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California Salmon

Blog by: David Coulson 5/15/2015

When people think of salmon, or at least when I do, Alaska is the first thing that comes to mind, then British Columbia.  After that it's kokanee, an inland species often stocked in western waters to provide recreation for anglers and fodder for lake trout.

What doesnít come to mind is the fact that pacific salmon were once prolific along the entire Pacific seaboard from California to Alaska.  While there are five species of Pacific salmon, only the Chinook and Coho are frequently encountered in California.  Occasionally pink salmon are caught.  Chum and sockeye are rarely seen in California waters.  

Today the California salmon fisheries are struggling. Coho are and have been protected from harvest since 1993.  Take is still permitted for the other species and the limit is currently two fish of any species, except Coho.  Anglers are well advised to make sure they know how to distinguish between the types of salmon to avoid mistakenly taking Coho.  The down and dirty difference is Coho have white gums, Chinook black.

For more information on the history of salmon in California the publication 5 Pacific Salmon, Salmonidae, is interesting reading. It provides some great background on the history of Californiaís salmon fishery.  Salmon played an important role in the diet and economy of California over the years.  Hopefully, they will continue to do in the future.

The 2015 season is underway and full information is available at California Department of Fish and Wildlife.   In the next couple weeks Iíll post more on Coho and Chinook. 

Itís my fervent hope that the Coho are able to make a recovery for a couple reasons.  One, Coho are a beautiful fish that deserve to be more than a footnote in Californiaís history.  On a more personal note, having fly fished Alaskan waters for salmon, I can attest to the willingness of these fish to attach oneís offerings with abandon. Then once hooked they often give the angler an aerial display second to none. That alone is reason enough to work for the recovery of Coho.


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