Fish as seen in saltwater.

Chinook are the largest Pacific salmon and can weigh over 100 lbs. But on average, Chinook hit the scales at about 30 lbs. They’re long and heavy, in the range of 40 to 60 inches at maturity.

Tipping the Scales

The largest Chinook on record was a 126-pound specimen caught in a fish trap near Petersburg, Alaska in 1949. Sportfishers also caught a 97-pounder in the Kenai River in 1986. They are more abundant in North America than in Asia, and they can be found as far north as Alaska and as far south as Nevada.

Their flesh pigmentation varies widely, from deep pinks and reds to creamy white.

Spotting a Chinook

One of the nicknames for Chinook salmon is “blackmouth”, earned from gumlines that look painted with black pigment. When not spawning, they appear blue-green with silvery sides, and they have black spotting on their backs and dorsal fins and on both lobes of their tail fin.

When they are spawning, their colour goes richer, from deep red to coppery-black.

Habits and Habitat

Chinook often prefer larger river systems for their freshwater stays, but they can also be found in small tributaries and headwaters. They are famous for their strong swimming endurance and for the fantastic leaps they make when migrating. Chinook vary in their migratory habits, with some displaying a strong urge to move oceanward within weeks of hatching. Others are content to remain in freshwater for up to two winters.

Other Facts About Chinook:

  • With long lifespans compared to other Pacific salmon, some Chinook remain in the ocean for more than five years before returning to their natal spawning grounds. They can be found in rivers throughout the year, but there is a seasonal peak from May to September.
  • Chinook, as adults, vary greatly in size, as they can become mature adults (i.e., able to spawn) anywhere from the time they are two to seven years of age.