Chinook salmon is a favored fish on the West Coast. It is not only prized for its exquisite flavor, but is also the state fish of Alaska. Chinook (scientific name: Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is one of the top sport fish species anglers dream to catch. Weighing on average 20-30 pounds and being fierce fighters, Chinook are one of the hardest fish to catch. If you are considering Chinook fishing, you may want to learn more about the species (their habitat, appearance, life cycle phases etc.). In this brief article we will try to answer the most frequently asked questions regarding the King Salmon. We hope you’ll enjoy reading it!
What Do Chinook Salmon Look Like?
Chinook or a King Salmon (also known as tyee salmon, black salmon, blackmouth, winter salmon and Columbia River salmon) are blue-green on the back and top of the head, have white bellies and silver sides. The distinctive traits of these are black spots on the upper part of the body and black or gray mouth. Generally, Chinook reach up to 36 inches and weigh up to 30 pounds. However, huge size fish are not rare phenomena (58 inches and 129 pounds).
Chinook Salmon hatch in freshwater bodies and spend a year or so there. Later they migrate to the salt water (ocean). They stay there for 1 to 5 years and then come back to natal fresh waters to spawn and die. During this stage of their life cycle, King salmon change their coloring: their bellies and fins can turn red, copper or deep grey color (the tone depends on the individual’s age).
How to Tell a Female Chinook from a Male?
The adult Chinook males who are ready to spawn have hooked upper jaws, while females have blunt noses. Another difference is the ridge along the back part of the spine. Males’ backs are bumpier and begin behind the head. Chinook females don’t have this distinctive trait. The ridge becomes more prominent with age.
How Do They Spawn?
When it’s time to spawn, female scoops out nests in the medium or small gravel in the river bottom. She will choose deep fast moving waters, since these will help the eggs to survive and provide more oxygen for them. Once the nests are ready female will lay out up to 14,000 eggs. Then these eggs are fertilized by the male.
What Do They Eat?
A fry (or a recently hatched Chinook) usually consumes plankton and then switches to insects. Once the salmon has migrated to the salt water, its diet expands to crustaceans, squids and herring. When it’s high time to spawn Chinook salmon swim dozens of kilometers back home. During this period they eat nothing.
Knowing the basic facts about this gigantic Pacific Ocean dweller will definitely help you to understand the behavior of the species. Knowing nutrition preferences and common habitat of the fish you will easily find the best spot and bait for your unforgettable Chinook fishing experience.