Chinook Salmon


Map of Chinook salmon range in the Great Lakes

modified from: Mandrak and Crossman (1992)



Typical length:  30–100 centimetres (12-39 inches)

Typical weight:  3.1–6.8  kilograms (7-15 pounds)

Ontario record:  21 kilograms (46.4 pounds)

Similar fish: 

pink salmon

rainbow trout (Great Lakes)

Coho salmon

Atlantic salmon

brown trout

Chinook salmon


Key Identifying Characteristics:


  • Elongated, moderately deep-bodied fish
  • Back is blue or green; sides are silvery; belly is white
  • Tail entirely spotted
  • Black mouth and black gums
  • Leading ray on anal fin extends 1/3 the length of the fin
  • Short, narrow caudal peduncle




  • In Ontario, Chinook salmon spend most of their life in the cold waters of the Great Lakes until they returns to tributary streams to spawn.


Angling Tips:


  • Chinook salmon are extremely strong fighters, with potential size being the main attraction for anglers. Chinooks are extremely sensitive to light, and so are not likely to feed on the surface.
  • Salmon are migratory fish. In the late summer and early fall, salmon are found at the mouth of rivers waiting to move upstream to spawn. Once salmon move upstream in the fall, they generally stop feeding but are aggressive and territorial and will hit the lure to defend. Try using rattle baits, spinners and plugs.
  • While fishing in the Great Lakes, downrigging and trolling is your best bet. Plugs, spoons, and live or dead bait are trolled rather deep for this species, and live, salted or fresh-cut herring are used as bait for still fishing in moderately deep water.


Common Baits:


  • Plugs
  • Spoons
  • Trolling flies
  • Live or dead bait



Chinook salmon banner graphic 


Top photo courtesy of John Kendall