Chinook Salmon

Category: Order: Family: Conservation Status:
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

Freshwater streams and estuaries provide important habitat for chinook salmon

Chinook salmon feed on terrestrial and aquatic insects, amphipods, and other crustaceans while young, and primarily on other fish when older

Resident Killer Whales


Size & Shape: 

Chinook salmon weigh between 1.5 - 30 kg.

Distinctive Markings: 
During the marine phase of a chinook's life, it has black gums, a lightly spotted blue-green back, and a silver spotted, V-shaped tail.

After hatching, chinook remain in fresh water for varying lengths of time, depending on water temperature. In southern areas, some migrate after three months in fresh water while others may remain for up to a year. In northern areas, most chinook spend at least a year in fresh water. These fish are known to migrate vast distances and are found sparsely distributed throughout the Pacific Ocean. The age of chinook adults returning to spawn varies from two to seven years. Many river systems have more than one stock of chinook, some even having spring, fall and winter runs.

Life History


Chinook salmon live in rivers, streams and coastal waters.

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.
Chinook lay their eggs in deeper water with larger gravel, and need cool water with good flow (to supply oxygen) to survive.
Did you know?: 

Chinook salmon are known as piscivorous, meaning that they eat other fish.

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