Evidence for Freshwater Residualism in Coho Salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch, From a Watershed on the North Coast of British Columbia


  • Eric A Parkinson The Canadian Field-Naturalist
  • Chris J Perrin
  • Daniel Ramos-Espinoza
  • Eric B Taylor




Life-history, Coho Salmon, morphology, genetic identification, sexual maturation, plasticity


The Coho Salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch, is one of seven species of Pacific salmon and trout native to northeastern Pacific Ocean watersheds. The species is typically anadromous; adults reproduce in fresh water where juveniles reside for 1–2 years before seaward migration after which the majority of growth occurs in the ocean before maturation at 2–4 years old when adults return to fresh water to spawn. Here, we report maturation of Coho Salmon in two freshwater lakes on the north coast of British Columbia apparently without their being to sea. A total of 15 mature fish (11 males and four females) were collected in two lakes across two years. The mature fish were all at least 29 cm in total length and ranged in age from three to five years old. The occurrence of Coho Salmon that have matured in fresh water without first going to sea is exceedingly rare in their natural range, especially for females. Such mature Coho Salmon may represent residual and distinct breeding populations from those in adjacent streams. Alternatively, they may result from the ephemeral restriction in the opportunity to migrate seaward owing to low water levels in the spring when Coho Salmon typically migrate to sea after 1–2 years in fresh water. Regardless of their origin, the ability to mature in fresh water without seaward migration may represent important adaptive life history plasticity in response to variable environments.