Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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Chinook Salmon

Scientific Name: Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

Habitats: Great Lake Huron, Great Lake Michigan, Great Lake Superior

Edibility Score:

Toxicity Level: Medium

State Recommended Max Servings Per Month: 1

Chinook KING Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha – scientific name

Salmon family Salmonidae.

Chinook are larger and deeper bodied than coho salmon and steelhead trout. They have a dark mouth with black or dark colored gums. They often have “peanut” shaped spots that are larger than spots on coho and steelhead.  The salmon color are usually brownish green, although males can be red during spawning window.

The Upper Peninsula tributaries offer amazing fishing for pink salmon, king salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead trout. The pinks and king salmon spawn starts in late Aug to early Sep and peaks the later part of Sep. Steelhead Trout and Rainbows and browns follow in October and Cohos will follow into December.

The St. Mary’s River of the Upper Peninsula is home to Michigan’s Atlantic Salmon, Pink Salmon.

Atlantic and Pacific salmon belong to the same family of fish but have different genera, making them separate species. While the Pacific chinook salmon is bigger than the Atlantic salmon, it is the wild Atlantic salmon that tends to taste better than the Pacific salmon types.

Atlantic salmon are found in the northern Atlantic Ocean and in rivers that flow into it. The Great lakes eventually feed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Chinook King- Pacific Ocean, Coho – Pacific Ocean, Chum – Pacific Ocean, Pink- Pacific Ocean, Sockeye – Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Salomon – Atlantic Ocean.

There are seven species of Pacific salmon. Five of them occur in North American waters: chinook, coho, pink, chum, and sockeye.

Kokanee are land-locked sockeye salmon. This means that they do not travel to the ocean and return inland to spawn, instead they complete their entire life cycle in a Lake.

Pacific Salmon and most of the Great Lake Pacific range salmon were introduced into the great lakes in the 50’s and 60’s, that is why there are also populations of Pacific range Salmon that inhabit the Great Lakes.

Atlantic salmon are the only iteroparous type of salmon, which means that some individuals can recover from spawning, swim back to the great lakes, and return the following year for another spawn.

Pacific salmon always die after spawning only Steelhead Trout do not die after the spawn. Most salmon species live 2 to 7 years (4 to 5 average). Steelhead trout can live up to about 11 years.

The most common age of returning and spawning adult salmon is 4 years old. Chinook salmon may return to their spawning grounds after 1 to 3 years in the ocean.

Salmon fishing anglers will troll for them using downriggers, though some anglers drift in the current below the rapids. From shore casting with streamers or soft-plastic jerk baits, or big spoons.

Wild-caught Pacific salmon are typically considered to be the healthiest salmon.

Salmon caught while spawning would taste much different than open water caught salmon. As salmon migrate into freshwater streams to spawn, their bodies begin to degrade to the point where they’re actually decomposing.

Atlantic salmon migrate from Lake Huron into the upper stretches of the St. Mary’s River near the Soo locks. Atlantic’s feed on rainbow smelt in the St. Mary’s during the summers months, preparing for their spawn in late October.

Chinook salmon, they are the largest of the Pacific salmon and have many local refer them them as King Salmon or KINGS.

Chinook or King Salmon flesh is considered softer and more delicate than other salmons such as the Atlantic and Coho. King salmon is considered by many to be the best salmon you can buy.

Chinook flavor and texture or King Salmon is full, rich and pronounced with a buttery, almost silky texture and large, soft flakes.

Health : Local waters have PCBs, dioxin, mercury, PFOS, and other chemicals that can be found in fish and stay in our environment for a very long time.

Be aware of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – The Eat Safe Fish Guide (ESF Guide)

Wisconsin has the a health guide for eating fish in Wisconsin – Choose Wisely Contaminate Advisories for Wisconsin


Fishing Season

Season: Trout, Salmon.


Early inland trout waters Catch and Release 5 am on the first Saturday in January to the Friday preceding the First Saturday in May at midnight
General Inland Trout Season First Saturday in May from 5:00 AM to October 15.
Trout Salmon Wisconsin Continuous except for the open season for lake trout is December 1 to September 30
Brule River (i.e., "boundary" Brule in Florence & Forest Counties) upstream from US Highway 2 Last Saturday in April to September 30

Outlying waters means Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Sawyer's Harbor and the Fox River from its mouth up to the dam at De Pere.



Brule River (i.e., "boundary" Brule in Florence & Forest Counties) upstream from US Highway 2 Last Sat. in April - Sep. 30


WI Fishing Hook & Line Record

Wisconsin Record Chinook KING Salmon.

Weight - 44 lbs. 15 oz. Length 47.5 Inches.

Date - 07/19/1994

Location Lake Michigan Door County.

Outlying waters means Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Sawyer's Harbor and the Fox River from its mouth up to the dam at De Pere.

Wisconsin Hook and Line Records for Fishing

MI Fishing Hook & Line Record

Michigan Record Chinook KING Salmon.

Weight - 47.86 lbs. Length 47.5 Inches.

Date - 2021

Type - Trolling Moonshine spoon

Location Lake Michigan Mason County.

Michigan Hook and Line Records for Fishing
DNR Master Angler Michigan.gov Program and Map

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