Products

Chum Salmon

Oncorhynchus keta

Market Name(s): Chum salmon, Fall salmon, Keta salmon

Contact Purchasing
Chum Salmon
  • Primary Source: Alaska, B.C., Washington
  • Season: May - November
  • Primary Fishing Method: Gillnet, seine, some troll (B.C. and Alaska).

Size Range:

Max Size: 15 lbs

Avg. Size: 8-10 lbs

Product forms:

FRESH: H&G, skin-on, pinbone-in fillets;

FROZEN: H&G, skinless, boneless portions, blocks.

Storage & Handling

Properly handled and well iced at 32°F, chums will remain in good condition for up to 14 days after harvest. Frozen chums will remain in good condition up to a year if stored at -5° to -15°F.

Cooking Suggestions

Of the five salmon species, chum is a comparatively paler-fleshed fish, with a lower oil content. Though the species taste similar and can be cooked in virtually the same way as other salmon with success, the lower oil content of the chum lends it less well to high-heat (drying) methods such as broiling or baking. Chum salmon is delicious marinated and then grilled. Pan searing and poaching, are popular as well, with a nice sauce to drizzle over the cooked fish.

Selling Points

  • Bright red meat and high oil content make the best chums an exceptional salmon for the money.
  • Available fresh five months of the year.
  • Chums offer an excellent, lower-cost alternative for foodservice operators and retailers.

Defects

  • Soft flesh.
  • Pale meat.
  • Bones protruding from belly cavity.
  • Reddish skin.
  • Excessive gaping in fillets (some gaping allowed in PBO fillets).
  • Bruises and blood spots.

The Pacific Advantage

  • Our relationships with Alaska processors assures us of a large quantity of high-quality, red-meated chums

Summary

As wild salmon go, chums are something of an enigma. The best chums, bright and silver with a rich red meat, are great fish for a great price. Unfortunately, chums have such a mixed reputation with some buyers that the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute wants to market chums under their alternate name — keta— which would just confuse buyers even more. The trick with chums is knowing where the good fish are. And once you do, you’ll find these are very good salmon to sell.

Thanks to aquaculture, chums are the most widely produced of all the Pacific salmon species. Hatchery programs in Japan and Alaska release billions of chum smolt into the ocean each year, which has boosted annual chum harvests to almost 300,000 tons.

Some of the best chums are found in some very remote areas. In Alaska, Kotzebue Sound, which is north of the Arctic Circle, and the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers in the remote reaches of western Alaska also produce excellent chums. The fall chums from the Yukon, which swim more than 1,000 miles upriver to spawn in Canada, have more oil than many king salmon.

Chums run for a longer period of time than any other wild salmon. From the end of June, when the first fish are landed in the Kuskokwim River and in Prince William Sound, until almost November, when the last fish swim up rivers in Puget Sound, fresh chums are readily available.

Most of the chums sold fresh in the summer come from hatcheries in Southeast Alaska. The largest of these hatcheries, Hidden Falls, produces catches of more than 3 million fish in a good year. The first fish from Hidden Falls are available in late June and the run lasts through July.

The price of fresh chums generally drops quickly right before the 4th of July, when a flood of fresh chums from Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound hits the market. Prices generally remain at these low levels through September. In spite of the efforts by Alaska processors to move as many chums to the fresh market as possible, less than 15% of the Alaska chum harvest is sold fresh.

The eggs of chum salmon are the most valuable of any salmon eggs. Most chum eggs are removed from the skein, salted and sold in Japan as ikura salmon caviar. Eggs from other salmon species are usually salted in the skein and sold as sujiko. In some areas of Alaska chum eggs are more valuable than the fish, which is sometimes discarded.

The value of a chum is largely a function of its meat color. Fish with bright red meat color can be worth $.20/lb. more than a chum with pale meat color. But you can’t judge a chum by its cover! A chum may have a bright silver skin, but that doesn’t always it has a bright red meat color. Conversely, dark chums can have good meat color. To be safe, you may have to notch the tail.

Chums are graded by their skin color. The grading terminology — brite, semi brite and dark — is confusing and highly subjective, varying from packer to packer. The term s. brite is also used to decsribe chums that may be semi, semi-brite.

The skin color of a chum (and other wild salmon) will appear darker after it’s frozen. It will lighten again when it’s thawed out.

The market for skinless, boneless chum portions is growing rapidly. More and more of these portions are produced in China, either from H&G chums from Japan or Alaska. At less than half the cost of portions made from farmed salmon, chum portions have a wide variety of market applications

Alaska and B.C. trollers catch a small amount of chums and freeze them at sea. Although troll chums cost more, they are an excellent value.

A large fishery for chums takes place in the Johnstone Strait in British Columbia, where chums are intercepted as they make way to various river systems. These fish are generally bright and of very high quality.