Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon, Vancouver Island, BC
Chinook Salmon, Vancouver Island, BC

A favorite in the recreational fishery, the Chinook salmon is the biggest of the salmon with some reaching as much as 45 kilos in weight.

Chinook reproduction happens mainly in major river systems, the most important of which in BC is the Fraser River. Substantial numbers of Chinook are also found in the Yukon River. The Campbell River on Vancouver Island is a short river that has a large return of Chinook.

After hatching, Chinook remain in freshwater for varying lengths of time depending on water temperature. Most spend up to a year in freshwater. These fish are known to migrate vast distances and are found sparsely distributed throughout the Pacific Ocean. The age of Chinook adults returning to spawn varies from two to seven years. Many river systems have more than one stock of Chinook, some even having spring, fall, and winter run.

Because of their large size and presence in coastal waters are one of the favored prey of killer whales, recreational and commercial fishers alike. Chinook is typically fished in “hook and line” fisheries where they chase and bite lures or baited hooks being trolled through the water. The flesh of adults can range in color from white through pink to deep red.

While still feeding in tidal waters, the Chinook has a dark back, with a greenish-blue sheen. As they approach freshwater to spawn, the body color darkens and a reddish hue around the fins and belly develops. The teeth of adult spawning males become enlarged and the snout will develop into a hook. After spawning, they die and the decomposing bodies supply nutrients back into the river, and birds, bears, and other animals drag the salmon into the forests where they add much-needed nutrients to the surrounding land. A river with a good run of salmon has a healthy watershed.

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