Last August, 2021 during the fabled Chinook or king salmon spawning run at Rivers Inlet on the southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada, veteran anglers Gayle and John Gordon were fishing aboard their own boat. They were mooching and drifting with cut-herring bait when a heavy fish hit.
“It was my turn to run the rods while John ran the boat,” Gayle explained to salmontroutsteelheader.com. “We were mooching about 25 feet [down], and when the fish bit, the head shakes were so violent, so strong. Because of the [dark] water color, you can’t see the fish until they break the surface, but I knew that this was something unbelievable!”
The Gordons are long-experienced salmon fishermen, with numerous giants to their credit, including many Chinooks over 50 pounds, and a pair of fish each over 80 pounds. Yet it took Gayle nearly an hour to battle her salmon to the surface, during which time anglers in other fishing boats gathered around to watch the show.
“The people up there are so awesome and very courteous,” she told STS. “Basically, the whole fleet saw us catch it. They made a circle around us and watched—and when we got it, they went nuts. He was brilliant chrome and not a mark on him. What an amazing, amazing fish!”
The Gordons were dedicated to releasing the salmon. So they quickly measured the length and girth of the fish three different times so they could get an accurate estimate of its weight. Then they let the estimated 7-year old salmon go safely back into the inlet.
The Chinook measured 55-inches long and 38-inches wide. Various formulas for calculating the fish’s weight ranged from 100 pounds to 122 pounds, with experts who regularly calculate Chinook weights figuring the fish at a minimum of 105 pounds.
The current IGFA all-tackle record Chinook weighed 97-pounds, 4-ounces. It was caught in Alaska’s Kenai River in May, 1985 by angler Les Anderson. That fish measured 58.5-inches long, with a 37-inch girth, similar measurements to Gayle Gordon’s fish.
While Gayle’s Chinook will never make the IGFA record book because it was not officially weighed, she has satisfaction in knowing her released fish was able to spawn and perhaps have offspring that may one day reach similar gargantuan size.
Because the salmon was measured fast and released immediately to insure its survival, very few photos of it were made, and none truly showing the proportions of such a rare and massive king. But the Gordons provided Advanced Taxidermy in Ontario the Chinook’s measurements, and they made a custom replica mount of Gayle’s fish.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Gayle told STS. “Advanced really nailed it. “I feel so blessed—we were obviously fishing for big fish up there but I never dreamed of getting one that size! I caught the fish, but it really was a team effort with my husband John. After that, I gave him the next three chances on the rods in a row.”