What Is a Male and Female Salmon Called?

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Male and Female Salmon: A Closer Look

Salmon are fascinating creatures that inhabit both freshwater rivers and the open ocean. When it comes to identifying the gender of these remarkable fish, there are specific terms used to distinguish between males and females.

Male Salmon: Jacks and Cohos

Male salmon are commonly referred to as “jacks” or “cohos,” depending on the species. Jacks typically refer to young male salmon that return to their natal rivers after only one or two years spent in the ocean.

These smaller-sized males have a streamlined body shape, vibrant colors, and develop a hooked jaw, known as a kype, as they reach maturity.

On the other hand, “coho” is a term specifically used for male salmon belonging to the Coho species (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Coho males undergo physical transformations during spawning season, developing vibrant red coloration along their sides paired with dark greenish-blue backs.

They also develop a pronounced type, which helps them compete for mates.

Female Salmon: Hens and Spawners

Female salmon are often referred to as “hens” or “spawners.” These terms describe mature female salmon ready to reproduce.

Female salmon undergo physical changes too, such as changes in coloration but not as dramatic as their male counterparts.

Hens typically have more rounded bellies compared to males due to carrying a large number of eggs. They also develop a “gravid spot” near their anal fin, which is a darkened area indicating egg development.

As the spawning season approaches, female salmon find suitable gravel beds in rivers to lay their eggs.


In conclusion, male and female salmon are distinguished by different terms depending on the species and their stage of development. Males are often referred to as “jacks” or “cohos,” while females are known as “hens” or “spawners.”

These terms help identify the gender of these incredible fish as they navigate their way through their life cycle, from freshwater rivers to the vast ocean and then back again for spawning.

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Lindsay Collins