Chinook, also called "king" or "black mouth," are the largest of the Pacific Salmon. They are often found spawning in rivers or larger streams, and are usually one of the earlier salmon species to spawn in the fall.

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

Identification Characteristics:

  • Olive brown to dark brown in color, almost black on back and sides
  • Many spots on its back Few spots on fins
  • BOTH upper and lower part of tail fin has spots
  • Lower gum line is black
  • Range in length from 24 - 60 inches

 In the Coast Region, there are Fall, Spring and Summer runs in WRIAs 20 and 22, Spring and Summer runs in WRIA 21, Fall and Spring runs in WRIA 23 and Fall runs in WRIA 24.

Chinook salmon have three major run types in Washington State. Spring chinook are generally in their natal rivers throughout the calendar year. Adults begin river entry as early as February in the Chehalis, but in Puget Sound, entry doesn't begin until April or May. Spring chinook spawn from July through September and typically spawn in the headwater areas where higher gradient habitat exists. Incubation continues throughout the autumn and winter, and generally requires more time for the eggs to develop into fry because of the colder temperatures in the headwater areas. Fry begin to leave the gravel

nests in February through early March. After a short rearing period in the shallow side margins and sloughs, all Puget Sound and coastal spring chinook stocks have juveniles that begin to leave the rivers to the estuary throughout spring and into summer (August).  

Adult summer chinook begin river entry as early as June in the Columbia, but not until August in Puget Sound. They generally spawn in September and/or October. Fall chinook stocks range in spawn timing from late September through December. All Washington summer and fall chinook stocks have juveniles that incubate in the gravel until January through early March, and outmigration downstream to the estuaries occurs over a broad time period (January through August). A few of these stocks have a component of juveniles that remain in freshwater for a full year after emerging from the gravel nests. 

While some emerging chinook salmon fry outmigrate quickly, most inhabit the shallow side margins and side sloughs for up to two months. Then, some gradually move into the faster water areas of the stream to rear, while others outmigrate to the estuary. Most summer and fall chinook outmigrate within their first year of life, but a few stocks (Snohomish summer chinook, Snohomish fall chinook, upper Columbia summer chinook) have juveniles that remain in the river for an additional year, similar to many spring chinook Marshall et al. 1995).

Photos from Inland Fishes of Washington by Whitney and Wydoski, © 1979 University of Washington Press. Reprinted by permission of the University of Washington Press.