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Watchable Wildlife: Coho and Chinook Salmon

Did You Know?

  • Male chinook salmon underwater
    Chinook Salmon - Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
    Photo: Eric Engbretson, Engbretson Underwater Photo
    Both are non-native, Pacific coast species.
  • Most are hatchery-raised and stocked in lakes Ontario and Erie and their tributaries.
  • They protect their fertilized eggs by burying them in stream gravel.
Watchable wildlife binocular icon

What to Watch for:


Coho: average about 10 pounds and 20-34 inches long
Chinook: range from 15-30+ pounds and 22-44 inches long


Both species have gray backs speckled with black spots, and silver-gray sides. Male coho develop a deep red coloration on their sides as they mature for spawning. Chinook have fully spotted tails while Coho have only a few spots on their tails, usually confined to the upper lobe.

Where to Watch:

Lakes Erie and Ontario and their tributaries

When to Watch:

In spring, you may see these salmon chasing alewives and smelt in shallow near-shore areas. In fall, enjoy one of nature's most impressive and poignant spawning displays as these huge fish race up rivers and streams to lay their eggs before dying.

More Information on Salmon:

The Best Place to See Coho and Chinook Salmon: