Salmon Guide –Know the Difference between Species
by Jai Colvin
Salmon are the “flag fish of the Northwest. People come from all over the world for a chance to spend some time here and catch these fabulous fish. Historically Salmon has been the life blood of local Native American tribes and the average fisherman’s dream catch.
The Northwest offers a diversity of angling experiences in terms of Salmon fishing that is unmatched nation-wide. Hooking this incredible fish is an experience that should be on every fisherman’s list but how does one know the difference between species? The truth is many new fishermen have no idea which type of salmon they are hooking because there are a large number of different species here. Let’s take a look at the species of salmon. Next time you are throwing your hook in the water you might just be able to determine what type of Salmon you’ve caught.
Chum are the most abundant wild salmon. Chum salmon can be found in most of western Washington, including Puget Sound, the coast, and several lower Columbia River streams. Although chum has traditionally been considered a commercial fishing species, sport fishing also has grown in terms of seeking out this species. Chum also known as dog salmon or calico has an average size of 10-15 lbs. but can get as big as 33 lbs. Chum use small coastal streams and the lower reaches of larger rivers to spawn. Fishermen can find chum in virtually every small coastal stream.
Sockeye is perhaps the most well-known salmon. The Columbia River system marks the southern extent of the current distribution of sockeye and this is where many flock to catch this prized fish. Sockeye spawn in streams that are tributaries to large lakes but some sockeye stocks spawn along the shorelines of lakes. Sockeye also known as red or blueback, average in sizes of 5-8 lbs. but have been seen to reach up to 15 lbs. Sockeye is the species that those who enjoy the taste of salmon seek out.
Chinook, also known as king, tyee or blackmouth average in sizes of 10-15 lbs. but can reach sizes up to 135 lbs. Chinook are by far the largest of the Pacific salmon. The really large ones are rare but still locals report catching many that reach 50 pounds. Chinook spawn in large rivers such as the Columbia and Snake but they will also use smaller streams. Fishermen can find Chinook on both sides of the Cascade Range because some fish travel hundreds of miles upstream before they reach their spawning grounds.
Coho, also known as silver average in sizes of 6-12 lbs. but can reach as much as 31 lbs. This is the most popular in terms of sport fishing. Coho uses coastal streams and tributaries, and can often be found in small neighborhood streams. Coho has a reputation of hanging out in urban settings because they desire cold, clean, year-round water. The Coho spawn in small coastal streams and the tributaries of larger rivers.
Pink Salmon, also known as humpie or humpback salmon averages in sizes of 3-5 lbs. and can get up to 12 lbs. This is the smallest of the salmon species. The male pink develop a large hump on their back during spawning which is where they get their nickname. Pink runs only occur in odd-numbered years. The Pinks use the main stems of large rivers and some tributaries to spawn that are often very close to saltwater.
Atlantic Salmon is commercially grown. The average size is 28-30 inches but they can reach up to 8-12 lbs. after two years at sea. These fish are considered an exotic species and they are only occasionally found in Washington waters although local fishermen have reported catching them. The reason we see Atlantic Salmon here is because of the way they are grown, in pens. Fish and Wildlife says that the Atlantic Salmon sometimes escapes form the holding pens making them fair game for anglers in both fresh and saltwater. Although these fish are small they reportedly put up a pretty good fight.