All About Chinook Salmon

All About Chinook Salmon

April 19, 2022

The Chinook salmon is the largest species of salmon out there. It’s also one of the most important to the environment it lives in. They can often live up to 9 years and have been known to weigh up to 100 lbs. Typically, most adult full-grown Chinook salmon range between 35 to 50 lbs. 

Let’s talk about some basic and interesting facts about Chinook salmon. They have an interesting story, background, and some more known and lesser-known facts about them.

Origin of Name

Chinook salmon are known by a variety of different names. These include king salmon, Quinnat salmon, Tsumen, spring salmon, chrome hog, Blackmouth salmon, and Tyee salmon. Their Chinook name derives from the Chinookan Indigenous people who lived in their habitats.


The Chinook’s natural habitat originally stretched from California to as far north as Alaska. It has also been introduced in other regions worldwide. The Chinook was placed in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in 1967 to help control the Alewife, a nuisance fish from the Atlantic Ocean. Once this proved successful, they were introduced to the other Great Lakes as well.

The Chinook salmon is also found in parts of Japan and has been introduced to other areas worldwide. It ranges from northern Japan in the south to the Arctic Ocean, as far as the East Siberian Sea and Palyavaam River in the north. They’ve also been introduced to South America and parts of New Zealand. 


The Chinook is usually bluish-green, red or purple on its back or the top of its head. It has silvery-colored sides and white ventral surfaces. It typically has black spots on its tail as well as the upper half of its body. Spots are seen on the tail of pink salmon, and silver on the tail of chum and coho salmon.

Chinook salmon are unique among the Pacific salmon because they combine both black spots and silver on their tails. Another distinctive feature of the Chinook is the presence of black gum lines in both salt and freshwater fish. They range in size from 24 to 36 inches but can grow in length up to 58 inches. They average 10 to 50 lbs but may reach up to 130 lbs. Their meat can be either white or pink in color, depending on what they have been feeding on.

Chinook in Native American Culture

The Chinook salmon is culturally and spiritually prized by numerous First Nations Native Americans. Many of them celebrate the first spring Chinook caught every year with various "first-salmon ceremonies." While most salmon fishing is still quite important economically for most tribal communities, the Chinook variety is generally the most lucrative, financially.

The Chinook salmon is the biggest and most valued salmon of all varieties. Their importance in the global market, in the ecosystems they live in, and to the Native American population is of the utmost importance. You can learn many more facts about this wonderful species of salmon with more research.

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