Chum Salmon

Oncorhynchus keta
Chum - 520x289

With the largest range of all Pacific Salmon, chum were at one time in every major tributary of the Columbia River with 16 different population centers observed. Now only two major populations remain in the Columbia River. One is located in the Grays River near the Willapa Bay Refuge, and the other below the Bonneville Dam in Hamilton and Hardy Creeks, running through the Pierce refuge. Chum are still seen throughout their historic range in the Columbia River, however these are just a few fish at a time and it is not clear if these are separate populations.

In the Hood Canal seven of the sixteen historical populations of chum are also extinct. Both the Lower Columbia River and the Hook Canal are now designated as critical habitat for chum salmon.


Decline of chum salmon in some areas is due to development along the River and its tributaries. These changes have taken out tide flats, swamps, and wetlands where chum thrive and cut off side channel habitats where chum like to spawn. Protected areas like Pierce are key to keeping local populations stable while other programs look to enhancing habitat. Conservation efforts include captive-rearing in hatcheries, removal of dams, restoration of habitat, and improvements to water quality.

In the Puget Sound and along the Pacific Coast chum populations are doing much better than in the Columbia River and Hood Canal.

Why do you think that is so?

Facts About Chum Salmon

Also known as “Dog Salmon”

Spawning males have canine-like fangs

Spawning colors are green with vertical purple stripes.