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Chinook in water Chinook
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

Other names: king, tyee, blackmouth (immature)
Average size: 10-15 lbs, up to 135 lbs

Chinook salmon are the largest of the Pacific salmon, with some individuals growing to more than 100 pounds. These huge fish are rare; most mature chinook are less than 50 pounds.


Most chinook spawn in large rivers, such as the Columbia or Snake, although they will also use smaller streams with sufficient water flow. They tend to spawn in the mainstem of streams where the water flow is high. Because of their size they are able to spawn in larger gravel than most salmon.

Chinook spawn on both sides of the Cascade Range, some traveling hundreds of miles upstream to reach their spawning grounds. As a result of the distance needed to travel, these fish enter streams early and comprise the spring and summer runs. Fall runs spawn closer to the ocean and tend to use small coastal streams. All chinook reach their spawning grounds by fall, in time to spawn.


Depending on the race of chinook and the location, chinook fry rear in freshwater for three months to a year. Spring chinook tend to stay in streams for a full year; fish in northern areas tend to stay in the stream longer as well, primarily because the streams are less productive and growth is slower. Rearing chinook fry use mainstems of rivers as well as their tributaries.


Alevin - The lifestage of a salmonid between egg and fry. An alevin looks like a fish with a huge pot belly, which is the remaining egg sac. Alevin remain protected in the gravel riverbed, obtaining nutrition from the egg sac until they are large enough to fend for themselves in the stream.

Anadromous - Fish that live part or the majority of their lives in saltwater, but return to freshwater to spawn.

Emergence - The act of salmon fry leaving the gravel nest.

Fry - A juvenile salmonid that has absorbed its egg sac and is rearing in the stream; the stage of development between an alevin and a parr.

Kype - The hooked jaw many male salmon develop during spawning.

Parr - Also known as fingerling. A large juvenile salmonid, one between a fry and a smolt.

Smolt - A juvenile salmonid which has reared in-stream and is preparing to enter the ocean. Smolts exchange the spotted camouflage of the stream for the chrome of the ocean.

Substrate - The material which comprises a stream bottom.


Chinook (King) Picture
  • Mouth is dark with a black gum line
  • Large, sharp teeth
  • Spots on both lobes of tail
  • Large spots on back


Chinook (King) Head The chinook has a dark mouth and black gums at the base of its teeth. Immature chinook are known as a "blackmouth".


Chinook (King) Tail Both the upper and lower lobes of the tail are covered with spots and silver is prominent.

Chinook Populations List
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Fun Facts
Did you know?
Coho and sockeye are found in freshwater year-round; coho in small coastal streams and sockeye in lakes. These fish are very susceptible to poor water quality, such as high temperatures and pollution.

Fun Facts
Did you know?
Salmon species have adapted to use virtually every part of every stream in the northwest.

Fun Facts
Did you know?
Big rivers are used by pink salmon in the lower reaches, chinook in the mainstem and larger tributaries, coho in small tribs, and steelhead in the uppermost tributaries.

Fun Facts
Did you know?
Small streams are used by chum in the lower reaches, coho next, and cutthroat in the headwaters.

Fun Facts
Did you know?
A moving fry is much easier to see than a motionless one. This is why salmon tend to spawn in parts of the stream that their offspring use for rearing; the emerging fry do not have to travel far to find rearing areas.
Fun Facts
Did you know?
The size of a salmon is usually related to its age. Pink salmon are the smallest fall-spawning salmon and are also the youngest, at two years. Chinook can live up to nine years, the longest, which is why some chinook can grow to over 100 pounds. Cutthroat, which live longer than pinks, are typically smaller because they spend less or no time feeding in productive marine waters of the north Pacific.
Fun Facts
Did you know?
There is a sixth fall-spawning salmon, the masu, or cherry salmon, which is found only in Asia. This fish occupies the same niche that the sea-run cutthroat trout occupies in North America.
Fun Facts
Did you know?
Steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species of fish; rainbow are the freshwater form, and steelhead the anadromous form.
Fun Facts
Did you know?
Steelhead and cutthroat trout were recently added to the salmon genus, Oncorhynchus, from the trout genus, Salmo. Also, the scientific name of steelhead changed from Salmo gairdneri to Oncorhynchus mykiss.