6, Vernadsky Avenue
Capitoly Business Center (Regus),
Moscow 119311 Russia

Chinook or king salmon (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha)

This is the largest of all migratory salmon with an average weight of about 8 kilograms and often reaching 20 kilogram weight. In Asia, Chinook salmon is found mainly in Kamchatka; small stocks are dwelling in Chukotka. This is a valuable commercial fish, an object of sports fishing. It needs protection, as the majority of stocks in Russia are declining.

Chinook or king salmon

Chinook or king salmon

This fish is the biggest among all Pacific salmon. The record king caught in Kamchatka was 62 kg. Only Siberian and sea-run taimen grow bigger. Small specimens of bright Chinook can be mistaken for coho but you can distinguish Chinook by the black (not white) gums of the lower jaw and the inside of the mouth, and by small black dots on the lower part of the caudal fin. The spawning, dark king salmon is pinkish-brown.
The main stocks of Asian king salmon spawn in streams on both the east and west coasts of the Kamchatka Peninsula. There are some populations with large average size (over 12 kg) in rivers of the Koryak Upland, part of the mainland to the north from Kamchatka. The biggest Chinook are found here in the Apuka River. In this drainage the fish normally run during the flood when the water is murky, so the fishing is very difficult.

Some small stocks of the species exist also at the Bering Sea coast of the Chukotsky Peninsula at 65°N. There are solitary Chinook catches in rivers close to Magadan and Okhotsk. These are stray fish from the Western Kamchatka stocks.

The range of Chinook in Asia is noticeably smaller compared to chum and pink salmon. The largest stocks of Asian Chinook breed in Kamchatka, and it is also dwelling in the rivers of the Koryak upland. There are about 30 rivers in the Kamchatskiy Krai, where the average number of Chinook spawning run exceeds one thousand specimens. The largest Chinook populations in this region breed in the Kamchatka and Bolshaya Rivers. Small stocks of this salmon are also found in Chukotka, in the Bering Sea basin. Individual Chinook specimens are caught annually on the mainland coast of the Sea of Okhotsk in such rivers as Okhota, Taui and Uda; these are undoubtedly stray fish from the Western Kamchatka stocks.

The Chinook fry normally live in freshwater for one or two years, but some migrate out into the ocean on their first spring — similar to pink and chum salmon. King salmon can spend up to seven or eight years in salt water.

The spawning run in Kamchatka Peninsula begins in May, but the main run occurs in mid-June. Some fish can enter freshwater during July and August. Together with big fish on the spawning sites you can sometimes see the landlocked dwarf males.

Chinook can spend in the sea from one to five years, while large fish spend more time in salt water. Its entry into the rivers in Kamchatka begins in May, but the main course is observed in mid-June. Some fish appear in fresh water later in July and even in August.

The average size of Chinook in Kamchatka is about 8 kilograms, but 20-25 kilogram fish are not too rare here. Like other salmon, the size of the Chinook males is very variable – among them there are both giants over thirty kilograms and “dwarfs” weighing 3-4 kilograms. The Chinook grilse are small males weighing up to one kilogram.

Chinook can spend in the sea from one to five years; large fish spend in saltwater longer time. Its entry into the rivers in Kamchatka begins in May, but the main run is observed in mid-June. Some fish enter later – in July and even in August.

Ilya Sherbovich