Fishing Regulation

Salmon /ˈsæmən/ is the common name for several species of ray-finned fish in the family Salmonidae. Typically, salmon are anadromous: they hatch in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce. However, populations of several species are restricted to fresh water through their lives. Folklore has it that the fish return to the exact spot where they hatched to spawn. Tracking studies have shown this to be mostly true. A portion of a returning salmon run may stray and spawn in different freshwater systems; the percent of straying depends on the species of salmon. Homing behavior has been shown to depend on olfactory memory. (- Quote from Wikipedia)

Five species of salmon make their presence known in Campbell River, giving credence to the community’s self-proclaimed “Salmon Capital of the World” designation. Campbell River has long lured sport fishers to Vancouver Island’s east coast, but naturalists are equally compelled to seek out the pink, coho, chinook, chum, and sockeye that vie for attention, come fall. There are options aplenty for viewing, but should you wish for a more in-depth look into the life cycle of the mighty salmon, head to the Quinsam River Hatchery, just west of the city. It’s just one of the local hatcheries working to ensure a healthy, robust fish population. The best time to visit at Quinsam Hatchery to see pink salmon is in September, and chinook and coho is in October and November.

The five species of Wild BC salmon all share a similar outward appearance but offer a marked distinction in flesh colour.

It is your responsibility to distinguish one from others and local fishing regulations.

The following is the information on 5 wild BC salmons in Campbell River.


Common names: Spring, King, Tyee

Life Cycle 4 – 7 years
Outer Appearance Small eyes Black gums Small round spots on its back Dorsal fil and tail Thick caudal
Flesh Colour Deep-red to ivory colour lightens slightly when cooked
Average Commercial Weight & Size 9 kg (20 lbs) & 56 cm – 81 cm (22 inches – 32 inches)
Migration Chinook migrate upstream from the spring through the fall as far as 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) inland. Chinook fry may go to sea soon after hatching, or after one to two years in fresh water.
Suggested Cooking Methods Bake, Broil, Grill, Poach
Flavour Rich and full
Texture Moderately firm with larger flakes Flesh


Common names: Keta

Life Cycle 3 – 5 years
Outer Appearance Dark metallic blue-green back with silver sides and belly Develop dark vertical bars called watermarks on their sides as they mature and migrate to fresh water Large pupil Large mouth with maxillary extending behind the eye No spots on the back, dorsal fin or tail Narrow caudal 13 – 17 anal rays
Flesh Colour Reddish-pink. Becomes paler as fish migrates upstream
Average Commercial Weight & Size 3.5 kg (8 lbs) & 56 cm – 66 cm (22 inches – 26 inches)
Migration Chum salmon generally spawn in late fall and usually in the lower tributaries along the coast, rarely more than 150 kilometers (93 miles) inland. Fry emerge in the spring and go directly to sea.
Suggested Cooking Methods Bake, Grill, Poach, Sauté, steam
Flavour Milder and more delicate
Texture Firm and can be drier


Common names: Silver

Life Cycle 3 years
Outer Appearance White gums Spots above lateral line and on upper lobe Thick caudal Silver colour adjacent to caudal
Flesh Colour Vibrant reddish-orange colour is maintained when cooked
Average Commercial Weight & Size 2 kg – 5.5 kg (4 lbs – 12 lbs) & 56 cm – 66 cm (22 inches - 26 inches)
Migration Adult coho usually return to fresh water between late summer and early fall. Most choose streams close to the ocean, although some will journey as far as 1,500 kilometres (932 miles) inland. Young coho fry are different than the other salmon species as they stay in their spawning stream for a full year after they emerge from the gravel.
Suggested Cooking Methods Bake, Grill, Poach, Sauté
Flavour Moderately full and versatile
Texture Firm and fine textured


Common names: Humpback, Humpie

Life Cycle 2 years
Outer Appearance Shiny silvery skin Large black oval spots on the back and tail Develop a hump on their back when spawning Very small scales 13 – 17 anal rays
Flesh Colour Light rose-pink colour lightens slightly when cooked
Average Commercial Weight & Size 2 kg (4 lbs) & 35 cm – 46 cm (14 inches – 18 inches)
Migration Pink salmon fry migrate to the sea as soon as they emerge from the gravel and live almost their entire two years in ocean feeding areas. Adults leave the ocean in the late summer and early fall and usually spawn in streams, not fed by lakes, that are a short distance from the sea.
Suggested Cooking Methods Bake, Broil, Poach
Flavour Mild and delicate
Texture Softer


Common names: Red Salmon

Life Cycle 5 years
Outer Appearance Small black speckles on its deep blue-green back and silver sides No spots on the tail Slender and firm body Develop a bright red body and green head when spawning Large and distinct scales 13 – 18 anal rays
Flesh Colour Deep red to orange red colour is maintained when cooked
Average Commercial Weight & Size 2.7 kg (6 lbs) & 51 cm – 61 cm (20 inches – 24 inches)
Migration Sockeye spawn in streams with lakes in their watershed and stay in those lakes for one to three years before migrating to sea. They move rapidly out of the estuaries and thousands of miles into the Gulf of Alaska and North Pacific Ocean where they feed. They return to their spawning stream when they are three to, at times, even six years old.
Suggested Cooking Methods Bake, Broil, Grill, Poach
Flavour Mild and delicate
Texture Firm with tighter flakes