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Chum

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Species Management Plan

Chum Fish in Water Chum salmon are the most abundant wild salmon species in Washington State, and at the same time are probably the least appreciated of the state's salmon. Chum salmon have many admirable attributes, not the least of which is the fact that this species has shown remarkable resilience during a period when other salmon species have shown substantial declines.

The current distribution of chum salmon spans most of western Washington, including Puget Sound, the coast, and several lower Columbia River streams. The chum stocks of these three regions represent genetically distinct population groupings and are managed separately.



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Chum (Dog) Salmon
Oncorhynchus keta

Other names: dog salmon, calico
Average size: 10-15 lbs, up to 33 lbs

Male chum salmon develop large "teeth" during spawning, which resemble canine teeth. This may explain the nickname dog salmon.

Spawning

Chum use small coastal streams and the lower reaches of larger rivers for their spawning grounds. They often use the same streams as coho, but coho tend to move further up the watershed and chum generally spawn closer to saltwater. This may be due to their larger size, which requires deeper water to swim in; or their jumping ability, which is inferior to coho. Either way, the result is a watershed divided between the two species, with all the niches filled.

Like coho, chum can be found in virtually every small coastal stream. In the fall, large numbers of chum can often be seen in the lower reaches of these streams, providing opportunities to view wild salmon in a natural environment.

Rearing

Chum fry do not rear in freshwater for more than a few days. Shortly after they emerge, chum fry move downstream to the estuary and rear there for several months before heading out to the open ocean.

Body

Chum Picture
  • Mouth is white with a white gum line
  • Well developed teeth
  • No spots on tail or back
  • Calico markings (vertical bars) - faint on bright fish
  • Narrow caudal peduncle
  • White tip on anal fin


Jaw

Chum Head The mouth is white and the gum line is white, but the tongue may be black. The lips are fleshy with well developed teeth in both jaws, but there are no teeth on the base of the tongue.

Tail

Chum Tail The tail has no spots, but does have silver streaks covering about half of the fin. The caudal peduncle is narrow.

Terminology

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.

Chum Populations List
For more information on
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fishpgm@dfw.wa.gov

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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.

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Salmon species have adapted to use virtually every part of every stream in the northwest.

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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.

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Small streams are used by chum in the lower reaches, coho next, and cutthroat in the headwaters.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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Steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species of fish; rainbow are the freshwater form, and steelhead the anadromous form.
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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.