Level of Concern:


Oncorhynchus gorbuscha

There are probably only one or two self-sustaining populations in California. It is highly likely that Pink salmon will disappear from California streams (except as strays from northern populations) within the next 25-50 years, if they have not already.

How we're working to save them:

Conservation Actions

  • Expand projects that increase reliable quantities and quality of cold water habitat.
  • Implement management and restoration projects that focus on reconnecting populations of Rainbow trout that are currently separated by barriers and promoting access to diverse habitats to restore genetic diversity.
  • Support healthy populations of wild trout for catch-and-release recreational fisheries.

Click here to learn about CalTrout’s overall “Return to Resilience” plan to save California’s salmonids from extinction.


Pink salmon have large black oval marks and spots on their backs, tails, and fins making them easy to tell apart from other salmon species. In the ocean, their backs are silvery blue to olive in color, with silver sides and white bellies. In freshwater, males take on a humped back, while their snouts, full of sharp teeth, become exaggerated and hooked. Pinksalmon are the smallest members of the salmon family, usually reaching 60 cm long (about 24 in.) and weighing 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs.). The largest recorded Pink salmon measured 76 cm (30 in.) and weighed 6.3 kg (nearly 14 lbs.). Unlike other juvenile salmon, Pink salmon do not have parr marks.


California represents the southern edge of the Pink salmon range, and they have never been common in the state. It is highly likely that Pink salmon were once common enough in California to support small runs in several rivers, but they are much less common today than they were historically. Due to their use of lower stream reaches and rapid migration to the ocean, they are difficult to accurately document. Present day populations likely depend on straying from more northern populations.

Habitat & Behavior

Pink salmon typically live for two years, and return to freshwater from June to September. Their two-year life cycle has given rise to discrete odd- and even-year runs in the same river systems. Pink salmon spawning in California typically takes place in odd years, though Redwood Creek supports a small even-year run. Spawning occurs in October in intertidal or lower reaches of streams, and young hatch in February or March. Young Pink salmon do not feed in freshwater, but migrate quickly in large schools at night to reach river estuaries. At sea, Pink salmon grow quickly, feeding on abundant small crustaceans and invertebrates and eventually shift to eating small fish, squid, and shrimp.


Scientists do not know much about the relationship of California fish to more northern populations from Puget Sound, Washington, where they are thought to originate. Most, but not all, Pink salmon return to California streams in odd years, suggesting there is a complex relationship between these fish and the consistent runs in Oregon and Washington.

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