What Is Wild Chum Salmon?

  • Second only to Chinook salmon in size, chum salmon is one of the largest kinds of salmon found in the Pacific.
  • Chum salmon, like sockeye and coho salmon, are shiny greenish-blue with black speckles when they are in the ocean.
  • They drastically alter their look as soon as they get into fresh water.
  • Bold red and black stripes form a tiger stripe pattern on both sexes.
  • Males have gigantic canine-like teeth and have a remarkable calico pattern on their body, with a bold, jagged reddish line marking the front two-thirds of the flank and a jagged black line marking the back third.
  • Females that are laying eggs have drabber coloring and lack fangs.
  • In preparation for their migration to sea, young chum salmon lose their parr marks—vertical bars and spots that serve as camouflage—and develop the black back and light belly of open-water fish.

King salmon

The chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), also known as dog salmon or keta salmon, is a species of anadromous salmonidfish that is native to the coastal rivers of the North Pacific and the Beringian Arctic. In North America, it is frequently marketed under the trade name ilverbrite salmon. While the scientific name “keta” is derived from Russian, which itself is derived from the Evenki language of Eastern Siberia, the English word “chum salmon” originates from the Chinook Jargon term tzum, which means “spotted” or “marked.”

While originally referred to in kun’yomi as “stone katsura fish” (Shi Gui Yusake, sa ke) up to the Meiji period, chum salmon is now more commonly known in Japan as the white salmon (Bai Guishirosake, shiro sake), autumn salmon (Qiu Guiakisake, aki sake), or simply “the salmon” (Guisake, sa ke). Academically, it is referred to as the “hook-snout salmon” (Chinese: Gou Wen Gui) in Greater China, but the name “damaha fish” (simplified Chinese: Da Ma Ha Yu; traditional Chinese: Da Ma Ha Yu) is more frequently used. This name is derived from the Nanai name for the fish, “dawa imakha,” which is used by the Hezhe minority in northern Northeast China.

Basic Information

The most extensively distributed species of Pacific salmon, commonly referred to as dog salmon, is the chum salmon, which is typically found across Alaska. When chum salmon reach adulthood, they return to freshwater to spawn once in the fall before dying. Like the majority of other Pacific salmon species, they spend the majority of their lives foraging in saltwater. The majority of chum salmon populations do not migrate far upstream to spawn; however, some migrate as far as 2,000 miles to the Yukon River’s headwaters. Chum salmon are highly prized as a traditional source of dry winter food in the Arctic, Northwestern, and Interior of Alaska even though they are typically thought of as one of the less palatable types of salmon. Due to the Alaska hatchery program and increased exports, commercial chum salmon harvests in Alaska have more than doubled since the 1980s.

Why We Adore Chum Salmon

Chum salmon, also known as keta, dog, or silverbrite, is one of the five species of Pacific salmon, but it is often the least well-known and least loved. This may be because of the name “dog,” which was given to it because chum is often fed to sled dogs in the north and because spawning males have teeth that resemble those of a dog. Contrary to popular belief, chum captured during the silverbrite phase (see below) should be included in your rotation of salmon, whether it be fresh or flash-frozen. It’s high time we got rid of the “Chum’s pet food” label!

The highly sought roe (salmon caviar), as well as canned and smoked products, have served as the foundation of the chum salmon industry. Chum are frequently taken later in their life cycle, during their spawning phase, when meat is softer and less flavorful, in order to increase roe quality and quantity. This is the chum that the dogs are occasionally given. However, when chum salmon is taken in the open ocean, far from where they spawn (the “silverbrite” period), the meat is of excellent quality and it is frequently difficult to tell it apart from its more well-known sibling, sockeye.

Chum has a gentler, more delicate flavor than sockeye and chinook while still offering comparable quantities of omega-3 fatty acids and important micronutrients including selenium, niacin, and B121. It also has a lower lipid content than sockeye and chinook. Chum is a good choice for recipes that hold moisture, including curries and chowders, and for people who don’t like the strong flavor of sockeye due to its reduced fat content and gentler flavor. Chum is excellent when grilled or broiled and makes a great burger as well, especially when marinated.


One of the largest species of Pacific salmon is the chum salmon, an anadromous member of the salmon family. In the ocean, they have a metallic green/blue stripe down the back, silvery sides, and black spots. However, mature chum salmon undergo a significant physical change as they start their spawning season and return to freshwater. A rich black and red tiger stripe pattern develops on both sexes. The moniker “dog salmon” may come from the fact that males have exceptionally big, canine-like fangs. Males also have a hooked upper jaw and dark olive/brown coloring. A dark horizontal band that runs along the lateral line in females is possible. Chum salmon return back to freshwater streams (often where they were born) to breed after spending their adult life in the ocean. After hatching, their young spend a brief period of time in freshwater before moving on to the ocean. Between the ages of three and six, chum salmon normally reach sexual maturity and are able to lay 2000–5000 eggs. Chum salmon all pass away soon after spawning.

Salmon and Alaskan wild chum

Range & Habitat: Of all the Pacific salmon, chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) have the broadest spread. They extend south to the island of Kyushu in the Sea of Japan and the Sacramento River in California. In the north, they extend west to the Lena River in Siberia and east along the Arctic Ocean to the Mackenzie River in Canada. In Alaska’s interior, northwest, and arctic regions, chum salmon are the most prevalent species that are economically fished, although they are less significant elsewhere in the state. They are a traditional source of dried fish for use in the winter and are known locally as “dog salmon” there.

Chum salmon can be identified by their metallic greenish-blue dorsal surface (top), which has little black speckles. Without looking at their gills or the scale patterns on their caudal fins, it might be challenging to tell them apart from sockeye and coho salmon. Compared to other salmon, chums have fewer but larger gillrakers. The chum salmon changes color as it gets closer to fresh water, with vertical bands of green and purple standing out in particular. This is what gives them their common moniker of calico salmon. The males grow the distinctive hooked snout and enormous fangs that give Pacific salmon its alternative moniker of dog salmon. The lateral line of the females has a black horizontal band; their green and purple vertical bars are less noticeable.

Non-commercial fishery: Chum salmon continue to be a significant year-round supply of fresh and dried fish for personal use and subsistence in the Arctic, Northwest, and Interior of Alaska. Chum salmon are frequently caught by sport fishermen while they are fishing for other Pacific salmon in either fresh or saline water. Less than 25,000 chums are often harvested for sport throughout the state.

Native Americans have historically valued chum salmon in particular as a source of food for their dogs and themselves. Commercial fishing is used to get this white-fleshed fish, which is then marketed fresh, frozen, dry salted, or smoked. Out of the five species of salmon found in the Pacific, chum salmon are generally thought to have the poorest quality flesh.

Purchasing Advice: Chum salmon caught by commercial and recreational fisheries in maritime waters are frequently in ocean-bright condition. These fish are the greatest option for table cuisine because they are the highest quality chum salmon.

What makes chum salmon unique?

In terms of size, chum are large fish that are only surpassed by chinook in the Oncorhynchus genus. They are typically 35 to 45 inches long and weigh 12 to 15 lbs.

With the exception of Oregon and California, the Pacific Coast is home to a large and evenly dispersed population of chum. They are particularly significant in Japan, where they constitute both a significant export and a staple meal.

Compared to most other Pacific salmon kinds, chum has a gentler and softer flavor. Compared to Chinook, Sockeye, and Coho, they are less prized for eating and sportfishing in North America.

How can you tell a chum salmon apart?

Chum Salmon Eye: Compared to the iris, the pupil of this fish is significantly larger than that of other salmon species. Body: Lie the fish on its side and inspect the fish’s side. Along the salmon’s body, you can notice stripes that extend from the dorsum to the belly.

Is chum salmon healthy to consume?

Chum salmon are collected in greater quantities than any other salmon species in the Arctic, Western, and Interior regions of Alaska, where they are in considerable demand as a traditional dry winter food supply for people and dogs. The average yearly catch in Alaska’s commercial salmon fishery has been pink salmon from the state’s inception, despite chum salmon being the least valuable (per pound) of all Pacific salmon species. Chum salmon are mainly sold in Asia and Europe as canned or smoked products. If caught fresh, chum salmon’s firmness and flavor, in addition to its lighter color and lower oil content, make it a tasty alternative to other salmon species.

Since chum salmon frequently start to degrade by the time they reach popular sport-fishing regions, fishermen generally choose other salmon species in the sport fishery. Chum salmon often start to “turn” before they leave the water when they spawn close to the coast. However, chum salmon can offer good action on sport fishing gear when targeted close to river mouths before, or shortly after, admission into freshwater.

What distinguishes chum salmon from other types of salmon?

Let’s now get into the specifics of the many salmon species. There are 5 different varieties of Pacific salmon, and each has distinct qualities.

  • King salmon (Chinook) is the type of salmon with the most fat and omega-3 fatty acids. It is rich and buttery. King salmon comes in thick filets because of its size (the typical King salmon weighs approximately 40 pounds, but some weigh over 100 pounds)! They are also fairly pricey because they are a rare species. But it’s absolutely worth the splurge!
  • Silver Coho Fish: Coho salmon have a delicate texture and a delicate flavor. Despite having a moderate quantity of fat, this fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Because they are the slimmest salmon, sockeye salmon (red) have less fat than King and Coho salmon. Additionally, it tastes the most like salmon (in the best manner possible). There is no farmed Sockeye because of its distinct nutrition. The most preferred option among salmon fans is much more cheap than King and Coho salmon!
  • Pink Fish (Humpback): These little, pale pink salmon have a moderate flavor and little fat. Although they are often processed into cans, frozen versions are also offered.
  • Chum salmon (dog) is a smaller, lower-fat variety of salmon. The most well-known thing about them is their egg roe—those gorgeous, vivid orange balls presented with sushi! You’ve already tried a piece of chum salmon if you’ve ever consumed ikura sushi. Fun fact: Because of their canine-like teeth, this species of fish gets its name.

There is still the Atlantic salmon species. However, due to the rarity of wild Atlantic salmon as previously noted, all of the salmon sold today is farmed salmon.