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Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

This large-sized salmon lives in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, enters the rivers of the Asian and American coasts. Besides Russia, chum salmon are numerous in Japan, Canada and USA. Chum salmon goes out into the sea in the first summer of life and spends at in the saltwater from 2 to 6 years (usually 3 or 4 years). Adult fish often weigh from 3 to 4 kilograms, maximum weight up to 15 kilograms.

Chum salmon

Chum salmon

The scientific, Latin name of this fish came from the native Even language. The Russian name of chum is taken from the Even word “keta” as well.

The life cycle of chum salmon is more complicated than pink salmon. The smolts of this species migrate out into the ocean during the first summer of their life. On very rare occasions, young chum can stay in fresh water for the whole year. Chum salmon spend from two to six full years (most often three or four) in the salt water, and then they return into rivers to spawn.

It is easy to distinguish adult chum from the other species of Pacific salmon, first of all by the total absence of black dots on its back and tail. Besides that, in freshwater even bright chum most often have slightly visible vertical stripes on their sides. These stripes are the first sign of the future spawning coloration. The spawning chum have variegated colors — transverse stripes of green, black, and red. In a river such fish look green with darker stripes. Spawning males have such big teeth that they cannot close their mouths.

The homing of chum salmon is much stronger than that of pinks. Its spawning run in many basins occurs during a long period. For example, in the mouth of the Taui River near Magadan (north coast of the Sea of Okhotsk) fresh chum salmon can be caught from the first days of June till mid September. In many rivers there are two or three separate runs of this salmon, although most fish enter in August — about a month after pink salmon.

The biggest chum males can be up to 1 m long and weigh up to 15 kg; the average weight of males is 4–4.5kg, and of females — 2.5–3.5 kg. The size and percentage of body fat (the energy supply) depends on the average length of migration of the given stock in the river — from the sea to the spawning grounds.

Ilya Sherbovich