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WHERE ARE THE SALMON, WHEN?

There is much variation in life history patterns within a species and run of anadromous fish. Each stream system has fish populations with their own unique timing and patterns of spawning, growth, and migration. However, the table below provides a good summary of the most common timing for the fish listed.

Chinook, coho, chum, pink, and sockeye salmon die soon after spawning. Steelhead and cutthroat trout, unlike the species we call "salmon" on the west coast of North America, may not die after spawning. They can migrate back out to sea and return in later years to spawn again.


 Generalized Life History Patterns of Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout
 in the Pacific Northwest

Species Spawning Location Eggs in gravel Young in Stream Fresh-
water rearing
Young Migrate Downstream Time in Estuary Time in Ocean Adults Return to Streams from Ocean Adult Weight in lbs. (Avg)
Coho salmon coastal streams, shallow tributaries October to May 1+ years tributaries, main stem side channels, and slack water
March to July
(of 2nd year)
a few days to one month 2 years October to January 5-20
(8)
Chum salmon coastal rivers and streams, lower reaches September to March days to weeks little time spent in freshwater
shortly after young leave gravel 7-14 days 2.5-3 years September to January 8-12
(10)
Chinook salmon
(spring run)
large and small rivers July to January 1+ year main stem--large and small rivers
March to July
(of 2nd year)
days to months 2-5 years January to July 10-20
(15)
Chinook salmon
(summer run)
large and small rivers September to November 1+ year large and small rivers
spring
(of 2nd year)
days to months 2-5 years June to mid-August 10-30
(14)
Chinook salmon
(fall run)
large and small rivers September to March 3-7 months large and small rivers
April to June
(of 2nd year)
days to months 2-5 years August to March 15-40
Coastal cutthroat trout
(sea-run)
tiny tributaries of coastal streams December to July 1-3 years (2 avg) tributaries
March to June
(of 2nd to 4th yr)
less than a month 0.5-1 year July to December 0.5-4
(1)
Pink salmon main stem of streams, tributaries, and lower reaches August to January days to weeks little time spent in freshwater
December to May few days 1.5 years July to October 3-10
(4)
Sockeye salmon streams, usually near lakes August to April 1-3 years lakes
April to June
(of 2nd to 4th yr)
few days 1-4 years July to August 3-8
(6)
Steelhead
(winter run)
tributaries and small streams and rivers February to July 1-3 years tributaries
March to June
(of 2nd to 5th yr)
less than a month 1-4 years November to June 5-28
(8)
Steelhead
(spring run)
tributaries and small streams and rivers December to May 1-2 years tributaries
Spring & Summer
(of 3rd to 4th yr)
less than a month 1-4 years February to June 5-20
Steelhead
(summer run)
tributaries and small streams and rivers February to June
February to July
1-2 years
1-3 years
tributaries
March to June
(of 3rd to 5th yr)
March to June
(of 2nd to 5th yr)
less than a month 1-4 years June to October
(Columbia)
April to November
(coastal)
5-30
(8)


Adapted by Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission from the following sources:

  • Pearcy, William G. 1992. Ocean Ecology of North Pacific Salmonids. University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA. 179 p.
  • Bell, Milo. 1986. Fisheries Handbook of Engineering Requirements and Biological Criteria. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland, OR. 290 p.
  • Yates, Steve. 1988. Adopting A Stream; A Northwest Handbook. Adopt-A Stream Foundation, distributed by University of Washington Press. 11 p.