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Chinook Salmon - Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
Photo by USGS

Chinook salmon are the largest salmon and the only species that can produce fish larger than 30 pounds. These fish can grow up to five feet long and over 100 pounds. Chinook salmon are iridescent green to blue-green on their back with silvery sides and silvery to white undersides. Males are distinguished by a hooked nose and a ridged back. They are an anadromous species, which means that they are born in freshwater, migrate to the ocean, and then return as mature adults to their parent streams to spawn. Most fish die after spawning, but some females are known to live for several more years and may spawn as many as four times in their lifetime.

Chinook Salmon
(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Japan to the Bering Sea and down to southern California

Anadromous, in sea and coastal streams

Fish, insects, mollusks, aquatic crustaceans, and zooplankton


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
California populations of Chinook Salmon are in sharp decline, largely as a result of habitat destruction affecting their spawning streams. Although a more sustainable choice than Atlantic salmon or farmed salmon, fisheries experts recommend that people choose wild-caught Alaskan salmon when possible.

Learn More
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
- FishBase
- University of Wisconsin Sea Grant