Chinook Salmon

Lake Michigan Sunset  Taken By:Jerek Obry

If I were a Chinook, what could I expect?

Reproduction/Growth- The Chinook, like all other salmon, are anadromous.  This means that they are hatched in fresh water and will spend a portion of their life in a salt water environment. The Chinook Salmon will typically spend a lifespan of 3-5 years in the ocean before returning to t “birth streams” (see Habitat/Range) to spawn.  Spawning nests known as “redds” flourish in the fall months (Sept-Dec.) as the females lay their eggs.  Up to 7 redds can be made by a single female before she runs out of eggs. During this spawning period the males will develop what is know a kype; which is the pronounced curvature of the upper jaw.  Once the eggs are laid in the redd the female will guard the eggs for 1-3 weeks before she dies.  After 3-5 months, the eggs hatch into fry (young fish).  The fry will remain in their from winter until June.

            Around the middle of June the juveniles have grown to 3 inches and begin smolting (changing their colors to bright silver).  It is at this stage in the fish’s life that it begins the migration toward its future home, the ocean.  By July-September the Chinooks have grown to a length of 6-13 inches and will spend most or their time around the surface in depths of 50 feet or less.  By late fall Chinook can be found suspended in depths well over 100 feet and have adapted a diet of almost 100% fish.  From this point on the fish will spend their time hunting for nourishment.

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