Description: Chum salmon typically range in weight from 10 to 15 pounds, but can get up to 40 inches in length and weigh up to 33 pounds. Adults returning to spawn develop colorful vertical stripe markings that are typically red, purple, or yellow. Males have impressive hooked jaws (kypes) lined with long, sharp teeth. Unlike other salmon species, chum lack spots on their tails.
Range: Broadest range of all the Pacific salmon. In Asia from Kyushu, Japan to the Lena River in Siberia; in North America from Monterrey, California to the Mackenzie River on the Beaufort Sea.
Life History: Chum salmon typically migrate downstream immediately after emergence from the gravel. Like pink salmon, chum generally lay their eggs in close proximity to the saltwater, which makes the journey for their offspring downstream nice and short. Most of these fish will spend 3 years at sea and then return to the freshwater to spawn in the lower reaches of large rivers and in small coastal streams in the late fall.
Spawning Season: October to January, though some Puget Sound stocks spawn as late as March.
Habitat Requirements: Chum salmon thrive in small coastal streams where they spawn close to the saltwater. Healthy and functional nearshore habitat is especially important to this salmon species.
In Our Local Watersheds: There are 2 native stocks of chum salmon in the Nooksack River basin; one in the North Fork and one in the mainstem/South Fork. Not much is known about the population status of our chum salmon, but the growing popularity of chum roe (eggs) as caviar in Asia has recently increased commercial fishing pressure on this species. However, stocks are still generally considered healthy.
Did You Know? Whatcom Creek in Bellingham supports the largest recreation chum salmon fishery in the Puget Sound.
For more information on Whatcom County's chum salmon click here.