Chinook salmon are the largest of the salmon species. They are a favorite food of orcas, are highly prized by anglers and commercial fisherman, and are an important cultural and economic resource for tribes.
Returning Chinook are highly prized by anglers and commercial fisherman and are a favorite food of orca whales. Puget Sound Chinook return in the summer and fall to spawn, build gravel nests, and lay their eggs in rivers and streams. Their carcasses provide nutrients for freshwater invertebrates, which in turn provide food for young fish. As they grow, juvenile Chinook move from freshwater to estuaries and nearshore areas to find food and cover to hide from predators. They eventually move to more exposed shorelines where they depend on eelgrass and kelp beds as they continue their migration to the ocean.
Puget Sound Chinook are about one-third as abundant as they were in the early 1900s and were listed in 1999 as Threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Today, 22 populations of Chinook salmon spawn in Puget Sound rivers.