salmon identification


Left handed Gemini.
I was out fishing for silvers tonight and a guy caught a really nice fish that he said was a silver but it had a black tongue and mouth but he said it had white gums, I haven't been fishing for salmon all that long but I have caught a few larger silvers and all have had a white tongue and mouth I have also released a few fish with black tongues and mouths not really checking all that close for white or lighter colored gums, have I been foolish in my assumption that I've been releasing kings when theres a possibility that they were silvers with black tongues and mouths, do silvers mouths change color prior to spawning. I'm not questioning what the quy told me because it seemed fairly for sure that he knew what he was talking about but then again I would hate to keep a fish that I should have released or take a chance of being ticketed when I'm not really sure.
Typically not, however some silvers will display a little black on the roof of their mouth. The best way to be sure is to check for spot patterns on the dorsal, and tail.
Silvers have very few spots on their fins, and are located on the upper lobe of the tail,and dorsal fin . Kings have spots all over the dorsal, and tail.


Active Member
Silvers will also have few if any spots on the lower half of the caudal fin.
edit: i should add to address your original question that silvers can have a significant amount of black in their mouths but the gumline is typically light colored/white.
I've caught bright silvers in freshwater and in the salt with dark mouths. They may even have grayish gums, but not the distinct black gums of Chinook. I've seen lots with very dark tongue. Tongue color is not a particularly good indicator. Here is an ID guide that talks about dark-mouthed coho.

Spots on the tail are the way to go. Even though there may be spots on the bottom of the tail of some silvers, they are almost always few and small and toward the leading edge, if there are any at all. Chinook usually have many distict spots on both lobes of the tail from leading edge through the rear of the fin. The spots on the back of the Chinook are more jagged and irregular than the rounder coho spots, but this is hard to tell in the salt, particularly for juvenile resident kings. The caudal area is more broad on Chinook and coho generally have a longer and larger head and a larger and higher eye than a chinook, but body form is difficult to use for ID unless you have two side by side.

I'm a fish biologist, and I often have had to look two or three times and I don't always get it right unless I can get the fish out of the water. ID is hard to do when you don't want to handle the fish. For a quick ID, I look first at the adopose fin. If it is not fin clipped, release it anyway. Then look at the lower lobe of the tail, then gum color, but when in doubt, release it.

Latest posts