How well do you know chum salmon? Read on to learn more!


Of the five Pacific salmon species, chum are the second largest. During spawning season, males develop bright calico markings on their sides, and males grow large canine fangs (for which chum are also known as “Dog” salmon). Historically, the chum run on the Columbia River numbered well over a million salmon. Nowadays numbers are much fewer.

A few fun facts

chum salmon alevin

Chum salmon are known as “Five-Day Wonders.” Once baby chum salmon hatch out of the gravel, they can swim head first all the way to their estuary in just 5 days. Coho, for comparison, will stay in the stream for a year before heading out and then gently let the current take them as their heads point upstream.

Salmon eggs

Chum salmon eggs and alevin (hatchlings) are bigger than those of trout or coho salmon. This is so they are stronger and have more energy to swim out to the ocean quickly! How else would they make it in five days?

Willie releasing a male chum salmon

Unlike other salmon species, chum stay pretty low in the watershed – meaning they typically don’t go into the farthest reaches of tributaries. We see them mostly on the mainstem or close to the mainstem of a river (like our Columbia River population!)

A chum salmon "swimming" across the road

There’s a road in Skokomish county that floods each year because the culvert underneath is blocked. Most fish would take this as an impassible obstacle, but chum salmon are so determined to get to their spawning grounds that they swim across the road! 

Hooked on chum salmon

Chum salmon are a Pacific Northwest institution. Because they are so vital and charismatic, many dedicated individuals have stepped up to help preserve their population.

You may know that one of the great things about Columbia Springs is that we raise about 400,000 baby chum salmon each year through the Vancouver Trout Hatchery to be released as part of an endangered species recovery program. These salmon return to a spawning ground just across the street from Columbia Springs that we manage in partnership with Columbia Land Trust and the Wood Family.

For the past 15 years, the Wood Family has hosted a celebration to welcome the chum salmon back to their spawning grounds. This year we are excited to continue the tradition virtually and introduce the people who help these salmon at each stage of the chum salmon circle of life. Check out the video below for an up close preview of what you’ll experience during this family-friendly event!

We hope you join us for a chum salmon celebration! Beginning at 12:00 pm we will feature interviews from partners, educational activities, and some up close footage of our chum salmon. A salmon trivia competition will follow at 3:00 pm – with prizes for winners! Register below to join the fun.