Species Profile

Quick Facts

  • Chinook salmon migrate from the freshwater to the ocean, where they mature and feed. They typically remain in the ocean for two to four years.
  • Different seasonal salmon runs are identified based on when adult Chinook salmon enter freshwater streams and rivers to begin their migration.
  • Chinook salmon are the largest salmon. Adults often weigh more than 40 pounds, and some individuals have reached weights of over 120 pounds.

The Chinook salmon is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and California’s Endangered Species Act. The Chinook salmon winter-run was listed as endangered at the state level in 1989, and listed at the federal level in 1990. The spring-run was listed as threatened at both the state and federal levels in 1999.


Chinook salmon are anadromous, meaning they migrate from the ocean into the freshwater streams and rivers of their birth to mate. Juvenile Chinook salmon spend from three months to two years in freshwater before migrating to marine environments, and during this time period foraging habitat is crucial.


Dams currently block Chinook salmon from over 90% of their historical spawning and rearing habitat. By restoring floodplain habitat, landowners and investors can support juvenile salmon during this key part of their life cycle.