General information

Guides for Identification of North Slope Fish

The following chart may help in salmon identification.

Basic Characteristics of Salmon
Common/ Inupiat Name Spotting Average wt. (lbs) Distinctive Characters Occurrence on North Slope
Chum (Dog)
No 10-14 Pale bars on sides; no spots; silver sides; can be quite large; 18-28 gill rakers Common
Pink (Humpback)
Yes 2-5 Oval spots back and tail; spawning male has ‘hump’ Common
King (Chinook)
Yes 25-40 Large size; spots on back and tail; lower gums black Uncommon but regular
Silver (Coho) Yes* 6-12 *Spots on back and upper lobe of tail; gums not black Very Rare; no records on NS
Red (Sockeye) No 6-10 No spots on body or fins; spawners have greenish heads; 30-40 gill rakers Uncommon but regular

Joshua Bacon holding a King Salmon (Iqalugruaq) caught by James ‘Matu’ Matumeak in a net at Piqniq in 2006. The fish weighed in at 37 lbs and was 44 inches long. Photo: Rita Frantz Acker

Unusual Fish Sightings

Sleeper Shark

A 229-cm long Pacific sleeper shark was found on the beach near Point Hope in 1998. This sighting was the first documented record of a shark in the Chukchi Sea and the first report of a shark other than a Greenland shark above the Arctic Circle. Read more about this finding in the following article.

Northern Wolffish

Found on the beach, southwest of Barrow about six miles, by Charles Maasak Brower on November 14, 2009. The fish is a Northern Wolffish (Anarhichas denticulatus) and this is the first record of this species in Alaska. Andres Lopez, Curator of Fishes at the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks, confirmed the specimen and states that their “range is centered around the northern Atlantic. The Barrow specimen is one of the very few that show up along the Arctic coast of North America.”

Northern Wolffish. Photo: Craig George

How to Set Nets for Under-Ice Fishing

Preparing holes in ice to place nets at Teshekpuk Lake. Photo: Brian Person Pulling net full of fish from ice at Ikroagvik Lake. Photo: Leslie Pierce

Banner photo credit: Nicole Kanayurak

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