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Identifying Coho and Chinook (king Salmon)
By: California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Posted on: 05/18/12
Hunting & Fishing
In some states such as California, retention of coho salmon is PROHIBITED and protected under the Endangered Species Act. Sport fishing enthusiasts should take time to correctly identify each salmon caught before removing it from the water (netting or dropping a coho salmon onto the deck of a boat can cause both scale loss and trauma that will likely reduce its chance of survival when released). Coho salmon should be identified through examination of mouth and gums. The base of the bottom teeth on a Chinook salmon are all black whereas coho salmon have a narrow light gray band.
Here are some easy tips for identifying and avoid catching the wrong salmon.
To help avoid contacting coho salmon:
- Rig to fish deeper - coho are more often in top 30 ft of water.
- Fish near shore for chinook - coho are usually more offshore.
- Use larger lures that select for large chinook and reduce coho catch.
Pink salmon are generally smaller than chinook and coho salmon and can be identified by the large, oval-shaped spots found on their back and on both lobes of the caudal fin. Their scales are very small and number over 168 in the row above the lateral line.
For more information on Salmon: