Coho (Silver) Salmon

Coho Salmon

Common Name: Coho Salmon, a.k.a. Silver Salmon

Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus kisutch

Appearance: Readily distinguishable from a chinook salmon by its shortened lower jaw with lighter gums, Coho also have a distinctively blue/green-colored back, and black spots that cover the entire upper portion of their body, not just the tail.

Distribution: Native to the entire northern-hemisphere region of the Pacific Ocean, Coho range from Mexico to Alaksa to Japan. Though increasingly rare in the southern portion of this range, coho may also be found in rivers adjoining the ocean. They’ve been introduced quite successfully to the Great Lakes region, less so to South America, New Zeland, western Canada and New England. Great Lakescoho grow up to three times the size of their Pacific relatives.

Spawning: An anadromous species,coho hatch and spend their juvenile years in cool, freshwater, medium-fast runningstreamsbefore migrating out to sea upon maturity,returning to fresh watersome years later to spawn and die (Great Lakes coho have adapted to an all-freshwater existence, though they still follow the same general pattern of migration between the rivers and the lakes).

After an arduous journey along a river, a female coho will clear out a redd (nest) in a gravelly section of the bottom and deposit her eggs, to be fertilized by one or more males. Afterwards, the female covers the eggs with gravel, then leaves them to incubate for 1 to 3 months. Mostmature coho will die shortly after spawning, though a few particularly young and hardy males might survive to spawn again.

Youngcoho will gradually move from freshwater to brackish water, and then to saltwater over the first few months of their life, growing steadily on a diet of shrimp, herring, sardines, anchovies, and squid. The majority of them will return to the exact location of their birth to spawn within 1 to 3 years, though a few wind up spawning elsewhere (possibly due to a glitch in their usually infalliblesense of navigation – though this ultimately benefits the species by shaking up the gene pool).

Angling: Though not as large as chinook, coho have won a following among anglers for theirhard strikes, impressive agility,and high-flyingout-of-water leapswhen hooked. Coho tend to feed closer to the surface than chinook, making them better suited for casting than trolling (though both techniques, done right, will still produce results).

Light tackle on a medium-weight rod, cast or trolled close to the surface, will usually get the job done. Coho are a bit warier than Chinook, so be sure to keep a good distance between your boat and the edge of a feeding school, lest you startle the fish. Light colors and shiny materials work best if using artificial bait.

In the weeks leading up to a spawn, coho will congregate in large numbers near the mouth of a river or stream as they acclimate to fresh water. Around this time, the hungry coho can be located relatively easily andcaught in large numbers from a boat or shore using spinning tackle or else by fly fishing.