Spring Chinook Lifecycle

Chinook salmon may spend 1 to 8 years in the ocean but average from 3 to 4 years before returning to their home rivers to spawn. Chinook spawn in larger and deeper waters than other salmon species and can be found on the spawning nests known as redds from September through December. After laying eggs, the female guards the redd from 4 to 25 days before dying. During this time the male will seek additional mates. Chinook salmon eggs hatch, depending upon water temperature, 90 to 150 days after deposition. Egg deposits are timed to ensure that young salmon fry emerge during an appropriate season for survival and growth. Fry and parr (young fish) usually stay in freshwater 12 to 18 months before traveling downstream to estuaries, where they remain as smolts for several months. Some chinooks return to the fresh water one or two years earlier than their counterparts and are referred to as “Jack” salmon. “Jack” salmon can be half the size of an adult chinook salmon, and are usually released by sportsmen but kept by commercial fishermen.

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