Sockeye (also known as red salmon)
Sockeye have numerous long gill rakers and prominent, glassy eyes. The slimmest and most streamlined of the Pacific species, the silver-blue sockeye lives from four to five years. It usually weighs between 2.2 kg and 3.1 kg but can reach 6.3 kg.
The lips of sockeye are fleshy; the teeth are small and well-developed in both jaws. There are no teeth on the base of the tongue. The sockeye’s tail is moderately forked and does not show any black spots. Sockeye are sometimes confused with chum because they both lack spots on the tail and have a similar colouring.
Did you know… Some juvenile sockeye salmon do not migrate out to sea, but remain landlocked in freshwater. These fish are known as “kokanees”.
Chinook (also known as spring, tyee and king
A lightly spotted blue-green back and a silver, spotted tail help to distinguish the Chinook from other salmon. It is also the largest, most prized game fish, generally weighing between 1.5 kg and 30 kg. Chinook live from three to seven years. Chinook have black gums at the base of their teeth; the mouths are dark. In some areas, this species is known as “black mouth”. Chinook have a flowing V-shaped, silvery tail often covered with spots. The tail becomes squarer as the Chinook reaches adult stage.
In the juvenile stage of Chinook salmon, some fishers misidentify them as pinks because both have spots on their tails.
Did you know … Average-size Chinook are often known as “spring salmon” in B.C. The largest Chinook on record in the province weighed 57 kg.
Pink (also known as humpy)
Pink salmon have tiny scales. In the ocean, they have silver bodies with spotted backs. Pinks are also the smallest of the Pacific salmon, usually weighing about 2.2 kg, but occasionally reaching 5.5 kg. They live to be two years old. The mouth of a pink salmon is white, but the gums are black, similar to Chinook. Pinks do not have “teeth” on the tongue. Pink salmon have a V-shaped tail covered with large oval spots. Unlike the other salmon species, the tail of a pink has no silver on it. In the early adult stage, pink salmon are often mistaken for Chinook because both have spots on their tails.
Did you know… Pink salmon spawn in the main stems of large rivers and some tributaries, often very close to saltwater, because their fry move directly to sea after emerging
Coho (also known as blueback and silver)
Coho are bright silver with a metallic blue dorsal surface. They have a few spots on the upper portion of their bodies. Coho usually live for three years and grow rapidly in their final year. They weigh between 1.3 kg and 14 kg. The coho’s gums at the base of the teeth in the lower jaw are almost white. Its mouth is white but can have a black edge. It has a black tongue and it has sharp, strong teeth. Coho have a square, silver-coloured tail with a few scattered spots, usually on the upper portion of the tail. They have a wide tail base. Coho are sometimes confused with chum because they both have similar colouring. Always look for the coho’s white gums and a few spots on the tail.
Did you know… Coho salmon use coastal streams and tributaries for spawning
Chum (also known as dog salmon)
A white tip on the anal fin (lower fin just before the tail) usually identifies chum salmon. Resembling sockeye, but larger, chum have silvery sides and faint grid-like bars as they near spawning streams. They live three to five years and weigh about 4.5 kg to 6.5 kg, but they have been known to reach as much as 15 kg. The lips are fleshy with well-developed teeth in both jaws; there are no teeth on the base of the tongue. The tail is slightly forked and has silver streaks covering about half of the fin. The tail base or wrist is slender. Chum are sometimes confused with sockeye, because they both lack spots on their tails and have a similar colouring. Always look for the silver streaks in the chum’s tail.
Did you know… Chum salmon develop large “teeth” during spawning, hence the nickname “dog salmon”.