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April 21, 2018  |  Login

Chinook Salmon
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

What Are They Like?

Alaska's state fish, the Chinook salmon, is the largest of all salmon species. Adults grow to 33-36 inches (84-91 centimeters) in length and weigh an average of 30 pounds (14 kilograms). Some captured individuals have even been reported to weigh over 110 pounds (50 kilograms). Chinook salmon have a streamlined body that is iridescent green or blue-green, and have silvery undersides. Adults have black spots on their backs and dorsal fins.

Where Do They Live?

Chinook salmon typically live in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. They can be found in coastal areas from Northern California to Alaska. They have also been spotted in Russian and Japanese waters.

Did You Know?
Unlike the females of the species, male Chinook salmon have hooked noses and ridged backs.

How Are Babies Made?

Chinook salmon breed in freshwater rivers or springs, typically during the summer or autumn months. A female will dig a nesting hole and lay thousands of eggs. The male will then fertilize the eggs. Both will guard over the nest until the eggs hatch.

What Do They Eat?

Adult Chinook salmon feed on small fish. Young Chinook salmon eat small crustaceans, aquatic insects and amphipods.

Did You Know?
The Chinook salmon is also known as "King Salmon," and is the most prized sporting fish in Alaska.

What Do They Do?

Chinook salmon are anadromous, meaning they will spend significant portions of their lives in both freshwater and saltwater habitats. They hatch in fresh water and will stay in the main river area for about a year. During the next spring, they transform into smolt (meaning they become physiologically adapted to salt water) and migrate to the saltwater ocean. They will spend from one to five years feeding in the ocean, and eventually return to fresh water areas to spawn.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) lists two specific populations of Chinook salmon as "endangered" and seven populations as "threatened." The biggest threats to Chinook salmon are overfishing and habitat loss. The Chinook salmon is a vital food source for many animals, including bears, seals, orca whales and large birds of prey. A significant reduction in Chinook salmon numbers would have negative consequences for these animals.

What's Being Done?

In 2000, the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) was established to conserve, restore and protect salmon and their habitats. So far, several of the projects implemented by the PCSRF have been successful in protecting currently healthy populations, preventing extinctions and improving the status of Endangered Species Act-listed species.


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