The keta salmon is a torpedo-shaped fish with a moderately compressed body and shimmering bluish-green scales with black speckles when not in the breeding season. It grows to an average of 23.6 inches with a weight of 9.7 to 35 pounds. The fish has 10 to 14 soft rays on its back, 13 to 17 soft anal soft rays and an emarginate tail fin. When they’re ready to spawn, the males turn dark olive green or black on their back. The rest of their body is grayish red and tiger-striped with black and red, and they have a streak along their side that looks very much like a bleeding gash left by a switchblade. The flesh, as with many salmon, is bright pinkish-orange and high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Recreational fishermen use light tackle for saltwater and fly tackle for freshwater, though like most Pacific salmon, the chum is usually fished in the ocean since it doesn't eat when it returns to spawn.