Five Species of Pacific Salmon

One of the most well-known animals living in the Fraser River are the salmon that migrate up and down its waters each year. All five species of North American Pacific salmon can be found in the Fraser River—sockeye, coho, chum, Chinook, and pink. There are also two species of trout that are closely related to salmon—cutthroat and rainbow, or steelhead—who live in the Fraser River, too.

It can be tough to tell salmon species apart – these fish look very different throughout their lives, and share similar traits and habits. Click the buttons below learn more about what the five species of salmon have in common, and what makes them different.
Click each salmon to learn what makes it unique!
Does it have spots?
Big to small
How long does it spend in its home stream before beginning its journey to the ocean?
How old is it when it begins to migrate back to its home stream?
yesno1-3 monthsAbout One Year2 Years2-4 Years2-6 Years3-5 Years
Up to 50 kgs
3 – 5 kgs
1.5 – 3.5 kgs
3 – 5 kgs
1.3 – 2.6 kgs
Also known as: king salmon
Chinook are the largest of the Pacific salmon species! They can weigh up to 50 kilograms. Adult chinook salmon have a black mouth and spots on the body and tail, and migrating Chinook turn olive brown or black in color. They are known for being very strong swimmers who can make big leaps when migrating.
Also known as: silver salmon
Coho salmon have a black mouth with white gums. They have spots, but only on the upper part of their body. They have a more square-shaped tail, and change colors to have a greenish-black head and red body during migration season. The shape of a male coho salmon’s mouth swells so much during migration, it can’t even close it!
Also known as: red salmon
Sockeye salmon have big, glassy eyes and no spots. They are shinier than other salmon species and have a white mouth with small teeth. These salmon will transform to have a greenish head and a red body during migration. Males may also grow a hump on their backs before spawning.
Also known as: dog salmon
Chum salmon have a white mouth and large teeth. Adults don’t have spots, but they do have some silver stripes on their tail. During migration, males can turn reddish-purple with dark, vertical stripes.
Also known as: humpback salmon
Pink salmon are the smallest species of Pacific salmon. They have a white mouth with black gums and large spots on their body. Because of their smaller size, they are more likely to be found in groups, or schools, which offer more protection from predators. Males grow a big hump on their backs during migration.
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Teacher’s Guide

Teacher’s Guide – Salmon Fry (best suited for elementary school students)

Teacher’s Guide – Salmon (best suited for high school students & older)


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Additional Resources – Salmon Fry (best suited for elementary school students)

Additional Resources – Salmon (best suited for high school students and older)

Keep learning about Watershed CPR with this resource from the Fraser River Discovery Centre: My River, My Home


The Watershed CPR Education Program is a self-guided, virtual learning experience all about the Fraser River, created by the Rivershed Society of BC.

In this virtual experience, users are introduced to the three pillars of Watershed CPR—Connect, Protect, and Restore—through a series of engaging activities and interactives about the Fraser Watershed. Users will learn about the flora and fauna that inhabit the Fraser; the First Nations who have lived in this area since time immemorial; some of the conservation issues affecting the watershed; and how to “perform Watershed CPR” and become a Watershed Defender.

To learn more about Watershed CPR and the Rivershed Society of BC, visit


Thank you to our partners in development: Cicada Creative and Canadian Geographic, and immense gratitude to the Kwantlen First Nation for their time and contributions to the program. Consultation from Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Funding provided by the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and Environment and Climate Change Canada, via the Environmental Damages Fund.

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RSBC will make every effort to be open about how we protect your personal information. The RSBC Privacy Code and the name and contact information of the Privacy Officer will be made available to all members, customers and supporters on request. Information about it will be disseminated through our newsletter and verbally.

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Enquiries and concerns regarding our Privacy Code or your personal information should be directed to the Privacy Officer, RSBC address.

This Golden Paw Print means that this is information that can help make your migration journey successful in the Watershed Defender section.