Salmon season nearly upon us

A Chinook salmon caught during a previous fishing season.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) reported that recent rains have sent Chinook from the bays into several north and central coast rivers, making those locations the best bets for weekend fishing.

Recreational fishermen are reminded that reduced bag limits are now in effect for wild adult Chinook salmon in Oregon’s Central and North Coast bays and streams.

The Chinook salmon is the largest of the Pacific salmon species and can reach upwards of 50 pounds, though 10 to 25 pounds is more common. It's also known as a king salmon and is Oregon's state fish.

While in the ocean, Chinook salmon often have a purple hue to their backs with silvery sides and bellies, large oblong black spots on the back, and round black spots on both lobes of the tail (note that tail spotting may be obscured in ocean fish by “silver” in the tail).

Upon returning to freshwater to spawn, Chinook darken in color and develop red on their bellies and fins. A key identifier is the black gum line on the lower jaw with dark colors both inside and outside of the gum line. Spawning generally occurs from August to early November for spring Chinook and from October to early March for fall Chinook.

Juvenile Chinook will stay in fresh water for the first few months to couple of years of their lives. Afterwards, they will migrate to the Pacific to feed and grow to a size where they can make the trip back inland to spawn in their natal streams. They require clean, well oxygenated freshwater to spawn. All adults die within two weeks after spawning.

Anglers both on boats and on shore can catch Chinook. Using spinners or baiting with shrimp or anchovies is a safe bet in rivers. When fishing the ocean going deep with spoons, imitation squid or a whole herring or anchovy behind an attractor such as a dodger is usually the most productive method.

Several north coast lakes will be stocked with trophy trout this week as well. Trout is Oregon's number one game fish. ODFW stocks over 5 million trout each year.

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