Alaska King Salmon (Chinook) Facts


Scientific Name:
Oncorhyncus tshawytscha, from the Greek words onkos (hook), rynchos (nose) and tshawytscha (the common name for the species in Siberia and Alaska).

Also known as:
Chinook Salmon

From Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, to Santa Barbara, California.

King Salmon have a blueish-green back with silvery sides and a white belly and black spots on the back and tail and silver splashes in the tail. King salmon range from 25-126 pounds and are 5-7 years of age. The flesh of the King salmon is highly prized for its rich salmon flavor and firm flesh. The natural numbers of wild King salmon are quite low compared to the other species of salmon. But is being managed to maintain the historical escapement goals and is in no way endangered in Alaska. Is both commercially harvested and is also a prize sport fish.

Freshwater streams and estuaries provide important habitat for king salmon. They feed on terrestrial and aquatic insects, amphipods, and other crustaceans while young, and primarily on other fish when older. Eggs are laid in deeper water with larger gravel and need cool water and good water flow (to supply oxygen) to survive. Estuaries and their associated wetlands provide vital nursery areas for the chinook prior to its departure to the open ocean. Wetlands not only help buffer the estuary from silt and pollutants but also provide important feeding and hiding areas.

Did you know?

King salmon may spend between 1 to 8 years in the ocean before returning to their natal streams to spawn, though the average is 3 to 4 years.

The Record weight sport caught king salmon was 97 lbs. 4 oz. caught by Lester Anderson of Soldotna, Alaska in 1985 while fishing on the Kenai River.

One ½ lb. fillet of King Salmon has 354.4 calories, 39.4 grams of protein, 20.6 grams of fat, 6.1 grams of saturated fat and 93 milligrams of sodium.

Alaska King Salmon Life Cycle

cycle 1

The female King salmon returns to her original spawning ground and lays her eggs in a gravel nest at the bottom of the river, lake or stream. The male King salmon then covers them with sperm.

cycle 2

After about 3 months the fertilized eggs will hatch. At this stage they are called alevin. They will remain hidden in the gravel nest & feed off the yolk sac from their egg for about one month.


At 5 – 10 weeks old the tiny salmon leave their gravel nest and begin to swim and feed for themselves. At this stage they are called Fry. It’s also at this time that they start their journey downstream.

cycle 4

The salmon are in the smolt stage when they start to swim to salt water. The smolts will spend some time in the estuary area of the river while they adjust to the salt water. Only a small percentage of the original salmon reach the ocean.

cycle 5

Adult salmon spend 1 to 8 years in the ocean swimming and feeding throughout the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. Once they reach full maturity, they return to their ‘home stream’ to spawn.

cycle 6

Upon reaching their birth rivers, the adult salmon re-adapt to the fresh water and begin their upstream journey. At this time, they cease to feed and live on the stores of fat within their bodies. Both male and female salmon will die a few weeks after spawning.