Salmon Nicknames

Common nicknames for all 5 Pacific salmon:

  • Chinook are also known as “kings” for their large size, or “springers,” or “springs” for early returning Chinook.
  • Coho are also referred to as “silvers” for their brilliant appearance in the salt water.
  • Pinks are sometimes known as “humpies” or “humpbacks” because of the large hump they develop prior to spawning.
  • Chum are also known as “dogs” for their large teeth developed during spawning or “calicos” for the pattern of their spawning colors.
  • Sockeye are sometimes called “reds” because of their ultra-red spawning coloration.

Pink Salmon

320px-Pink_salmon_FWSPink salmon live for only two years, and there are separate odd-year and even-year runs, which do not interbreed and are genetically distinct.  Pinks return to Washington in odd years.

Chinook Salmon

Chinook salmon are the largest of the Pacific salmon and some rare individuals grow to over 100 pounds.


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A redd is a nest made of gravel where female salmon and steelhead deposit their eggs.  The female digs a depression in the gravel, she deposits the eggs, the eggs are immediately fertilized, and then she covers the eggs with gravel.


Smolt is the term used to describe the life stage of a juvenile salmon as it migrates from freshwater to saltwater.

Special Teeth

Salmon and trout have special teeth on their tongues.  This allows them to capture and hold prey before swallowing it whole.


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Washington State has 11 species of freshwater sculpin (Cottus sp.).  These fish inhabit rivers, streams, and estuaries, and they feed on salmon fry and insect larvae.

Anadromous Life Cycle

Most salmon exhibit an anadromous life cycle, which means that the fish are born in freshwater, migrate to sea to feed and grow, and return to their natal (birth) stream for spawning.


After spawning, the female salmon expends much of her remaining energy to cover the newly deposited eggs under a layer of gravel for protection.  After nearly 30 days living in the spaces between the gravel, salmon eggs are at a point when they are ready to hatch.  You can make out their eyes within the egg casing.








Upon hatching, the young salmon have a yolk sac which is essentually their nutrient/food source for the next 30 days.  At this point in their life stage, they are called alevin.  They grow in the protection of the stream gravel, but are still at risk of big storm events which may scour the stream too much. The yolk sac is slowly absorbed over that time and the young salmon begin to look more like a small fish.





It is not until the yolk sac is completed absorbed that the young fish wriggle up from the gravel and emerge into the open water of the stream.  It is here they hide in the shadows while seeking new sources of food. They will continue on their life path to the ocean and return in 2-5 years, perhaps to the very location from where they started.

Sense of smell

Salmon find their home waters by sense of smell which is even more keen than a dog or bear.  They also rely on ocean currents, tides and the gravitational pull of the moon to navigate their way through the ocean back to the stream or river where they were born.