Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites

Welcome to Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites, an online resource dedicated to exploring our history and culture.

Tr’ochëk: Salmon

A proud fisherman displays his record King Salmon at Dawson City, 1924.

A proud fisherman displays his record King Salmon at Dawson City, 1924.

Yukon Archives #7702, Claude and Mary Tidd fonds.

Salmon has been the mainstay of our diet for thousands of years. This was one of the most important salmon fishing sites of our people.

We fish for two species of salmon: “Łuk Cho,” the Hän name for the king or Chinook salmon (Onchorhynchus taschawytscha) weighing up to 23 kilograms; and the smaller dog or chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta). Salmon begin life as fingerlings in the Yukon River and its tributary rivers and creeks. They migrate down the Yukon River to the Bering Sea, about 2,400 km from the mouth of the Klondike River. After several years of life in saltwater, the fish travel back, swimming upriver to the place they were hatched. The females lay eggs in gravel beds called redds and the males fertilize them. Their main purpose accomplished, they die.

The king salmon run takes place from mid July to early August with the first fish arriving as early as mid June. The dog salmon run happens later in the summer. Many consider the richer Chinook salmon flesh to be the best eating, although some prefer the blander-tasting, less oily chum salmon. Turn-of-the-century journalist Tappan Adney suggested that the dog salmon was named either after its canine-looking teeth or the fact that the fish were used chiefly as dog food.

To learn more, see the story Salmon (PDF) from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Interpretive Manual.