Illustration by Jose Curtice

There are five species of Pacific salmon, and the best known is the coho salmon, also known as “Silverside” or “Silver Salmon.” Great coho once ruled the rivers and streams of the western coast of the United States. Today coho salmon are a threatened species in the continental U.S., with only a few thousand wild fish remaining. Coho salmon can be found on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, from Japan to Eastern Russia; and from Alaska to southern California. Coho salmon are born in fresh water and spend their adult lives living in salt water. Migration to the ocean takes place from late March to July. After spending one or two years in the ocean, coho return to fresh water to reproduce. However, only some coho are able to return safely because of obstacles like dams and dried up streams. During their time in the ocean, coho salmon are glistening silver in color. Spawning adults have brilliant bright red sides, blue-green heads and backs that are sprinkled with dark spots. Mature males and females are known for their distinctive hooked jaw. Coho salmon feed on plankton and insects while living in fresh water, and small fish while in the ocean.
(adapted from the Native Fish column in Trout magazine, written by Gregg Patterson — salmon image from