Species Finder Species Posted Mar 14, 2000 Chum Salmon Appearance When in the ocean, chum salmon are metallic greenish-blue along the back with black speckles, very similar to both sockeye and coho salmon at this stage. As chum salmon enter fresh water, their color and appearance changes dramatically. Both sexes develop a "tiger stripe" pattern of bold red and black stripes. In fact, chum salmon are best known for how the males look when they spawn – they have enormous canine-like fangs and their bodies have a striking calico pattern, with the front two-thirds of the flank marked by a bold, jagged, reddish line and the posterior third by a jagged black line. Spawning females are less flamboyantly colored and do not have fangs. When juvenile chum salmon are about to migrate to sea, they lose their parr marks (vertical bars and spots useful for camouflage) and gain the dark back and light belly coloration used by fish living in open water. Maximum Size Chum salmon grow to be among the largest of Pacific salmon, second only to Chinook salmon in adult size. They can grow up to 3.6 feet (1.1 m) in length and 30 to 35 pounds (13.6-15.9 kg) in weight. Their average weight is around 8 to 15 pounds (3.6-6.8 kg). Growth Rate Rapid during the first few months of living at sea, then moderate after the first summer at sea. Geographic Range Chum salmon's range extends farther along the shores of the Arctic Ocean than that of the other salmonids. Spawning populations are known from Korea and Japan and into the far north of Russia, and as far north in North America as the McKenzie River on the arctic coast of Canada. Chum salmon are found throughout the coastal regions of North America, historically as far south as Monterey, California. Now, major spawning populations are found only as far south as Tillamook Bay on the northern Oregon coast. Habitat Salmon spawn in fresh water and live in the ocean. Chum salmon are similar to pink salmon – they do not reside in freshwater for an extended period like coho, Chinook, or sockeye salmon do. Instead, young chum salmon (fry) typically migrate directly to estuarine and marine waters after they are born in freshwater streams. Life Span Like other Pacific salmon, both male and female chum salmon die after they spawn. They typically spawn between the ages of 3 and 5, and possibly at 6 years of age in Alaska. Food Chum salmon feed on insects as they migrate downriver and on insects and marine invertebrates in estuaries and near-shore marine habitats. As adults in the ocean, they eat copepods, fishes, mollusks, squid, and tunicates. Reaches reproductive maturity Most chum salmon mature and return to their birth stream to spawn between the ages of 3 and 6. Chum salmon tend to mature at a younger age in the more southern part of their range. Reproduction Chum salmon are anadromous. In order to mate, they migrate from the ocean into the freshwater streams and rivers in which they were born. They spawn once and then die. In North America, female chum salmon typically have 2,000 to 4,000 eggs. They lay their eggs in nests called redds which are covered in gravel. Juveniles emerge from the gravel and almost immediately migrate to sea, unlike most other anadromous salmonids which usually migrate to sea at a larger size after months or years of living and growing in freshwater. As a result, the survival and growth in juvenile chum salmon is less dependent on freshwater conditions than on favorable estuarine conditions. Spawning In the far northern portion of their range, chum salmon spawn in early summer. Further south, spawning season ranges from late summer to March but is usually concentrated in early winter when the river flows are high.They typically spawn in the lowermost reaches of rivers and streams, within around 60 miles (96.6 km) of the ocean. However, chum salmon may make much more extensive spawning migrations – some populations of chum salmon in the Yukon River migrate across Alaska to spawn in the Yukon Territory, over 2,000 (3,218 km) miles from the Bering Sea. Chum salmon prefer to nest in areas with upwelling currents to provide oxygen for their developing embryos. Migrations Chum salmon are anadromous – they migrate from the ocean to fresh water rivers and streams to spawn. Young chum salmon migrate from freshwater to marine waters after they are born, first to estuarine and nearshore marine waters, then offshore across the north Pacific as they grow larger. As they approach maturity, they migrate back into coastal waters and return to the freshwater area where they were born to spawn. Predators A variety of fish and birds prey upon juvenile chum salmon; sharks, sea lions and seals, and orcas eat adults. Information courtesy of NOAA.