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Chinook were the first Pacific salmon to be transplanted to other parts of the world, but the only notable success in creating self-sustaining stocks has been in New Zealand. A key factor in this general failure was that, like other Pacific salmon, chinook salmon seek the stream of their birth to spawn and die. They have apparently failed to find the right kind of spawning streams along Lake Michigan, so continuous stocking is necessary to maintain the chinook as one of the lake's most prized game fish.

Chinook are generally caught by trolling. But as winter approaches and the lake becomes colder, they disappear in search of more suitable water temperatures. Some say they veer south along a route five to 15 miles offshore; others say that, unlike cohos, they simply move offshore into deeper water.

For several reasons, this salmon species is especially popular with fish management agencies. They can be released five to six months after hatching and therefore are cheaper to hatch and stock than cohos, which require 14 to 16 months. During their four- to five-year lifespan, chinooks feed on large numbers of alewifes and so put more pressure on the lake's alewife population.