You are hereSalmon Family / Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon
Other Names: 
King Salmon
Black Salmon
Scientific Name: 
Onchorhynchus tshawytscha

The body is silver to olive-colored. The inside of its mouth is unique; it's black. They range from 18-40 inches and can attain a weight of 45 pounds.

Most Chinook migrate to the ocean for part of their lives. At one time, these fish were found in many state's river drainages. However, changes in habitat, including dam construction on rivers, put these fish in a precarious position. The population has declined and hatchery programs are needed.

Fishery managers have stocked land-locked populations of Chinook in several Idaho lakes.

Fish Habits: 

Chinook return to their spawning habitat in the fall after one to three years at sea. The female builds a large redd (nest) that may be six feet in diameter and one to four feet deep.

They lay between 4,500 and 10,000 eggs. When spawning is completed, both male and female die. The eggs hatch in the spring and the juvenile fish live the next year in fresh water, except for fall chinook that only live a couple months in fresh water before leaving for the ocean.

Young fish in fresh water eat both aquatic and terrestrial insects. They turn to a diet of fish once they reach salt water. Adults returning to spawn do not eat; they live off their fat reserves.

Fishing Tactics: 

Regulations require the use of rod and reel when fishing for chinook. In streams, chinook strike bright lures or fresh roe.

In lakes, the land-locked Chinook are caught by trolling flashy lures and/or large flies on down riggers, or by jigging large lures near the bottom.


Chinook salmon range from San Francisco Bay in California to north of the Bering Strait in Alaska, and the arctic waters of Canada and Russia (the Chukchi Sea ), including the entire Pacific coast in between. Populations occur in Asia as far south as the islands of Japan. In Russia, they are found in Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands.

In 1967, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources planted Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to control the alewife, an invasive species of nuisance fish from the Atlantic Ocean. Alewives were then 90% of the biota in these lakes. Coho salmon had been planted the year before and the program was a success. Chinook and Coho salmon grew heavy on alewives and used tributaries to these lakes for spawning. After this success, Chinook were planted in the other Great Lakes[2], where they are prized as a sport fish for their aggressive habit on the hook.

Hot Lakes