Hotspot: California on the Edge
Coho Salmon

Northern California Coast Coho Salmon
Oncorhynchus kisutch

Northern California coast salmon depend on cool, clear, and unaltered streams in old-growth forests. The Klamath River and its tributary waters provide a direct route to and from the Pacific Ocean for the coho’s spawning and growth. Salmon are anadromous fish which means they spend part of their life cycle in freshwater and part of it in the ocean.
After living and feeding in the ocean, adults return to the very streams and creeks where they hatched to spawn and lay their eggs. The young fish then migrate to the ocean and begin the cycle again.

Coho salmon normally spend their first year in fresh water and their next two years in salt water prior to returning to spawn in their home streams. Spawning adults are dark green, the sides are maroon to brown, and the belly is gray to black. Spawning males have a bright red stripe on their sides, a hooked jaw, and a slightly humped back.

In 2001, the Northern California coho salmon was listed as threatened under the
Endangered Species Act (ESA). Coho salmon require cool, clean water to spawn and lay eggs. Their threatened status prompted heated debate over water use in the Klamath Basin.
Habitat Loss
The Klamath Basin historically supported many seasonal migrations of anadromous fishes. In the 1940s, California had an estimated 500,000 coho salmon. Today that number has plummeted to about 5,000 fish.

  • After development of Iron Gate Dam, the upper Klamath River was diverted for agricultural use. Coho salmon were restricted to the lower Klamath where fast-flowing, cool-water provided adequate habitat.
  • Intense watershed alteration by logging, ranching, mining, and agriculture            degraded the lower Klamath habitat and most fish species are now in decline. The only way to bring fish back is by restoring habitat in the Klamath River system, and redesigning or removing the dams.

Support the Salmon Coalition’s work to restore native fisheries and the well-being of the
Klamath bioregion:

Salmon Coalition:

Join Friends of the River, which is dedicated to preserving, protecting, and restoring California's rivers, streams, and their watersheds:

Friends of the River:


Above: Coho Salmon

Northern California Coast Coho Salmon


Habitat Loss

What You Can Do

Salmon Coalition

Friends of the River