BC Salmon Identification Chart

Photo courtesy of Steve Thiesfeld - WDFW.


Chinook Salmon - (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)


Chinook Salmon

More commonly known as a "king", "spring" or "tyee", the Chinook Salmon is the largest species of all pacific salmon. They are widely targeted by sportfishermen due to their robust strength and fine taste.




There are several distinct characteristics that separate a Chinook from the other salmonid species. The Chinook salmon has black gums, therefore it is also called a blackmouth. Its blue-green back and tail are completely covered with tiny spots. An average size Chinook can be between 10lb and 20lb, while a tyee is over 30lb.


Sockeye salmon - (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Sockeye SalmonAlso called red salmon or blueback salmon, is an anadromous species of salmon found in the Pacific Ocean. The same species when it occurs in landlocked bodies of water is called the kokanee. This species is the third most common type of Pacific salmon, after Pink and Chum.




A Sockeye Salmon can be as long as 33 inches (84 cm) and weigh 6 to 8 pounds (2.5 to 3.5 kilos). It has an elongated, torpedo shaped body, with an adipose fin, and a bluntly pointed snout. The gill rakers located just behind the head are long and closely spaced. Its colouration changes as it migrates from saltwater to freshwater in preparation for spawning. In freshwater, its colour is bright red with a pale green head; females may have green and yellow marks or stains. Its colour in saltwater is bluish-green on top, silvery on the bottom, with uniform, shiny skin.


Coho Salmon - (Oncorhynchus kisutch)


Coho SalmonIt is one of the top gamefish species in the Pacific Northwest, Coho Salmon are targeted by anglers due to their acrobatic skills and tasty meat both in the ocean and rivers. Characterized by its ability to retain its chrome appearance until the final spawning stage, the Coho Salmon is also commonly known as "silvers" or "bluebacks".




Coho salmon have many distinct features that separate them from other members of the pacific salmon species. Small rearing juveniles have parr marks that run across their entire body. They have white gums, black tongues and numerous spots along their back. During the ocean phase, their body is silver in colour, with a blue metallic back. Their square tail has a wide base that is scattered with some spots, normally on the upper portion. Adults averagely range between 4lb to 20lb, but fish beyond this range has been recorded in the past. Small prematured spawning males between 25cm and 35cm in length are known as "jacks". During spawning, adult male will develop a distinct "hooked nose". Body colouration during spawning is red.


Chum Salmon - (Oncorhynchus keta)

Chum SalmonAlso known as a "dog salmon" due to its canine appearance during the spawning phase, chum salmon is one of the favorite target species among anglers due to their high abundance and powerful strength. Although they are not known as a great table fish, they are economically important as they make up a large portion of the commercial catches each year.




During the ocean phase, chum salmon possess the metallic blue colour on their back while the rest of the body remains silver, similar to their salmonid cousins. It is difficult to distinguish between a chum salmon and a coho or sockeye salmon without a close examination of the fins and gill rakers during this phase. Chum salmon have fewer but larger gill rakers. Once they enter the rivers, their spawning colours emerge. Streaks of purple, green, pink bars can be seen on the side of their body. A hook snout and large teeth will develop in males while a lateral black streak can be seen in females. At spawning age, most fish will range between 10 and 20 pounds while the odd 25 pounds+ can be found occasionally.


Pink Salmon - (Oncorhynchus keta)

Pink Salmon

Due to their short life span, the pink salmon is the smallest member of the five pacific salmonid species. Each year, between July and September, one can find millions of "humpbacks" migrating into all the major rivers. Despite it does not grow very large, pink salmon is a great sportfish. Its willingness to take lures and flies makes it one of the favorite species for anglers at all ages in the Pacific Northwest.




Pink salmon belongs in the Salmonidae family, it is closely related to its large cousins such as the chinook, coho, sockeyes and chums. The average size of a pink is between 4 to 6 pounds, but monsters up to 12 pounds can be caught at times. In the juvenile stage, unlike other salmon species, pinks are silver in colour and do not have any marks (spots or parrs). The morphological characteristics are quite distinct, so they are very easy to be identified. When in the ocean, pinks are silver in colour, with a slightly darker back. Large oval spots can be found along its back, as well as the entire tail fin of the fish. These spots are much larger than the spots on a coho and chinook salmon. During the fall migration, adult male will undergo changes in morphology. A hump back and a slight hooked jaw will develop, while females remain relatively normal in body shape and colour. As they migrate into streams for spawning, their body colour will turn to dark green.


Photo courtesy of the WDFW.


Interested in a day of fishing? Book a Vancouver fishing trip with Pacific Angler today!