King Among Kings – The Legend of the 85-Pound Chinook Salmon Found on Battle Creek

You may have seen plenty of photos of massive Chinook salmon (also known as king salmon) caught on the Sacramento River. During the popular salmon runs in Northern California, fishermen are adept at circulating their trophies on social media, showing how they can land the biggest, baddest fish in the river.

There’s one legendary salmon that eluded those master fishermen, concluding its life in the waters of Battle Creek – at an astounding 85-pounds.

It was the first week of November in 2008 when a Fish and Game biologist noticed what he thought could be a dead salmon along the banks of the creek that feeds the Sacramento River near Anderson, California. Salmon carcasses are prevalent on this small creek, since it sits as the waterway feeding the Coleman Fish Hatchery, the largest salmon hatchery in the continental United States. As the biologist approached the carcass, not yet completely decomposed from the grim process of nature, he noticed that this fish was different – it was a king among kings.

What the biologist pulled out of the water was nearly the largest salmon ever recorded in California history – an 85-pound beast at 4-feet long. Biologists speculate that the fish was over 90 pounds when it died, surpassing the record of 88 pounds caught by Lindy Lindberg on the Sacramento River near Red Bluff in 1979.

These salmon historically spawned in the cold, clear waters of the Upper Sacramento, McCloud and Pit Rivers as well as in Battle Creek. The construction of Shasta and Keswick Dams, combined with an extensive hydroelectric project on Battle Creek, blocked access to their native habitats and forced them to spawn in the inhospitable waters downstream of Keswick Dam.

At the Coleman Fish Hatchery, approximately 14 million salmon and steelhead species are spawned year round in order to continue salmon populations in California. Once the salmon spawn in the natural spawning grounds, they die of natural causes.

Salmon possess the extraordinary ability to sense their native rivers from more than a thousand miles away in the open ocean. When it is time to spawn, they need no directions. Humans have tried and failed to understand this without success, and even the best GPS units cannot compare with a steelhead’s innate ability to find home. Every salmon knows where home is.

The 85-pound salmon remains a legend for fish enthusiasts and biologists throughout Northern California. Unfortunately, we may never see salmon of that size again on the west coast.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. This story from 2008 leaves out the topical reality that the salmon season on the Sacramento River is entirely shut down–and the hatchery capacity to produce a viable run of salmon has been curtailed by State Biologists to protect an Endangered run of wild fish that will never come back because of dams, non-native fish predation (striped bass and shad) and other reasons. Salmon runs are a part of the human environment. So are dams. When the dams were built a promise was made to keep the salmon runs.Dams on the Klamath can be removed to restore fisheries. The Shasta Dam cannot be removed without removing tens of thousands of people living in the flood plain and California’s valuable Agriculture industry. The Endangered Species Act allows for species that are not going to recover to blink out if the cost is unreasonable. Was the 90 lb King a hatchery fish or a native?

  2. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this,
    like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could
    do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of
    that, this is fantastic blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.

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