Identifying Resident Silvers

I've been fishing for SRC in the Sound for several years. However, I've never been good at identifying fish species, especially the different kinds of salmon. I've always associated the very spotted ones with yellowish fin tips as SRC. Every once in a while, I hook into a fish that's a little extra silvery, or has fewer spots, but never quite sure. Since they all go back into the water, I've never worried about it too much. But now I'm curious, and after reading some stuff online, I'm not any more confident about my abilities. Any tips? First pic is an SRC with the typical look. The second I'm not so sure.

Coho tails are not fully spotted. They just have a few spots on the top portion. Just like the SRC above, Chinook and Pinks both have spots throughout.
A couple quick comments...

I read that Silvers don't have spots in the lower half of their tails, which is why I figured #2 was just an extra silvery cutty. But it seems like salmon characteristics can change quite a bit through different stages.

I also caught what I thought was a 12"-13" SRC, this past weekend. But this one had a splash of orange/pink in the gills. Kind've like the gills of West Slope Cutthroats. First time I saw that in the salt. (Didn't have my phone with me to take a pic)



MA-9 Beach Stalker
Both are nice cutthroat in different phases of coloration. Like AKFly7 mentioned, the 13-15 inch resident silvers you catch this time of year will have dark tails with fewer spots and usually a clipped adipose fin. The resident silvers fight differently than the cutthroat too. Silvers also have dark coloration in the mouth, while cutthroat do not. Small feeder chinook (blackmouth) have lots of black on the tongue and gums and bigger spots on the back. Blackmouth fight really hard and smell funny too.
Here's a 16" rezzie I picked up today, look at the tail. Salmon have a distinct forked tail while the cutt's are much more squared off and have way more spots.
The gig harbor side by side is exactly what I needed. Quite a stark contrast. Interesting how the fish change coloration thoughout the year. No doubt the src have many more spots, but some just have that extra bright silver sheen. The deeper V of the tail seems like a good constant.


Active Member
One other thing to look at is the anal fin. The salmon (coho, Chinook, pinks, etc) all have 13 or more rays in their anal fins. The trouts (cutthroat and rainbow) all have 12 or less rays in the anal fin. As a result with a bit of practice the resident coho anal fin will look larger/longer than the cutthroat. In addition the first couple anal fin rays on coho are longer than the others giving the coho fin a bit of a point on the leading (front) edge.

The paired fins (pectoral and pelvic) of coho have a opague look while the cutthroat (and steelhead) fins with be more transparent or in the case of cutthroat at times yellowish.



Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater
Nice Cutts.
One other thing that is a dead giveaway for me in regards to cutts vs coho is the presence of copepods. Like the ones on the fish in the second picture.
Very common on cutts, but I can't say recall ever seeing them on resident coho. I have seen sea lice near the anal fin on small resident coho.
They are likely a result of the cutthroats life cycle in the salt.
Has anyone ever see copepods on the upper bodies of resident coho?


Proud to Be Alaskan
coho have a wider anal fin with more rays, also resident coho should have clipped fins

Cutthroat are just about my favorite fish because of the insane variety of their colors, this is probably due to the amount of gene flow from rainbow/steelhead and that each stream has fairly unique phenotypes, which get thrown together in feeding/overwintering areas.


The wanted posters say Tim Hartman
coho have a wider anal fin with more rays, also resident coho should have clipped fins

Cutthroat are just about my favorite fish because of the insane variety of their... behaviours. I find 'em in one place sometimes and in another spot on a later day. Some, when hooked, sulk and won't even let you see 'em. Others go immediately aerial and provide some of the best fighting I've ever experienced from any fish. And tryin' to get them in close enough to release them? Good luck! Even when you think they're past exhausted they give that series of wild head-shakes and toss the hook! Man, I love these fish!
Fixed it for ya! (Well, at least IMHO!);)

To me SRC are "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" to paraphrase Winston Churchill. That's what makes 'em so fun!!!
I agree with you Dipnet on how amazingly varied their fights are. One of my favorite things about SRC is how they give you a second or third shot after a bite. I'm always amazed when I miss a strike, and cast right back into the spot, and BAM! In reality, half of those occasions, I'm so flustered that I wrap my leader around my pole and swear like a sailor. But on the odd occasions I get lucky enough to get my fly back in the same vicinity, there's something extra rewarding of getting the fish on the second pass. Most other fish I've seen spook when you pull the fly out of their mouths. SRC for some reason seem almost frustrated over missing on the first try and are extra determined when given another shot.
I agree, I always look to the tail if I can't tell from coloration, etc. And sometimes it is damn hard to tell. But if you can see the tail in the water, or tail the fish and take a quick look, you should be able to make a fairly quick identification.

Dija ever notice that Resident Coho gives off a bluish sheen to it, especially when in shallow water, while Coastal Cutthroat have a yellowish gleam around it, even when the fins are no longer themselves clearly yellow. I know I know, a bit to much ‘New Age’ to be reading fish aura, but there you have it.

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