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When Salmon Are Trout

Updated on December 12, 2011

The Thousand Mile Swim

It boggles my mind that anything or anyone could swim upstream a thousand miles, yet this happens every year in a certain species of salmon. I'm thinking they might be the fish champions of the world in perseverance and stamina.

Five species of salmon are found in American waters and another in Japan. The Chinook, or Quinnat, which sometimes weigh a hundred pounds is the most valued, the Blueback, or Sockeye, is next. However, the Humpback, the Silver, and the Dog salmon are also taken in considerable quantities.

Only a small part of the catch is eaten fresh. From Alaska southward to California there are many canneries that pack these fish and send it all over the world.


The Chinock

The habits of the Chinook have been carefully studied. As they sometimes must travel a thousand miles to the headwaters of the streams they frequent, they enter the rivers in early spring and swim leisurely upward.

They will not spawn until the temperature of the water is about fifty-four degrees or lower. If the water is too warm when they arrive, the loaf until the temperature falls. Finally, a hole is dug in the gravel, the eggs are deposited during several days, and then are covered. When spawning is completed, the old fish die and float downstream, furnishing food for birds and animals.

Depending somewhat upon the temperature of the water, the eggs hatch in from four to six months, and as the young grow they make their way downstream into the ocean or the bays and sounds.

The King Chinook

Danube (Huchen) Salmon
Danube (Huchen) Salmon

Huchen (Danube) Salmon

We Americans should pay close attention to the plight of the Huchen or Danube salmon. They are the largest among the fresh water salmon varieties. A hugely popular fish for eating in Europe, they have become one of the most endangered fish. Our concern should be that we do not follow the same path with our wild Pacific salmon which is endangered near extinction also.

Like all true salmon, they are migratory and swim upstream from their lakes at spawning time. They pair up one male to a female and that male is so territorial that he will defend the nest until death if need be. He has very sharp teeth and knows how to use them.

It takes very cold waters (under 10 degrees) for the egg laying and slightly warmer temperatures to hatch. They are not a fish that can be commercially farmed in terms of their cycle of life habits.

What is really cool about these fish is that they are shaped much like little drums, being cylindrically shaped.  If you cut them in half, you'd have slices of circles. 

Dog Salmon
Dog Salmon

Dog Salmon

The marathon swimmers of the salmon have to be the Dog salmon (aka Keta salmon, Chum, or Silverbrite salmon).  These salmon are camaflouged almost to the true colors we humans see when we look at the ocean -- silvery blue green, with sometimes purple streaks.

The reason they are the marathon runners of the salmon world is that some of them are known to have travelled over two thousand miles up the Yukon River.  They also spend a few years when young traversing the ocean for long distances. 

They are the least favorite of the salmon species for eating, hence the name chum, which any fisherman knows is another word for what many use as "bait."

Yet, they too are an endangered species in this country.  This has largely come about by man's interferance of their environment by building dams that prevent them from their natural waters.

Rainbow Trout
Rainbow Trout

The Trout Members of the Salmon Family

It would surprise most to know that trout are in the salmon family. Many different American fishes are called trout. Although all, or nearly all, belong to the salmon family.

We have three genera and many species. Many of their habit are like those of the salmon, and a few go to sea, though most of them spend their lives in fresh water.

Strange to say, those most closely allied to the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are found in lakes and streams in the western half of the continent. There are twenty or more species, such as the Steelhead, the Rainbow, the Salmon, the Golden, and many others.

Dolly Varden
Dolly Varden

Other Types of Trout

Most of the eastern trout, as well as some European trout are chars, belonging to the genus Salvelinus and are not true salmon.

The most famous is the Brook, or Speckled trout, beloved of all fishermen. It is one of the most beautiful of fish, and has been introduced into many streams where it was not native.

The Dolly Varden is found only in Pacific waters, and is sometimes called the Salmon trout. Then, there are the:

  • Blueback trout (of Maine and Quebec)
  • Sunapee (that is possibly a variation of the Brook Trout of Europe)
  • European Brown Trout (Salmo fario)

Sunapee trout
Sunapee trout

Real Trout and Salmon Fishermen

Many fisherman feel it unsportsmanlike to take any of these fish except with an artificial fly. Most eastern streams are much fished and the supply is kept up by artificial hatching.

How To Fly Cast For Beginners

When A Trout Is A Salmon

The Salmonidae (Salmon) fish family include some fish that are called trout. The main thing about this fish family is the migratory life vs. other kinds of trout who do not migrate and stay in one place.

The main species of Salmon are:

  • Adriatic trout
  • Atlantic salmon
  • Brown trout
  • Cutthroat trout
  • Flathead trout
  • Huchen (Danube) salmon
  • Kokanee salmon
  • Land-locked trout
  • Maramorta trout
  • Ohrid trout
  • Pacific salmon (including the Cherry salmon; Chinook; Chum salmon; Coho salmon; Pink salmon; and the Sockeye salmon)
  • Rainbow trout
  • Sevan trout
  • Steelhead salmon



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    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks Lee Thacker! Some say my mind works in mysterious ways. LOL

    • Lee Thacker profile image

      Lee Thacker 

      9 years ago

      I like the way your brain thinks, makes me feel alive listening to what your thinking, very cool...Keep it up ...PS Now I Know Why I bookmarked your page ;-) ...Hope you are doing well,

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Carmen Borthwick! I'm jealous.

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image

      Carmen Borthwick 

      9 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Good hub Jerilee, We're fortunate where I live to actually be able to go to the river and creek to watch the salmon spawn. Its amazing yet sad all at the same time.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks livingsta!

    • livingsta profile image


      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Jerilee..your hubs are always informative..i have learned something new from you today. thank you :)

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks RNMSN! Now that's respect for nature!

      Thanks Hmrjmr1! We could all learn a lot from that kind of determination.

      Thanks BrianS! Nothing tastes better than grilled salmon and it's not lost on me that cardiologists recommend eating salmon three times a week. Not so good for their endangered species I'm thinking though.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      9 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      I have never been salmon fishing but have an image of grizzly bears fishing for them from documentaries and nature programs I have watched in the past. I have always been intrigued by their exploits and feel really sorry for them when they get caught going up river after having traveled so far. Guess I am an old softie at heart, not so soft though as I still love to eat them, one of my favorite foods.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image


      9 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Jerilee- two tours of duty in the Northwest left me with a great appreciation for the Salmon, I watched them migrate upstream and it is a thing of beauty and sheer determination on the part of the fish. thanks for a great Hub!

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      9 years ago from Tucson, Az

      great article JeriLee!! When we lived in Martin City, Mt, every Oct we would go up the road a bit to the river and watch the bald eagles catch their share of salmon :) but no one fished for the salmon!! That always impressed me, in fact it was always really quiet, just a few loud whispers of wow and did you see that and it was cool!!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Aya! Tying fish flies for trouts used to be one of my passions and childhood memories of trout fishing out west are fond one.

      Thanks Flightkeeper! Thanks for the tip on the organization, I didn't know of it.

      Thanks GusTheRedneck! Well, there are fish stories and then there is the fish story. I know both but hopefully when I write a fishy story it will be good enough that no one will get mad at me for making them my literary victim.

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 

      9 years ago from USA

      Howdy Jerrilee - Someone once told me to never "fall for fishy stories." You have victimized me. I enjoy your articles.

    • Flightkeeper profile image


      9 years ago from The East Coast

      I donate to an organization called Long Live the Kings and they do everything they can to preserve the spawning grounds and the "trail" of the Chinook. Thanks for the hub Jerilee.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jerilee, I love rainbow trout. Used to fish with my father in Idaho. But I did not know they were related to salmon!


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