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Salmon Shark Fishing

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

Salmon sharks, sometimes described as a mini great white due to appearance similarities, can grow to over 10 feet long and in excess of 660 pounds. An apex predator, the salmon shark feeds on salmon, squid, sablefish, herring and pollock; eating about 8% of their weight in food each day.

salmon shark fishing alaska
salmon shark fishing
salmon shark fishing Sitka alaska

Fast Facts: Alaska Fish & Game

  • Size: Average is 6-8 feet, unconfirmed reports of salmon sharks reaching up to 14 ft and almost 1000 pounds!

  • Big Liver: Can account for 25% of its total body weight; Lack a swim bladder, but use their liver for buoyancy

  • Body temperature regulation: vascular counter-current heat exchangers (arteries and veins are in extremely close proximity to each other) - Minimizes heat lost, allowing salmon sharks to thrive in cold waters.

  • Tail with a double keel: a second, short ridge running along the upper part of the lobe of the tail... unusual among sharks (the only other double-keeled tail is on the porbeagle shark)

  • Max age: 25 years for males, 17 years for females

  • Salmon predators: Role in King salmon declines? Remote temperature reading from tagged King salmon indicate they have eaten by sharks. Interesting article.

Here's our story on how we caught a salmon shark:

salmon shark fishing alaska

It was September 6th, 2019 and our season had just ended. We had some friends in town, another captain who wanted to get out fun fishing, and the weather was perfect.

The Silver salmon bite was slow in the morning, putting 3 in the boat in about an hour in a half. We decided to get out and do some deep sea fishing for black cod. We get out to the spot and start dropping and one of the lines suddenly stops going out at ~450 ft (we were in 2000 ft of water). Something was off, so we pushed the power on the electric reel to see what's going on. The line catches up quickly and suddenly the line stops coming in. Actually, now the line is being pulled out. This is when it was realized that, ok, we have fish on here. Is it a big blue shark? I sure hope not... Big King salmon? Can't be... The power on the reel continues to work hard but no line is coming in. The power is turned off and we start to manually bring it in. About 100 feet is gained manually until we turn the power back on the electric. It's gaining again. It finally makes it way to the surface. Wrapped upside down in our long leader, a small - medium sized salmon shark!

salmon shark fishing sitka alaska
salmon shark fishing
salmon shark fishing
salmon shark fishing alaska

What's the mark around the fish and around the dorsal fin?

A plastic strap used to close wetlock fish boxes. No idea how it got on the fish but it looks like it had been there for quite a while.

salmon shark

There was over 30 years of charter fishing experience on the boat that day and none of us had ever caught and retained a salmon shark. All of us have hooked one before, but never got it in the boat. We all were pretty jacked up about it!

salmon shark fishing

Taste? We had some friends take some home fresh and they cooked it up the day after fishing and they said it was pretty good! We had ours processed and will try it out soon. It is said to take like swordfish.

You just never know what you're going to get fishing in Sitka, Alaska!

A special thanks to Madyson Paige Photography for the photos.

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