Guide to Salmon Species: Identifying Your Catch

One of the most exciting aspects of salmon fishing is the variety of species that can be found in waters around the world. In this guide, we’ll help you identify the different types of salmon you may encounter, so you can recognize your catch and learn more about their unique traits and habitats. 

Let’s dive in and explore the fascinating world of salmon species.

Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Also known as king salmon, the Chinook is the largest and most highly prized of the salmon species. Key identifying features include:

  • Large size: Can reach up to 58 inches and weigh over 100 pounds
  • Black gumline: Unique to Chinook salmon, their lower gumline is black
  • Spots: Large, irregularly shaped spots on both the back and tail

Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Coho, or silver salmon, are known for their acrobatic displays when hooked. Distinguishing characteristics include:

  • Medium size: Typically weighs between 8-12 pounds and measures 24-30 inches in length
  • Silversides: Bright silver sides with a dark blue back
  • Spots: Small, round spots on the upper half of their back and upper lobe of the tail

Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Sockeye, also known as red salmon, are famous for their vibrant red color during spawning season. Identifying features include:

  • Smaller size: Generally weigh between 5-8 pounds and measure 18-24 inches in length
  • No spots: Sockeye salmon do not have spots on their back or tail
  • Bright red color: Develop a striking red hue on their body and green head during spawning

On the other hand, red salmon fishing in Alaska is a popular and rewarding angling experience. With their unique appearance and strong fighting ability, sockeye salmon are a favorite among anglers who appreciate a challenge.

Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha)

As the smallest and most abundant salmon species, pink salmon, or humpies, are easily distinguished by their unique features:

  • Small size: Typically weigh between 3-5 pounds and measure 20-24 inches in length
  • Hump: Males develop a pronounced hump on their back during spawning
  • Large oval spots: Pink salmon have large oval spots on their back and the entire tail

Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Chum, also known as dog salmon, is known for their impressive size and unique spawning colors. Key identifying traits include:

  • Large size: Can weigh up to 20 pounds and measure 30-35 inches in length
  • No spots: They lack spots on their back and tail
  • Stripe pattern: During spawning, they develop bold, vertical stripes on their body

Experience Exceptional Fishing Trips

Consider staying at one of our lodges to make the most of your salmon fishing experience. These accommodations offer comfortable amenities, knowledgeable guides, and access to prime fishing locations, ensuring an unforgettable angling adventure.

The Takeaway

Understanding the different salmon species and their unique characteristics can significantly enhance your fishing experience. By identifying your catch, you can target specific species and appreciate the diverse world of salmon fishing. So, knowing your salmon species will help you make the most of your fishing trip, whether you’re after the prized Chinook or the acrobatic Coho. 

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