Sockeye salmon are the preferred species for most subsistence users, due to the rich orange-red color of their flesh. The most common form of processing these fish by subsistence users is canning, freezing, and smoking.
Sockeye salmon are available in the Karluk River from June through September. Sockeye in the Karluk River drainage spawn from August through November with about one-third spawning in Karluk Lake and the remaining population spawning in tributary streams and the upper river. Sockeye salmon bound for the Karluk River are harvested in commercial, subsistence, and sport fisheries.
Coho salmon are a premier sport fish and the run on the Karluk is typically between August and November. In fresh water they hit salmon eggs, flies, spoons, or spinners. Coho are spectacular fighters and the most acrobatic of the Pacific salmon. On light tackle, Coho provide a thrilling and memorable fishing experience.
Mature adults have a pronounced red skin color with darker backs and average 28 inches (71 cm) and 7 to 11 pounds (3.2 to 5.0 kg) occasionally reaching 36 pounds (16 kg). Mature females may be darker than males, with both showing a pronounced hook on the nose.
The Karluk and Ayakulik rivers support the only populations of native Chinook salmon in the Kodiak Island Archipelago. The fish average 20-25 pounds (44 to 55 kg), and a king over 35 pounds (77 kg) is uncommon. Chinook salmon return to both systems from late May through mid-July, with 50% of the immigration usually past weirs located in the lower rivers around June 15. By June 1, only 5% of the run has entered the river, and the run is 90% over by July.
In the Karluk, Chinook salmon spawn from the outlet of Karluk Lake downstream to just above the lagoon. Few, if any, king salmon enter Karluk Lake or the tributaries to the lake. Spawning occurs from mid- August through mid-September