Fish as seen in saltwater.

The Toothy Ones

Chum are substantial fish, second only to Chinook in terms of size in the Oncorhynchus genus. They generally weigh 12 to 15 lbs, and measure 35 to 45 inches long.

As well as being big, Chum are quite abundant and well distributed throughout the Pacific Coast except for Oregon and California. They are particularly important in Japan, where they are a food staple and a large source of exports. The Japanese have been very successful with Chum enhancement programs.

Chum taste milder and softer than do most other varieties of Pacific salmon. In North America, they are less valued for sportfishing and eating than Chinook, Sockeye, and Coho.

Nicknames

Dog salmon, Calico salmon.

Spotting a Chum

It can be difficult to distinguish Chum from Sockeye or even Coho, but on closer examination, their gill and scale patterns give them away. They are also narrower at the section linking tail and body. Normally blue-green with speckles and silver sides, Chum (especially males) develop striking green and purple vertical bars upon entering freshwater. Chum have huge teeth and pronounced hooked jaws, which may have given them the nickname Dog salmon.

Habits and Habitat

Chum are the last of the Pacific salmon to return to freshwater to spawn. The seasonal peak for spawning is late-fall. By this time, the Chum are about three or four years of age. Chum tend to leave their birth streams quickly for the ocean as young adults, though not immediately like Pink salmon.

Other Facts About Chum:

  • Chum salmon have distinctive flesh: it's mild and also low in oil. Because of this, they're ideal for cold-smoking, a time honoured skill among coastal First Nations.
  • Chum are more affected by habitat damage than are other salmon as they tend to favour stream sections close to the ocean, and these waters are very sensitive to watershed corruption.
  • There are naturally occurring Chum-Pink hybrids.