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CHINOOK SALMON

DID YOU KNOW?Chinook salmon may spend between 1 to 8 years in the ocean before returning to their natal streams to spawn, though the average is 3 to 4 years.

SCIENTIFIC NAME:Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, from the Greek words onkos (hook), rynchos (nose) Male and tshawytscha (the common name for the species in Siberia and Alaska).

COMMON NAMES: King salmon, tyee salmon, Columbia River salmon, black salmon, chub salmon, hook bill salmon, winter salmon and blackmouth.

DESCRIPTION: The chinook salmon is blue-green on the back and top of the head with silvery sides and white bellies; black spots on the upper half of its body with gray/black mouth coloration. Up to 58 inches in length and weigh up to 129 pounds; although chinook salmon is generally up to 36 inches in length and weigh up to 30 pounds.

LIFE CYCLE: Spawning in streams that are larger and deeper than other salmon utilize, chinook salmon spawn from late summer to late fall, depending on the run. Fry and smolts usually stay in freshwater from 1 to 18 months before travelling downstream to estuaries, where they remain up to 189 days. Chinook salmon spend 1 to 8 years at sea before returning to natal streams to spawn.

RANGE: Chinook salmon range from Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, to Santa Barbara, California. Spawning and rearing chinook are found in most of the rivers in this region, with significant runs in the Columbia River, Rogue River, and Puget Sound.

HABITAT AND ECOLOGY: Freshwater streams and estuaries provide important habitat for chinook salmon. They feed on terrestrial and aquatic insects, amphipods, and other crustaceans while young, and primarily on other fish when older. Eggs are laid in deeper water with larger gravel, and need cool water and good water flow (to supply oxygen) to survive. Mortality of chinook salmon in the early life stages is usually high due to natural predation and human induced changes in habitat, such as siltation, high water temperatures, low oxygen conditions, loss of stream cover and reductions in river flow. These impacts are primarily caused by poor forestry practices, dams, and water diversions.Estuaries and their associated wetlands provide vital nursery areas for the chinook prior to its departure to the open ocean. Wetlands not only help buffer the estuary from silt and pollutants, but also provide important feeding and hiding areas. The draining and filling of wetlands and the pollution of the estuary from industrial discharges and run-off, negatively impact chinook salmon.

ECONOMIC VALUE: Chinook salmon is highly valued by commercial fishermen, despite their scarcity relative to other Pacific salmon along most of the Pacific coast. Chinook salmon is also an important subsistence fish and a valuable recreational resource.


Revised 12/16/96