Salmon Biology‎ > ‎

Chinook Salmon

Common Name: Chinook Salmon, king salmon.
Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (Walbaum 1792)

How to Identify a Chinook Salmon:
  • Chinook Salmon have large black spots on the back and all over the tail. 
  • Chinook Salmon are the largest of all the Pacific salmon species. 

What do they look like?                                                                                       
In the ocean, the body of a Chinook Salmon is streamlined and silvery in colour with black spots on the back and all over the tail.  When Chinook Salmon return to the freshwater to spawn, they become darker in colour.  Spawning Chinook Salmon also have extended, hooked snouts and barred teeth.  The appearance of males changes more than that of the females while in freshwater.


Enlargement of Chinook Salmon
Note the black spots on the back
How do they live (what is their life-cycle)?
Chinook Salmon adults return to freshwater rivers to spawn, and often return to the freshwater river where they were "born".  Chinook Salmon migrate upstream and seek spawning locations in gravel river beds where the water flowing through the gravel never freezes, even in winter.  The eggs and milt (sperm) are deposited in a depression dug in the gravel.  After spawning, the adults die.  The eggs develop          
over the winter and the fry emerge from the gravel in the spring.  Chinook Salmon       
juveniles spend 1-2 years in the freshwater before going to the ocean.  Chinook 
Salmon spend 1-4 years in the ocean before returning to spawn as adults.    

What do they do?
Much of the biology of salmon in the Arctic is not yet known, and is being discovered with this research.Chinook Salmon spawning locations are not known in the Canadian Arctic.

Where do they go?
Chinook Salmon range from the Russia to Japan in the western Pacific and from Pt. Hope, Alaska to California in the eastern Pacific.  The northern limit for known successful spawning populations of Chinook Salmon in North America is the Pilgrim River, western Alaska and perhaps Kotzebue Sound.  This species also occurs in drainages to the Pacific Ocean in southwestern Yukon.  Spawning has not been recorded in the Canadian western Arctic.  
 Map showing distribution of Chinook salmon captured and turned into Fisheries and Oceans Canada to 2011.  
Map produced by the GIS Department, Aurora Research Institute.