How the Salmon Spawn Works

When Salmon Spawn


­Angle­rs prize several species of salmon. The following chart summarizes the spawn times and average size of some of the more popular types.

Salmon Spawning Times and Sizes



Spawning Season

Average Size

Pink salmon

Fall, but only every odd-numbered
year in Washington state

3 to 5 pounds (1.4 to 2.3 kg)

top weight: 12 pounds (5.4 kg)

Sockeye salmon


5 to 8 pounds (2.3 to 3.6 kg)

top weight: 15 pounds (6.8 kg)

Chum salmon


10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 6.8 kg)

top weight: 33 pounds (15 kg)

Coho salmon


6 to 12 pounds (2.7 to 5.4 kg)

top weight: 31 pounds (


Spring; summer and winter runs

8 to 11 pounds (3.6 to 5 kg)

top weight: 40 pounds (18 kg)

Chinook salmon

Fall; spring, summer and fall runs

10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 6.8 kg)

top weight: 135 pounds (61 kg)

[source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife]

Save the Salmon!
In places where the salmon have become extinct, the entire ecosystem is at risk. In turn, river otter, mink, bear and eagle experience loss of population. That's part of the reason behind efforts, which started in the 1990s, to preserve wild salmon as a natural resource, after 17 stocks had become extinct. Stock varies from river to river -- all Chinook are not genetically alike. By adapting to their specific watershed, the salmon have been able to survive. Loss of a particular stock is a genetic loss [source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife].

Depending on the timing of the spawn, salmon may face multiple threats. Natural events can make things more difficult, too. In the summer of 2008, floods in Alaska put the king salmon population at risk. Floods usually occur late in the year, after the salmon have spawned. Earlier flooding means that eggs already deposited could be washed away. Higher, stronger water also makes it more difficult for the salmon to reach spawning grounds because the fish use more energy to fight the current. In such events, expending that energy may mean not enough energy remains to spawn. [source: Anchorage Daily News].

You've carefully chosen the right season for catching spawning salmon. But where do you go to find them? Read on to get your bearings!