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Chum salmon are amazing fish with specific, unusual and fascinating life traits, which differentiate them from other species of Pacific Salmon.
Test Your Knowledge About Chum Salmon!
- Chum salmon reside in their stream of birth for longer than any other species of Pacific salmon.
False. Actually, chum salmon move quickly out of their natal stream, usually within just a few weeks of emerging from streambottom gravel, and into the brackish water of the estuary. They spend several months growing and developing in the estuary before heading out to open waters.
- Chum salmon are the most widely distributed species of Pacific salmon.
True. Chum range widely, from northern California to Alaska and as far afield as Korea and Japan.
- Chum salmon are strong jumpers and can easily leap barriers such as fallen logs, cascades and waterfalls.
False. Chum are the poorest jumpers of the Pacific salmon. Impediments such as logs and small falls that would not stop other species of salmon, such as Chinook and coho, can easily stop upstream chum migration. Thus, chum tend to dig their redds (nests) in medium-sized gravels in small streams or at the lower end of larger streams.
- Chum are poor migrators. They travel short distances in salt water.
False. Chum can travel vast distances as they return to their place of birth in order to spawn where conditions are ideal. For example, one run of chum travels over 2,000 miles to spawn in Yukon River tributaries, deep in the Yukon Territory of Canada.
- Chum are also known as dog salmon due to the strong canine-like jaws that mature males develop.
True. The anatomy of male chum undergoes a startling transformation as they prepare to leave salt water and enter the fresh water of their natal stream. Chief among these is a change from a sleek hydrodynamic shape for efficient swimming in marine waters to developing a hooked, toothy jaw for doing battle with other males in a struggle for mating dominance.
- The fossil record indicates that chum salmon were present on earth six million years before present.
True. They coexisted briefly with the now extinct “saber tooth salmon” that was six feet in length and weighed around 350 pounds! However, the saber tooth salmon was not a voracious predator like all modern Pacific salmon but was a filter feeder.
- Less dominant “satellite males” are pushed to the side by bigger, stronger dominant males and almost never successfully fertilize the eggs that females deposit in the nests that they excavate in the streambed gravel.
False. Genetic testing reveals that smaller, but sneakier, “satellite males” can fertilize up to 25% of a female’s eggs.
- Chum are listed as a threatened species in Puget Sound.
False. Chum are the most common species of Pacific salmon in Puget Sound with large runs present in many rivers and streams. This is due, in part, to the fact that they out-migrate from their freshwater birth place quickly, thus not relying as much on high quality in-stream habitat.
- The Nisqually River features the latest chum salmon run on the west coast.
True. The Nisqually chum run in Muck Creek commences as late as mid-January, months after most chum runs are over!