Chum Salmon

Chum salmon

Chum Salmon - Oncorhynchus keta

Like the sockeye, chum salmon lack the spots characteristic of the other three types of Pacific salmon. Chum tend to be about the same size as coho salmon, weighing between 5 and 15 lbs. While bright silver in the ocean, they have mottled flanks with dark vertical blotches when returning to the rivers to spawn. Males develop hooked jaws and large canine teeth during spawing which is one of the reasons they have been given the nickname of "dog" salmon.

Black bear with chum salmon in its mouth
A black bear holds a chum salmon in its mouth.

© Howie Garber

Chum salmon have the potential to return in huge numbers to the lower sections of the major rivers to spawn, usually in the summer or late fall. During spawning, male chums aggressively defend their territory against all intruders. Both the Queets River and the Quillayute River still have runs. Unlike all other salmon species, chum and pink fry emigrate to sea immediately after emerging from the gravel. Estuaries are particularly important to these two species of salmon. They use the mixture of freshwater and salt water to acclimate themselves to ocean life.

Conservation Status:
Though relatively common overall, chum are uncommon in the park's rivers. The Hood Canal summer chum are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has developed a recovery plan for this run which spans the Dungeness River south through the Hood Canal.

Before the Elwha Dam was constructed, the Elwha River had huge returns of chum which spawned below Rica Canyon. (Historic Range Map)

A small population of native chum remains in the Elwha River. Returns presently range between 200 and 500 adults.The lack of downstream sediment, including spawning gravels, and diminished rearing estuary may have played a critical role in reducing the Elwha chum population.After removal of the dams, this population will propogate the river, potentially restoring returns to upwards of 16,000 spawning fish over 15-20 years.

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Last updated: February 28, 2015

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