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Fish Facts  »  Chum Salmon


Ocean fresh chum salmon are metallic greenish-blue on the dorsal surface (top) with fine black speckles. They are difficult to distinguish from sockeye and coho salmon without examining their gills or caudal fin scale patterns. Chum have fewer but larger gillrakers than other salmon. After nearing fresh water, however, the chum salmon changes color-particularly noticeable are vertical bars of green and purple, which give them the common name, calico salmon. The males develop the typical hooked snout of Pacific salmon and very large teeth which partially account for their other name of dog salmon. The females have a dark horizontal band along the lateral line; their green and purple vertical bars are not so obvious.


Chum salmon spawn in the lowermost reaches of rivers and streams, typically within 62 miles (100 km) of the ocean. Spawning sites are often near springs. They migrate almost immediately after hatching to estuarine and ocean waters, in contrast to other Pacific salmonids, which migrate to sea after months or even years in fresh water. This means that survival and growth in juvenile chum salmon depend less on freshwater conditions than on favorable estuarine and marine conditions.


Juvenile chum eat zooplankton and insects. Recent studies show that they also eat comb jellies.


In arctic, northwestern and Interior Alaska, chum salmon remain an important year-round source of fresh and dried fish for subsistence and personal use purposes. Sport fishers generally capture chum salmon incidental to fishing for other Pacific salmon in either fresh or salt water. Statewide sport harvest usually totals fewer than 25,000 chums. After entering fresh water, chums are most often prepared as a smoked product Most chum are caught by purse seines and drift gillnets, but fishwheels and set gillnets harvest a portion of the catch. In many areas they have been harvested incidental to the catch of pink salmon. The development of markets for fresh and frozen chum in Japan and northern Europe has increased their demand, especially in the last decade.


Chum vary in size from 4 to over 30 pounds, but usually range from 7 to 18 pounds, with females usually smaller than males.


Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Wikipedia

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