Nature Notes: Coho Salmon

Former Gorge Ecology and current ODFW staff Michelle Baragona holds a spawning male Coho salmon.

Hello, Gorge lovers!

Thank goodness for this unseasonable sunny weather!  It gives you plenty of gorgeous days to check out a winter migrant here in the Gorge: Coho salmon.  But hurry!  Spawning will be over in a week or two.

Where to see them:

 Coho can be seen in many of the streams around the Gorge, including:

  • Gorton Creek
  • Lindsey Creek
  • Viento Creek (Viento State Park)*
  • Mill Creek
  • Chenowith Creek
  • Rock Creek (Mosier)*
  • Mosier Creek*
  • Hood River and its tributaries, especially Neal Creek and Greenpoint Creek.

*Best bets.  Please be respectful of private property.


A little information: 

Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) are currently in our creeks after 1 – 2 years fattening up in the ocean.  The are digging their redds (or gravel “nests”) in the river beds and spawning.  The eggs will hatch in the spring and juvenile salmon will spend about a year in the river.  When they are big enough, the young smolts will migrate to the ocean to feed on small fish.

In the ocean, Coho are oval and silvery, with spots on their backs and upper tails.  During spawning season, male Coho turn brick red and develop the characteristic hook nose and female Coho turn bronze.

Some Coho returned to the Gorge and spawned in November.  The Coho currently present returned recently and are waiting for high water to swim upstream and spawn.

ESA Listing:

In the Columbia, Coho salmon downstream of Hood River are threatened.  Upstream, Coho are not listed.

Want more Nature Notes?  Follow us on Twitter @GorgeEcology to get updates or submit your own!

(Information credit: Megan Saunders of the Hood River Watershed Group and Jason Seals of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Photo credit: Megan Saunders)

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