Through a king salmon’s life history, have you ever considered a thought to why the fish struck a certain color whereas ignored others. This is common logic discussed between anglers on why certain fishing trips produced well whereas others not so much. Although king salmon strike lures and flies out of territorial aggression and not foraging, it seems specific color or color combinations trigger their aggressive behavior to be unleashed. Remember these colors we selected are based on personal experiences from expert guides and anglers coupled with the fundamental principles of light as it is transmitted through the water. Based off conversations with some of the best king salmon angling experts across the Pacific Northwest, is another reason these specific colors were selected.
Chartreuse: A dominant color for early-run fish, fish located in lower regions of river systems in proximity to tidewater, and bright conditions.
Pink: Another dominant bright-colored success story. When chartreuse is not producing under prime conditions, select pink. Pink is well presented under sunny skies on clear and glacial river systems, matched with black for secondary color.
Black: This color is highly significant when tying flies or purchasing lures. An additive bonus with black it can be paired with other popular colors in the UV spectrum to trigger strikes.
Royal Blue: A tidewater favorite when paired with chartreuse. Ignoring the fundamentals of physics and the light spectrum for a moment, this color highly aggregates kings, even when in neutral or negative behavior.
Kingfisher Blue: This pigmentation of blue is often referred to as Silver Doctor Blue. It is very effective when paired with either black or chartreuse for a desired color combination. Also, it is super deadly on tidewater kings and fish located within 30 miles of the coast.
Pink/Orange: Underneath sunny conditions on glacial river systems, enough adequate wavelengths of light transmitted from the sun’s ultraviolet rays can penetrate deep enough through turbid water to allow kings to see brighter colors. This is likely the best color combination to use in glacial systems when sunny. Use this color scheme in tying flies, purchasing lures, or painting your own.
Chartreuse/silver: Very effective color scheme in both flies and plugs. Plug fanatics rave about this color combination. Effective under sunny skies in both glacial and clear river systems.
Black/Purple: Dark color combinations work at specific times. This deadly color combination is effective for glacial river systems, overcast conditions, late-run fish, and fish located in middle and upper regions of a river system where their visual mechanisms have physiologically deteriorated.
Black/red: This color combination is highly beneficial in low clear water in which large bright flies may spook fish. Also use this color combination under overcast conditions in both clear and glacial river systems.
Black /blue: This dark color combinations is a traditional favorite amongst all king salmon experts with myself included. On a recent fishing excursion to the Susitna River, periodic cloud cover rolled through all afternoon in which chartreuse-colored flies got previously annihilated. A simple switch to black/blue made a substantial difference. Due to the light changes in the water column, the king’s retina perceives this color relatively fast compared to others. Thus, it is highly effective in both glacial and clear river systems
Honorable Mention Color Combinations: Black/Cerise, Chartreuse/white, Fuchsia/white, chartreuse/Kelly green, and blue/purple.
Author’s Note: This brief introduction to king salmon color selection was an excellent comprehensive to effectively picking the best color and color combinations for the given water and environmental conditions. Thus, there is scientific reasoning outlined in peer reviewed fisheries journals that effectively explains why certain colors stimulate aggression in king salmon whereas others do not. In the next issue of Salmon & Steelhead Journal, I will provide a threefold combination of empirical evidence from angling statistics, brief analytical breakdown of scientific literature on fish vision, and provide a fundamental breakdown on the mechanisms of light in reference to physics.