon territories to the east. Notably, it forms a maritime boundary with Russia’s Chukotka Autonomous Okrug through the Bering Strait.

Here is Alaska on a map:

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About the Author

My name is Ella Coppola. I graduated from Southern Methodist University with degrees in Journalism and Ethics in Dallas, Texas. I'm a huge animal lover and have two dogs named Charlie and Meatball.

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