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Chum or Keta Salmon

(Oncorhynchus keta)

This species of salmon is also known as Keta or dog salmon. They are great fighters, and therefore fun for sport fishermen. Honestly, that's probably this fish's best attribute. As a food fish the chum is best smoked or dried. Chum are available in huge numbers, the meat is firm, and most say the meat is mild in taste yet you won't often see chum fillets in your supermarket. A 3.5-ounce piece of chum or keta salmon provides .8 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

Fast facts: Native Alaskans rely on chum as a traditional source of dried fish for winter use. Another amazing fact...many chum salmon in the Yukon River have traveled more than 2,000 miles to spawning grounds in the Yukon Territory. These fish have the brightest color and possess the highest oil content of any chum salmon when their journey begins.

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Catch a chum out in the saltwater and it will probably be metallic silver with a hint of blue and green on top and maybe some black spots. It's not easy to differentiate a chrome bright, ocean chum from a sockeye or coho unless you look closely at the chum's gills or caudal fin scale patterns. Chum gillrakers are larger but less numerous than other salmon. These fish really undergo a transformation in fresh water though. Their color changes and they develop prominent vertical stripes of purple down their sides. The longer they're in the water the more prominent a male's hooked snout becomes. And protruding from those snouts are big, vicious looking teeth.

Chum salmon range in size from 4 to over 30 pounds, but average between 7 and 18 pounds, males are bigger than females. Chum or dog salmon may spawn in small river side channels and other sections of large rivers and also small sized streams and intertidal zones. Unlike coho, chinook salmon and sockeye, chum do not stay in freshwater after their emergence as fry. Chum fry feed on insects in their native stream before schooling in salt water. Alaskan chum salmon reside in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska for one or more of the winters of their 3- to 6-year lives. This species typically reaches maturation at 4 years of age, but it varies from stream to stream.

The market value for Alaska chum salmon has been around $30 million in recent years despite the fact that chum isn't the most popular 'eating' fish. If you're going to throw some ocean caught chum on the barbeque remember not to overcook it. Use lower temperatures remembering that chum has less oil and fat than king, coho, and sockeye salmon.

 

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