Coho Salmon
Oncorhynchus kisutch (Walbaum, 1792)

member of the Salmon Family (Salmonidae)













What's In a Name?
Coho salmon: possibly from a word meaning "to repeat", referring to the spawning runs that occur every year in the same stream  

Oncorhynchus (on-co-wren´-cuss) means "hooked snout" in Greek
kisutch (kis´-such) an old Russian name for this species


    Where Do They Live?
The coho salmon is an introduced exotic species. Like the chinook and pink salmon, coho salmon normally live in the Pacific Ocean and spawn in streams of eastern Russia and north western United States. In Minnesota, coho inhabit Lake Superior and some of its tributaries. In Minnesota waters of Lake Superior, coho are usually found in the upper portions of the water out to about 10 miles from the shore. Naturally reproduced coho begin and end their lives in streams of the North Shore and spend the years in between in the "big lake." Coho have been introduced into several inland lakes but generally have not done well there.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
In Lake Superior, coho salmon can get to about 650 mm (26 in) and over 2.3 kg (5 lbs). A coho caught by a summer angler is more likely to be 400-550 mm (16-22 in) and 0.9-1.4 kg (2-3 lbs). Most coho live for just 3 years.

    What Do They Eat?
While traveling from stream to lake the young coho usually eat copepods and waterfleas. Immature and adult coho eat mostly small fishes, especially smelt and small cisco, but also include opposum shrimp and terrestrial (land) insects.

What Eats Them?
While in the parent streams, young coho are likely to fall prey to many fish-eating birds, such as herring gulls, loons, kingfishers, and herons. The young and small immature coho are eaten by brown and lake trout. Humans are probably the biggest predators of the coho salmon in Minnesota.


How Do They Reproduce?
Most coho salmon return to spawning streams in their third year of life. Like chinook salmon, they move shoreward in late September and October and wait for the fall rains before swimming up the stream. The spawning for coho occurs from October 15 to November 15. Females use their tails and entire bodies to dig out nests in areas of gravel where they spawn, usually with a single male. After spawning, a female moves upstream and starts to dig another nest. The gravel and sand that she removes drifts down and covers the first nest. These acts are repeated until the female has deposited all her eggs. Usually both the male and female die shortly after spawning is over. A single female can lay 2,660-6,060 eggs depending on her size.

The alevins (free-swimming embryos) hatch in the spring and remain in the gravel for several weeks while their fins develop. They swim up into the current, begin to feed, and shortly afterward migrate to Lake Superior.


Conservation and Management
Coho salmon are one of the top 3 sport fish in Minnesota waters of Lake Superior. Most of them are caught offshore in the summer fishery. Natural reproduction never has been very good in North Shore streams because they offer a limited amount of spawning habitat below their barrier falls.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson, Ted Halpern & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002