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What is a Chum Salmon?

The Chum Salmon, also known as 'Dog Salmon,' is a fascinating migratory fish native to Pacific and Arctic coastal waters. Renowned for its remarkable life cycle, it travels vast distances from ocean to natal rivers to spawn. With its unique taste and ecological importance, the Chum Salmon's journey is a tale of resilience and survival. Curious to uncover more? Join us as we dive deeper.
Melissa King
Melissa King

Chum salmon, of the genus Oncorhynchus, is a silvery blue-green Pacific Ocean fish that acquires purplish-black vertical stripes during its spawning season. A black, horizontal stripe can appear instead if the fish is actively spawning or is a sub-dominant male. The males are also recognized by their extremely large teeth. Their average weight is between 8 and 15 pounds (3.63 and 6.8 kilograms), and they can grow up to 3 feet (0.9 meters) long. They generally have a lifespan of three to six years. Chum salmon have a wider distribution range than any other Pacific salmon type, and are spread throughout the northwestern United States, northern Canada, western Russia, Japan and Korea. They are sometimes referred to as dog or Keta salmon, and are typically sold under the name Silverbrite salmon in stores.

The life cycle of a chum salmon begins in fresh water streams and tributaries, where adult females can lay up to 4,000 eggs in nests called redds. After about four months, the eggs hatch. These young fish are called alevins. At this time, the alevins remain in the redd in order to absorb nutrients from their egg yolk sacs. Their diet also consists of insects and small fish.

Chum salmon is low in sodium.
Chum salmon is low in sodium.

After about a month, the salmon emerge from the redd, and are now called fry. The fry do not reside in fresh water for a long period of time after they are hatched, unlike other types of salmon. They make their way quickly to saltwater coastal areas, swimming in schools to avoid predators. When the salmon become adults, their diet normally consists of other fish, jellyfish and squid. After approximately four years of life in the open ocean, the salmon return to the stream where they were hatched, spawn, and die soon afterward.

A salmon's diet might include small squid.
A salmon's diet might include small squid.

Commercially, chum salmon are usually harvested from fisheries, or are caught by drift gillnets. They are the most harvested fish in parts of Alaska, and there is a growing demand for them in Europe and Japan. Alaskan chum salmon are used extensively in the food service industry.

Nutritionally, chum salmon are naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and selenium. They are also low in sodium. They have the lowest oil content of all salmon varieties, making them ideal for people who prefer a lighter-tasting fish. They can be bought fresh from July through October, or purchased frozen. The skin and flesh colors can vary widely, depending on the fish's age and where it was caught. The fish is commonly prepared grilled, smoked, steamed or poached.

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Discussion Comments


A friend of mine from Seattle who had grown up eating salmon had a wonderful recipe for Chum salmon.

This was a recipe that included mayonnaise and oranges. Let's face it mayonnaise taste great on anything (but do not try to substitute Miracle Whip - here in the south where I live now - we do not believe in such a substance) and the orange taste added it a tang to the fish.

Add some rosemary in with some green beans and you have the perfect side dish.

Lastly, do not knock it until you have tried it!


@lighth0se33 - Since you like teriyaki sauce with your canned salmon, you might love my baked teriyaki salmon. I got the idea from my favorite Japanese restaurant.

I use fresh chum salmon if I can find it. I have been known to use frozen, but fresh is best. I coat a baking pan with teriyaki sauce. I chop up an onion into slices about two inches long and place them in the sauce. I put the fish on top of the onions, pour some more teriyaki on it, and throw a few more onions over it.

I bake the fish at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, and if it flakes well, I know it is ready. The potent flavor of the salmon shines through and complements the sauce and onions.


Chum salmon is great when baked in the oven with a few simple ingredients. I preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake it for 20 minutes or until it flakes off easily with a fork.

First, I put a touch of butter in a pan. Then, I sprinkle dill weed over the butter. Next, I place the chum salmon on top. I add another pat of butter and sprinkle some more dill weed on its surface. I squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over it and put it in the oven.

This fish is so flavorful. I like to serve it with toasted french bread and homemade baked potato chips on the side.


My uncle works in Japan at the world’s largest chum salmon fishery. They use traps to minimize handling, and this yields better quality salmon products.

He told me that because they spawn so near the ocean, they do not have time to build up much oil in their systems. Without a lot of oil content, their flesh quality can change drastically in a short period.

He let me know that when a chum salmon has a bright silver color to its skin, it is of the highest quality. When shopping for fresh salmon, this is the only color I will buy.


I buy chum salmon in a can and eat it in a variety of ways. I normally like to add things to it for extra flavor, though I have eaten it plain with crackers.

One thing I make is salmon patties. I mix one egg and some flour with a can of chum salmon. Then, I dip large spoonfuls of the mixture into an oiled skillet and fry the patties until they turn brown, flipping once. These patties are delicious inside of biscuits.

Another way I prepare canned salmon is by heating it in a skillet with some teriyaki sauce, canned corn, and chives. Since it is already cooked, all I have to do is heat it through to let the sauce sink into the flesh.

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    • Chum salmon is low in sodium.
      By: Lsantilli
      Chum salmon is low in sodium.
    • A salmon's diet might include small squid.
      By: hiphoto39
      A salmon's diet might include small squid.
    • Chum salmon can be smoked.
      By: emmi
      Chum salmon can be smoked.