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Chinook salmon identification

Chinook salmon identification

Chinook salmon
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

Chinook salmon
Chinook, also called "king" or "black mouth," are the largest of the Pacific Salmon. They are often found spawning in rivers or larger streams, and are usually one of the earlier salmon species to spawn in the fall. In King County, they are found in the Snoqualmie, Cedar, Green, and White river systems. Chinook are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Because of this, we are very interested in knowing which streams in contain Chinook. If you see a salmon, here's some tips to use to determine whether or not it's a chinook...

Photos from Inland Fishes of Washington by Whitney and Wydoski, © 1979 University of Washington Press. Reprinted by permission of the University of Washington Press.

Chinook Male
Adult Male Chinook Salmon
Chinook Female
Adult Female Chinook Salmon

Identification characteristics:

  • Olive brown to dark brown in color, almost black on back and sides
  • Many spots on its back
  • Few spots on fins
  • BOTH upper and lower part of tail fin has spots
  • Lower gum line is black
  • Range in length from 24 inches (2 feet) to 60 inches (5 feet)

Spawn timing:

  • September through mid-December

Now that you know all about identifying salmon in streams, test yourself! Click on the mystery fish page to find out more!