Alimaq kuigmi et’uq: The dog salmon is in the creek.
Chum salmon, also known as dog salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), are the most widely available species of Pacific salmon. These large fish live in marine waters from southern California to the Arctic Ocean and the Sea of Japan. Chum can weigh 30 pounds, but they more commonly weigh between 7 and 18 pounds.
In Kodiak waters, chum salmon are the third most abundant species of salmon. They are widely distributed and spawn in many of the same streams as pink salmon, particularly the island’s larger watercourses. There are more than 100 dog salmon streams across the archipelago, and about 1.7 million chums return to the island each year. Like king salmon, chums may inhabit near-shore ocean waters for weeks before moving into freshwater. However, once they enter streams they spawn rapidly, developing distinctive vertical bars of green and purple. Around Kodiak, chum salmon spawn in the greatest numbers from mid-August through early October.
Chums are not as widely eaten as other varieties of salmon. Many people find their pale flesh less appealing, perhaps because it contains less oil than other varieties of salmon and has a firmer texture. Some Alutiiq Elders note that they have never eaten much chum salmon, although others report that the fish is tasty when boiled and that it makes good smoked salmon. Across northern and interior Alaska, dried and smoked chum salmon have long been staple winter foods.
Chum salmon are also an economically important species. Sport fishermen seek out these fish, as they fight a hook energetically, and commercial fishermen prize them for their large, flavorful roe.