Marbled Chinook Salmon

Photo by Amy Grondin

Photo by Amy Grondin


The Marbled Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is a distinct fish that occurs predominantly in the fisheries of Washington and Southwestern British Columbia. It is believed that these Chinooks, (as opposed to the Red or White Chinook) originate from tributaries of the Lower Fraser, the Harrison, the Vedder and Chilliwack Rivers of Southern British Columbia.

Chinook is known by many names – "King Salmon" on the US Pacific Coast, "Spring Salmon" in British Columbia and "Quinnat," "Tyee," "Tule" or "Blackmouth" in other parts of the North Pacific Coast. Regardless of the name, the characteristics are consistent. The fish is robust and deep-bodied with a bluish-green coloration on its back that fades to silvery sides and a white belly. The term "marbled" refers to the coloration of its flesh, which contains varying amounts of both red and white pigmentation of the flesh, which gives it a marbled appearance throughout the body of the fish. When fishermen catch a Chinook salmon, they don’t know if it will be red, white or marbled until it is cleaned.

The Washington Marbled Chinook is thus easily identifiable and constitutes the only readily apparent 'regionally distinct' salmon. The annual catch of Chinook salmon in Washington is seasonably variable and can be comprised of 15% to 50% marbled fish. Despite the high catch, the marbled flesh doesn’t sell well to consumers who are more familiar with red Chinook and tend to believe that red salmon is of higher quality.

Washington Marbled Chinook Salmon has a full and rich flavor with a firm texture and a silky mouth feel due to its high fat content. It is featured, when available, at several of Seattle’s premium restaurants and receives rave reviews from customers.

Greater public awareness of the flavor of this lesser known color of Chinook will increase the value of this sustainably harvested fish and help to economically sustain the coastal communities in Washington who catch marbled Chinook salmon.