University of California
California Fish Website

Fish Species


 Common Name Pink Salmon
 Scientific Name Oncorhynchus gorbuscha
 Native Yes
 Identification This species is widely distributed around the northern rim of the Pacific Ocean, although it is currently rare in California. Pink Salmon are occasionally seen in northern coastal California streams, but these fish are probably individuals that have strayed south from established populations further north.

  • Spawning males are distinguished by a large purple hump behind the head, while females have a trout-like shape.
  • Maximum size of 76 cm SL and 6.3 kg, with fish over 60 cm and 2.5 kg unusual.
  • Back and upper parts of lateral surfaces have large black spots
  • Black spots present on adipose and caudal fin lobes on spawing fish
  • Terminal mouth with sharp teeth on both jaws, vomer, palatines, and tongue.
 Life History Pink Salmon are known for having a 2-year life cycle, with occasional 3 year forms. Adult Pink Salmon return to fresh water, usually a natal stream, from June-September and spawn mid-July through October in lower reaches or intertidal zones of coastal streams. Spawning occurs in gravelly riffles with typical water depths of 20-60 cm. Male Pink Salmon aggressively defend spawning habitat against other males, as the females construct the redds. A female Pink Salmon will not release all of her eggs at once, as she will construct more redds upstream of the original, thus burying the prior redd and might spawn with more than one male. Females will lay between 1,200-1,900 eggs between the multiple redds. Male and Female Pink Salmon will die after completing the spawning season. Embryos will hatch in 4-6 months, and the alevins emerge from the gravel when the yolk sac has been absorbed. Fry (35 mm TL) will then migrate at night downstream to the estuary, where they will form large schools for several months before moving out to sea.

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