TILLAMOOK, Ore. – With this year’s return of fall chinook and coho salmon well underway on the northern Oregon coast, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State Police want to remind anglers to closely inspect their salmon when landed.
The presence of large wild coho in this year’s run makes it essential that anglers know what species they are catching before they decide to keep them. The most important feature, and the one law enforcement will likely use when checking fishermen, is the color of the gum line which is white on coho (above, left) and black on chinook (above, right).
Photos courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
“We are seeing some very large wild coho salmon this year that because of their large size are being mistaken for chinook salmon” said Sergeant Todd Hoodenpyl of the Oregon State Police in Tillamook. “We do not want anglers to end their day with a citation; they need to be particularly careful this year.”
This year’s return of large coho salmon on the north coast reflects good growing conditions in the ocean this past summer. Chris Knutsen, ODFW district fish biologist in Tillamook, suggests anglers look closely for key features that distinguish coho from chinook.
“The most important feature that anglers should look for is the color of the gum line at the base of the teeth along the lower jaw.” says Knutsen. “The gum line of a chinook salmon is black, whereas the gum line of a coho is white.”
Knutsen suggests that anglers consult Page 15 of the 2008 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations for a good illustration of what to look for. There is also an on-line salmon identification tutorial, which can be accessed at the ODFW website at https://myodfw.com/articles/ocean-salmon-fishing. Anglers should also consult the angling regulations and the ODFW website at http://www.dfw.state.or.us to determine regulations for the waters they will be fishing.
ODFW and the state police suggest that if you are not sure what species of salmon you have caught, then it is best to release it unharmed.