80+ lb. salmon carcass found!

Giant King Salmon
This mammoth, record-class king salmon was found dead on Oct. 30 in Battle Creek, a major tributary to Northern California’s Sacramento River by a crew of biologists surveying the creek for spawners.

“The length of this giant was 1290 mm (50.7 inches!) and I can’t remember the massive girth, but a weight calculator gave an estimate of 85 pounds!” says Matt Johnson, of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, who sent to photo in to be entered in our Smoker of the Year Contest. “Some lucky dog might have broken the state record had there been a season this year!”

The California state record for Chinook salmon is 88 pounds, a fish taken from the Sacramento River by O.H. Lindberg on 11/21/1979. There’s no telling how big this Battle Creek fish would have been when he was fresh and not spawned out, but he obviously had record potential!

My mind reels at the thought of potentially hooking him down in the lower river where I used to fish when we had a season…down where the fish are all bright and have sea lice. I’m guessing he would have torn us up and left us heartbroken had we hooked him, but I sure would have loved to had the chance!

In any case, I hope this big guy did ‘the deed’ many times and spread some good DNA around before kicking the bucket!

Here’s another look at it…According to Johnson, the first shot was snapped by Doug Killam, Associate DFG Fish Biologist and the guy straining to hold up the monster was Dale Morrison of the Pacific States Marines Fisheries Commission. This photo is of Killiam himself. Any way you slice it, this big sucker was the King of kings!!

80-pound Sacramento River king

Of course, this king is a small bright spot in an otherwise dismal season (again). There are hardly any kings in the Valley this fall — Nimbus Hatchery on the American River has next to none, the total fall run on the Feather is something like 6,000 fish (down from over 100,000 not too many years back) and the Sac system is also a total bust — including normally prolific Battle Creek, where this lunker called home.

“The fall-run escapement into Battle Creek this year is totally pathetic,” says Johnson. “The last update I heard was around 12,000 fish. This number represents the count through the “peak ” entry period of late September/early October. Hopefully this rain will bring a few more fish in!”


  1. Karen Glover says

    If you want to do something about the diminishing salmon, please write your California National Resources Department and advocate for protections on dam turbines. Here is a sample letter including information on how much damage these turbines are doing.

    California Natural Resources Agency
    1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
    Sacramento, CA 95814

    John Laird, California Natural Resources Secretary,

    I am writing to encourage you to take immediate action to stop the killing of millions of Sacramento splittail and thousands of threatened spring run Chinook salmon by the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources.

    One of the greatest fish kills in California history took place this May when the state and federal water project pumps on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta slaughtered just under 6 million Sacramento splittail and 14,929 spring run Chinook salmon.

    The federal Central Valley Project (CVP) pumps took 5,480,531 Sacramento splittail in May 2011, while the State Water Project pumps killed 506,356 splittail. That’s a total of 5,986,887 splittail, nearly 6 million of these native minnows that are found only in the Central Valley and Delta.

    The number of threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon killed in May is also very alarming. The CVP pumps took 7,480 salmon, while the SWP pumps killed 7,449 chinooks, a total of 14,929 fish!

    The daily totals of fish “salvaged” is sourced from: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/delta/data/salvage.

    It is not reasonable to excuse state and federal agencies from taking responsibility for this. If a fisherman is caught without a license or with a few fish over the limit, he or she will be fined and prosecuted, but if 6 million fish are killed in the Delta pumps, it is dismissed? Why have state and federal contractors refused to install fish screens in the state and federal pumps, as mandated under the CalFed Record of Decision to protect fish? I would like to know what you and your agency is doing to address this.


    (Your name and address)

  2. chris says

    IT’S plain and simple, kill seals stop pulling nets in the oc. The chinook will come back in biger numbers. Tha’t will also bring up the count of outher fish that hav saw big declines in the past 5 to 10 years. No one has the bal– to admit this would work and two maney dam env. out ther that won to save every living thing but ther own human race. Fish and maney outher animals on this earth will see declineing numbers do to animal lovers,tree hugers,EXT. Big city people cant see and dont giv a hoot about the truth on declining numbers, if thay can see a $$ thats all that maters. Sorrey so negitive but man up ppl and tell it like it is dont coat every thing with sugar.

  3. Bubba Silva says

    King Of all Kings someone said, And man is that true.. Im only 21 years old but have been fishing Steelhead and Salmon religiously since i could Hold a pole… In the years of fishing I hae deffineley seen a Huge Decline in Salmon in the Entire state.. Obviously this Fish is Great to see and i guess its some hope.. But untill Everyone gets head out clouds and stop listening to what News, Paper, Websites, and Gov’t says is causing salmon Decline,, When i have kids of my own Salmon wil be same as Dinasours!!!! Extinct.. The Ocean past few years deff has been out of whack but fish will adapt just like they have for years,, the same days when Eel, Sac Valley rivs.. and any Tributaries in between were thriving. The Facts are the Gov’t and Water Agencys are slowly Killing the Salmon (intentionally). Pretty simple, No salmon means no controversey or limit of Water the Gov’t gets to Sell and Suck out the Rivers. Untill Everyone stops being so nieve and Using Own heads, instead of Listening what theyre told. ……. I hope that everyone reading this, esapically the dads out therer,, Fight Hard for these fish. I pray all time that in near future After Nor Cals first lil Storm. I get to Take off work.. hook up Boat and Call School for Son/Daughter stating they sick (just like my dad did for me). Kwikfish wobbling, Roe Backbouncing and Salmon in the Box.. No better Bonding and Memories in world. Thanks to all and sorry for Message length

    • Bob l says

      Same here, use to fish the S/Main fork of the Eel when it was good and you could keep them…those politicians and own self interests are killing our fish..there siding with big water corps..

  4. Dan Ra says

    i lived in sterling, AK 6 yrs and had a boat for 2 of those years. Never caught a king over 40 lbs. It is awesome to see a massive king in CA. The CA DFG Biologists, sure have an awesome photo to hang on their wall.

  5. Danny says

    I lived in CA 47 yrs but never fished the sac but a few times for steelhead on the American. What or who has contributed to the decline of salmon on the Sac system? i knew of wars going on with salt water but sure would like to know what have been some major causes to wreak a fishery. politics as usual. amazing that only in CA can a fishery of the size of the sacramento system be in jepordy because of lousy management and politics or were the salmon really been killed off or taken different routes in salt water? I haven’t been up on the Wars since i moved out in 2004

    • says

      The short version: Ocean conditions were horrible for a few years there…warm, no upwelling and very little food. That’s all changed now and it looks pretty alive out there. However, water diversions are also a major factor and the demands for water continue to grow…

  6. james says

    wow that is a monster and one beautiful fish, is it true no salmon again this year please dont say its so ive been waiting patiently for years now and pray for the day they open it again, someone let me know

  7. mark weiss says

    Chrome Bars baby ! hey need to put that video back up uhhh salmon on kwikfish that video gets me pumped up where it go ?

  8. Dan Littleton says

    What a magnificent Chinook salmon!!! When a fish like this shows up, it does provide a glimmer of hope to an otherwise destitute fishery. What he lacked in length, he certainly made up in girth! I think we should imagine he did indeed spawn and will be a living part of the 2014 / 2015 healthy run we would all love to see. I was on the Kenai this year, and it would have been one of the largest fish caught on the river!

  9. says

    Hey JD,

    I was actually one of the two biologists to find this fish, the other was Ryan Revnack who also received no credit. Anyway, I though you would like to know that this fish had indeed spawned in a small braid of Battle Creek. It weighed every bit of 85lbs, it took everything that I had to lift the bugger. When we read the scales it appeared to be a 5 year old(not an expert scale reader), I do believe that this could have well been the state record, however contrary to many of the beliefs listed above I think that it is great that the season was closed giving the few salmon that are left a chance to rebound the population. I can just see the image of this thing swimming around with 2 gibs minnows, a blue fox, and several yards of leader line trailing behind him. Looking forward to fall.

    Take care,

    • says

      Wow…no kidding…that’s cool! I’ll have to grill ya more about it when I see ya in the fall. Thanks for the insight!

  10. jamarco says

    who said there isn’t seals in the river?!? Uhh not me! Check out steamboat slough when u get a chance! What a salmon !! Damn wish i had the chance to land that monster!

  11. dan lizardo says

    i really miss being able to fish for these magnificent creatures during the fall nature had provided us with. in my area the yuba the feather no water no salmon no steelhead no stripers etc etc it hurts every thing and every one. especially us sportsman

  12. Josh T. says

    That just blows my mind that something that big could be swimming in that tiny looking creek. It doesn’t even look like the water is that deep…is it?

  13. Clay C. Glover says

    The last comment said that “The seals and environmentalists have stopped all of the fishing,” Is that true? I fish the great lake tribs, have not had great runs these last couple of years, but there are not any friggin’ seals or movie stars with signs standing in the river. We do have to deal with “meat snaggers” who are in abundance on some waters, their only concept of “Catch and Release” being that of fighting over the last can of beer that is floating in the cooler and then throwing the empty in the creek. I say we put the movie stars with the signs, a bunch of meat snaggers with their coolers and a squadron of seals on their own little river, let survival of the fittest rule.

  14. says

    Yes tht is a BIG fish. Too bad the seals and environomentals have stopped all fishing. I hope they don’t start to plant any!!! Makes the fishing in the Great Lakes all the better, we have to pay for the gas some how.

  15. Mark Mailander says

    The dimensions you have are correct.
    1290mm x 850mm (51″ x “33.5” rounded) = 85 lb fish.

    JD, I enjoy reading your fishing articles.


  16. says

    No, not a typo…just going with what the biologist told me. All I know is it’s one big fish whatever it weighed, though the length does seem a bit short. He did, however, state that it had a massive girth…

    In any case, let’s just hope he spawned before he died…It would be a huge crime if that fish didn’t make babies because the water was too low/warm!

  17. says

    No, not a typo…just going with what the biologist told me. All I know is it’s one big fish whatever it weighed, though the length does seem a bit short. He did, however, state that it had a massive girth…

  18. Mark Mailander says

    Anyway to confirm the length and girth of this giant king salmon. The article states the length is only 50.7 inches. I would assume a fish of this size in the picture would be around 57 inches. Perhaps the artichle has a typo?

  19. says

    What a great fish! It made a full circle of life! From Battle Creek as a juvenile, all the way down the Sacramento River system, through the Delta, through the San Francisco bay, and out into the Ocean. It missed all the Stripers, Seals, Man and other predators when he was growing up He missed the commercial fishermen. He missed the Gill nets. He found plenty of food to eat in the ocean. It looks like he stayed in the ocean a little longer than his fellow Salmon to get so big? He made his full circle back through the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Delta, up the Sacramento River and swam a couple 100 miles to where he was born. To spawn and rejuvenate his legacy. Look at the size of that fish. Way to go fish!!!!!!!!!! There is still hope the runs will come back! MJP

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