Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

King Salmon, tyee salmon, black salmon, Columbia River Salmon


Distinction and Description:

Males:   Distinctive hooked nose at the top of their mouth and a ridged back.   Females have no hooked nose, and no ridge. Chinook are bluish green on the back and top of the head, with silvery sides and black spots on body and tail, and a grayish black mouth.


Monogamous/polygamous.   Male and Female Chinooks pair up to breed. Some also say that after males spawn, they seek additional mates.

Spawning cycle:   From late summer to late fall Chinooks go upstream to larger, deeper, faster-moving streams and rivers than other salmon do to spawn. Female digs a redd (or nesting hole) and deposits eggs and male releases sperm. Male and Female guard the eggs to protect them from predators until they die, before the eggs even hatch.   Eggs hatch 90-150 days after they are deposited, and become fry. Fry stay in freshwater for 12-18 months, then they travel downstream to estuaries where they stay as smolts for up to 189 days. Then they began their journey to the open ocean.   They can travel the ocean for up to 8 years before returning to their natal stream (birthplace) to spawn.*

**Jack Salmon return to fresh water a few years earlier than Chinook Salmon and only grow to about half the size.


Trophic Level Status:

Predator. Chinook Salmon eat insects, amphipods, and crustaceans while young, and when they get older they primarily eat smaller fish.


Pacific Ocean and Pacific Coastlines.   Alaska, Western Canada, Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Russia, Japan, New Zealand*, and the Great Lakes**. Chinook Salmon changes its habitat over its life span: freshwater rivers and streams, to estuaries, to open ocean, and finally back to its birthplace or natal stream.

**Chinook Salmon were introduced to New Zealand in 1800’s without much success. Farming of Chinook Salmon in New Zealand began in the 1970’s.   New Zealand now accounts for half of the global production of Chinook Salmon, and exports half of it, mostly to its largest market: Japan.

***In the 1960’s Chinook’s were introduced to a few of the Great Lakes along with Coho Salmon to control the alewife, a nuisance fish from the Atlantic.   They are now harvested in these lakes by sports fishermen.



Chinook Salmon migrate thousand of miles before returning to their birthplace.



Chinook are preyed upon by many different animals. Orcas, Seals, Bears, Birds, and their biggest predator: humans.


Interests/Interesting Facts:

Chinook Salmon are very active. That is why sports fishermen enjoy targeting this particular salmon, they put up a mean fight when hooked.

Valued also for nutritional content, Chinooks, like other salmon species, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Chinooks can grow to over 4 ft long and reach over 130 pounds!


“White’ King Variation: About 1% of all Chinooks caught are white-fleshed, where the meat is not the same brilliant red color as normal, it’s a very light colored pink, almost white. Years ago people regarded these strange fishes as garbage, today it is a delicacy found in top restaurant’s menus.   No one really knows why the meat is white, it is still being debated. Some say its diet, some says its genetic.



“Let me pose you a question. Can farm-raised salmon be organic when its feed has nothing to do with its natural diet, even if the feed itself is supposedly organic, and the fish themselves are packed tightly in pens, swimming in their own filth?’ — Mark Bittman (American Author)

“You ain’t supposed to get salmon when they’re swimming upstream to spawn. But if you’re hungry, you do.’– Loretta Lynn (American Musician)

White King Salmon
All photos were taken from this site:

Amberly Weiss

3 thoughts on “Chinook Salmon”

  1. Great use of maps on your profile, gives a great idea of the location of the Chinook salmon. I thought I knew quite a bit about the Chinook salmon, but your profile taught me much more than I ever knew!

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