Chinook salmon have just recently started populating rivers in South America, namely Chile and Argentina. Two fish hatcheries in southern Chile released thousands of Chinook smolts. The origin of the Chinook are from tributaries of the Columbia river on the Washington and Oregon border. As recently as 2004 Chinook started being reported in a few different rivers. What is really interesting is how quickly the Chinook population is increasing here. While Chinook stocks are decreasing every year in California and Washington and parts of Canada and Alaska, they are doing just fine in Chile and Argentina. They have been reported in 10 different rivers in Chile and 3 in Argentina.
Chinook were first introduced during the 1980’s, but in a great measure during the 1990’s as an experiment. It didn’t take long for them to start populating. Chinook usually go back to the same rivers they were born in. However, a small percentage of the population spawn in other rivers planting Chinook in streams that are not used to supporting them. Because having Chinook in these streams is so new to biologists, no one knows quite what the effect on the environment will be. The rapid spread of Chinook in these areas has shown what can come of not having dams, chemicals leaking in rivers, having completely wild stocks and also a natural environment for the Chinook to grow up in can do for expanding populations.
Fishing for Chinook here is mostly done in the rivers. Most people use spoons and other lures, however they will take a fly as well. I had the experience of fishing just below a lake where the returning Chinook were fairly dense. The local population knew they were there as well and will come out in good numbers to fish them. We were fishing an area that was supposed to be catch and release, however Chilean’s don’t pay much attention to rules unless there is enforcement and at this time there clearly wasn’t any. This was quite frustrating considering we traveled 5 hours out of Punta Arenas to get some more remote fishing. You can pretty much count that when there are fish, it won’t take long before there are fisherman, no matter how remote you think you are.