The Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is Alaska's state fish and is one of the most important sport and commercial fish native to the Pacific coast of North America. It is the largest of all Pacific salmon, with weights of individual fish commonly exceeding 30 pounds.
Other Names: Chinook, Black mouth, Spring
Range & Habitat: In North America, Chinook salmon range from the Monterey Bay area of California to the Chukchi Sea area of Alaska. On the Asian coast, Chinook salmon occur from the Anadyr River area of Siberia southward to Hokkaido, Japan.
In Alaska, it is abundant from the southeastern panhandle to the Yukon River. Major populations return to the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Nushagak, Susitna, Kenai, Copper, Alsek, Taku, and Stikine rivers. Important runs also occur in many smaller streams.
Identification & Biology: Adults are distinguished by the black irregular spotting on the back and dorsal fins and on both lobes of the caudal or tailfin. Chinook salmon also have a black pigment along the gum line, which gives them the name "blackmouth" in some areas.
In the ocean, the Chinook salmon is a robust, deep-bodied fish with a bluish-green coloration on the back which fades to a silvery color on the sides and white on the belly. Colors of spawning Chinook salmon in fresh water range from red to copper to almost black, depending on location and degree of maturation. Males are more deeply colored than the females and also are distinguished by their "ridgeback" condition and by their hooked nose or upper jaw.
Juvenile Chinook may spend from 3 months to 2 years in freshwater before migrating to estuarine areas as smolts and then into the ocean to feed and mature. They prefer streams that are deeper and larger than those used by other Pacific salmon species.
Market Description: There is an excellent market for Chinook salmon because of their large size and excellent table qualities. High in Omega 3 oils, the meat is full of flavor, the color is rich, and the taste is supreme.
Habitat: Japan, Northern Pacific arctic waters to Alaska
Flavor Profile: Succulent full-flavored, high fat content
Fishing Technique: gill net, hook & line
Special Note: Largest of the wild salmon variety
Suitable Sub: Other wild king salmon varieties
Note: The Yukon River is 2300 miles long—tied for the longest river in the US. Yukon king salmon travel hundreds of miles upriver to spawn. During this incredible journey they quit feeding so have evolved extremely high levels of fat to sustain them. Averaging 34%, the oil content of Yukon Kings is the highest of any salmon--twice that of the famed Copper River king.