Alaska Salmon Identification

Each species of salmon has unique and interesting characteristics. King salmon are known for their legendary size and good table fare but have much fewer numbers than the other species of salmon making each catch an extremely valuable and rewarding experience.  King salmon are the least abundant of all the salmon species.  


Silver salmon are the 4th most abundant species with averages in the 12-15 pound range but can get as large as 30 lbs.  75% of the United States consumption of Coho salmon comes from Alaska.


Sockeye salmon are the 3rd most abundant species and can weigh up to 15 pounds.  This salmon is largely considered the premium table fare salmon due to it's deep red coloring and firm texture.


Pink Salmon are the most abundant salmon with millions migrating up the Alaskan rivers on even number of years. These salmon are very aggresive and will pretty much strike at anything put in front of them. Weighing an average of 4-5 lbs Pink salmon create great action for first timers and young anglers because it's almost impossible not to catch dozens of them in any given day.


Chum Salmon are the 2nd most abundant species and 2nd only to the King salmon in size.  Average weight of Chum Salmon are 8-15 pounds but can get as large as 45 pounds.


Five types of salmon can be found in Alaska's waters. Many of them have similar features and spawning salmon go through dramatic physical changes. Depending upon how long the salmon has been in the river determines how far along these physical changes may be. The similar features and physical changes during spawning can create challenges in identifying the species.  For this reason there are a number of published identification guidelines to help identify both spawning and non-spawning salmon.

Chinook (King) Salmon Identification

Tail - Both upper and lower lobes of the tail have spots


Mouth and Gums - The mouth is black and the gums are black. 


Back - Large spots along the upper back


Profile view of Chinook (King) Salmon
Gums and Mouth of Chinook (King) Salmon
Tail of Chinook (King) Salmon
Male Spawning Chinook (King) Salmon
Female Spawning Chinook (King) Salmon

Coho (Silver) Salmon Identification

Profile View Coho (Silver) Salmon
Male Spawning Coho (Silver) Salmon
Mouth and gums Coho (Silver) Salmon
Female Spawning Coho (Silver) Salmon
Tail of Coho (Silver) Salmon

Tail - Silver streaks that stop about half way out to the end of the tail, may or may not have just a few scattered spots on the upper lobe


Mouth and Gums - Black mouth, white gums

Sockeye (Red) Salmon Identification

Sockeye (Red) Salmon Profile View
Sockeye (Red) Salmon Mouth and Gums
Sockeye (Red) Salmon Tail

Tail - No spots, no streaks


Mouth and Gums - White mouth, white gums


Back - no spots


Male Sockeye (Red) Spawning Salmon
Female Sockeye (Red) Spawning Salmon

Pink (Humpie) Salmon Identification

Pink Salmon Mouth and Gums
Pink Salmon Tail
Pink Salmon Profile View

Tail - Very identifiable oval spots on both lobes covering most if not all of the tail


Mouth and Gums - White mouth, black gums, black tongue


Back - large spots all along the back. Very identifiable hump on spawning male


Male Spawning Pink Salmon
Female Spawning Pink Salmon

Chum (Dog) Salmon Identification

Chum (Dog) Salmon Mouth and Gums
Chum (Dog) Salmon Tail
Chum (Dog) Salmon Profile View

Tail - No spots but silver streaks will cover about 1/2 of the fin


Mouth and Gums - White mouth, white gum line along with well developed teeth


Back - No spots on any part of this fish. Easily identifiable "Tiger Stripes" during spawning

Male Spawning Chum (Dog)
Female Spawning Chum (Dog)

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