Keta Salmon

During spawning the look of the male changes. Among other things, he grows a beak called a kype that bears fangs.
Keta Salmon Scientific Classification
Scientific name
Oncorhynchus keta
Keta Salmon Physical Characteristics
Blue, Green, Silver, Olive
in the millions
3-5 years
Top speed
7 mph
Keta Salmon Distribition

“The keta salmon is a salmon of the North Pacific”

Call it the keta, chum, dog or silverbrite salmon, this medium-sized member of the Salmonidae family isn’t as majestic as the Chinook and doesn’t change its look as spectacularly as the sockeye. Yet it is a worthy fish that features in a slew of recipes and whose meat is high in healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Read on for more information about the keta.

Four Amazing Facts About the Keta Salmon

Here are four amazing facts about the Keta Salmon:

  1. Wild keta are cold-water fish and prefer water that’s between 32 and 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Some keta salmon swim as much as 2000 miles up the Yukon River to their spawning grounds.
  3. Keta salmon are anadromous which means they can live in both salt and fresh water.
  4. The keta salmon always dies after it spawns.

Keta Salmon Classification and Scientific name

The scientific name of the keta or silverbrite salmon is Oncorhynchus keta. The genus name comes from the Greek words ónkos, which means “lump” or “bend” and rhúnkhos, which means “snout.” This describes the hooked beak that the male salmon gets during the breeding season. Keta is a Russian word that is in term derived from Evenki, a language spoken in eastern Siberia.

Keta Salmon Appearance

The keta salmon is a torpedo-shaped fish with a moderately compressed body and shimmering bluish-green scales with black speckles when not in the breeding season. It grows to an average of 23.6 inches with a weight of 9.7 to 35 pounds. The fish has 10 to 14 soft rays on its back, 13 to 17 soft anal soft rays and an emarginate tail fin. When they’re ready to spawn, the males turn dark olive green or black on their back. The rest of their body is grayish red and tiger-striped with black and red, and they have a streak along their side that looks very much like a bleeding gash left by a switchblade. The flesh, as with many salmon, is bright pinkish-orange and high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

fresh catch of chum salmon
Wild keta are cold-water fish and prefer water that’s between 32 and 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit.Konstantin Baidin/

Keta Salmon vs. Pink Salmon

The pink salmon is also called the humpback salmon because of the hump the fish develops during the spawning season. It is smaller than the keta salmon and is in fact the smallest of the North American Pacific salmon. They are more brilliantly silver than the keta, and their flesh is pinker in color. Though the looks of both males and females change greatly during the breeding period, pink males not only have a notable hump but lack the red slash that’s prominent on the side of the keta salmon. Wild Alaskan keta salmon are the first fish to spawn followed by the pink salmon. The pink salmon lives for two years, another thing that differentiates them from the keta, which can live for three to five years.

Keta Salmon Distribution, Population, and Habitat

The keta salmon is found in the northern Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea, the Alaskan Arctic and as far south as San Diego. It’s also found in the waters off of Korea and Japan and is even found in Iran. The population is most likely in the millions, as millions of pounds of the fish are harvested in Alaska alone.

The fish’s habitat changes according to its stage of life. The fish are born in intertidal zones and cold, freshwater streams with sandy or pebbly bottoms either in the late fall to winter or in summer. In the spring and summer they head down to the ocean, where they stay near the coast until they are large enough to head out to the open waters. Three or four years later, they famously return to the place of their birth to spawn.

Keta Salmon Predators and Prey

Bears gather around streams to pluck up these salmon as they struggle to their spawning grounds, and eagles are seen eating their dead bodies after they’ve spawned. Other animals that eat the silverbrite salmon are killer whales, seals, sea lions and shorebirds. Stonefly larvae, which also hatch in freshwater streams, sometimes make a meal of salmon hatchlings.

Prey of these fish include smaller fish, squid, mollusks, copepods, comb jellies, plankton and tunicates such as sea squirts. Juveniles eat insects before they turn to larger prey.

Keta Salmon Reproduction and Lifespan

The dog salmon endures one of the longest migration of any salmon species. Once it has finally returned to the stream where it was born, the female digs a hole that’s about 3 feet around and 1.6 feet deep called a redd. The male and female hover over the redd, vibrating, and release eggs and sperm. The female then covers the nest up. She digs another redd if she mates with another male. She may spawn two or three times, and the eggs hatch after three or four months. The larvae are about 0.63 inches long and begin their migration back to the ocean when they’re between 1 and 1.77 inches long.

After they spawn, the parents die. Their decaying bodies add nutrients to the water and aid in the growth of their babies.

Keta Salmon in Fishing and Cooking

The keta salmon is a choice fish when it comes to cooking. The taste of the fish is delicate and mild, and recipes call for it to be poached, pan-fried, baked, broiled, steamed and eaten raw as sushi or sashimi. The roe, or caviar of the salmon is also prized. Salon caviar can be told from the caviar of sturgeons because it is red and the eggs are larger. As chum salmon are more plentiful than most species of sturgeon, salmon caviar can be considered more sustainable. Like a lot of salmon, the silverbrite is a bit pricy. It can range from $19 to $26 a pound.

Commercial fisheries catch chum salmon using gill nets and purse seiners. Recreational fishermen use light tackle for saltwater and fly tackle for freshwater, though like most Pacific salmon, the chum is usually fished in the ocean since it doesn’t eat when it returns to spawn.

Keta Salmon Population

Though it is not evaluated, the population of keta salmon is safely in the millions of individuals. The Alaskan population alone is probably 91 million fish. However, some populations are considered endangered, and different areas have different rules and regulations regarding harvesting the fish.


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