Chinook salmon

The Chinook salmon is an important keystone species for the U.S. Pacific Northwest. It is a vital food source for a diversity of wildlife, including orca whales, bears, seals, and large birds of prey.

Chinook salmon is prized by people who harvest salmon both commercially and for sport. Chinook are the largest Pacific salmon species.

Big guys

On average, these fish are 3 feet long and weigh approximately 30 pounds. Some individuals can grow to over 5 feet long and 110 pounds!

Chinook salmon live about three to seven years. Juvenile salmon stay in freshwater habitat for the first year or so, before moving to the estuaries and then the open ocean. Estuaries provide a lot of food and nutrients to the developing salmon.

Return to breed

The fish spend approximately two to four years feeding in the ocean before returning to the spawning grounds to breed and die.

Endangered

The Chinook Salmon is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. The Sacramento River winter-run population in California is classified as endangered wherever it is found.

Other naturally spawned populations in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington are classified as threatened. Why the Chinook and other Pacific Northwest salmon have declined is no mystery.

4 H’s

The causes are known as “the four H’s”: harvest, habitat, hatcheries, and hydroelectric power.

Harvest refers to the overfishing by commercial fishing interests.

Habitat refers to degradation of a species home range, usually by pollutants. Another example would be increases in water sediments making a stream uninhabitable by the salmon or their eggs.

Captive-bred hatchery fish, released in the waterways used by native fish, compete and interbreed with the natives and weaken their stocks.

Hydroelectric dams have had perhaps the largest impact, blocking migration routes. Flood control and power generation were the original goals of these dams, rather than fish. As such, the dam construction changed the quality, quantity, rate of flow, temperature of the water, and species mix in rivers, lakes, and tributary streams.

Protection of Chinook salmon is crucial to maintain healthy Pacific Northwest ecosystems and to provide a delicious food source for years to come. 

Clamming is a fun family activity.

Oregon estuaries are rich with many species of clams, although only a few of these species are commonly harvested. Gaper, butter, cockle, littleneck, and softshell clams are primarily harvested due to their abundance, size, and taste.

A wide variety of other bivalve species are found in Oregon estuaries, but are not commonly harvested due either to their scarcity or lack of palatability.

Tools

Clamming is a great family activity and you can get started with tools you already have in the garden.  Successful clamming does require some knowledge and preparation.

Preparation

Before clamming, harvesters should be aware of weather, regulations, closures, responsible harvest, and techniques. This video produced by Travel Oregon provides important information about how to clam in Oregon.

Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Steelhead are native to North America west of the Rockies. This popular sport fish has been introduced to almost every other state and on every continent except Antarctica.

You may be surprised to learn that steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species, but rainbow trout live only in freshwater and steelhead are anadromous, meaning they spend part of their lives in freshwater and part of their lives in the ocean.

Because of their different lifestyles steelhead and rainbow trout are different in appearance, most noticeably in size and color. Rainbow trout derive their name from their beautiful, multi-hued coloration.

Steelhead are generally more streamlined in shape and silvery or brassy in color as adults. Adult steelhead/rainbow trout range in size.

They can reach 45 inches in length and weigh over 50 pounds, although they are usually much smaller. A typical weight is about 8 pounds.

Because steelhead spend 2-3 years in freshwater followed by 2-3 years in the ocean they are typically larger than rainbow trout.

Steelhead/rainbow trout have a varied diet and will feed on just about anything, including zooplankton when they’re young and fish eggs, small fish, crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and even mice as they mature.

This fish is also a food source for many different predators depending on the region and habitat. Their predators include lampreys, fish, birds, bears, river otters, raccoons, and humans. In the ocean, steelhead are eaten by many species including seals, sea lions, and orcas.

Steelhead have been called the ultimate game fish. These elusive and challenging fish can test an angler’s patience and persistence, but the reward is hooking into a fish that is famous worldwide for its line-peeling runs and spectacular, acrobatic fight.