Telling the difference between Kokanee and Chinook or Coho
One of the recurring questions that I come across is how do you determine the difference between a Chinook or Silver Salmon versus a Kokanee. They look very similar and there are some that say you can tell by the gum line and others by the spots on the tail or shape of the tail or… The truth is that those methods will work sometimes but as anyone who spends much time targeting Kokanee can tell you; there are always variations within those characteristics.
The one proven method is to look at the gill rakers. Very simply lift up the gill plate and look at the gill that will be exposed. Kokanee being plankton feeders will have long fine gill rakers very close together. Their purpose being to collect the plankton that they are feeding on. If you lift the gill plate on a Chinook or Silver salmon (which are predators not plankton eaters) the gill rakers will be short and stubby (see detail at left) and somewhat widely spaced in comparison to the Kokanee.
The gill shown in the picture to the left is of a predator. If it were a Sockeye or Kokanee; the rakers are long, fine and close together to strain the plankton from the water (see photo to the right).
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