Salmon Symphony: A Culinary Exploration of 7 Delectable Delights

Angeline Things to Know
23 Min Read

It remains true that Salmon is North America’s favorite fish variety. Salmon fishing hotspots such as Alaska and British Columbia are a big win for fishing enthusiasts. British Columbia is also known for its beautiful birds. Fishing and Birdwatching are wonderful ways to spend quality time. Commercial fishing for Salmon is considered a profitable business.

Do you know that many different types of salmon swim in the oceans worldwide? Above all, you must realize that Chinook salmon differs greatly from your Coho Salmon. So, this article will help you understand the different salmon species available on your continent. 

1. What Are the Different Types of Salmon? 

Each type of Salmon is unique, and there are ways to tell them apart. There are seven different salmon types found in North America. The Pacific Salmon found on the Pacific Coast are the Chinook salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Pink Salmon, and Chum Salmon. The Atlantic Salmon is another variety of salmon traditionally found in the Atlantic Ocean.

2. Facts about Salmon Fishing

  • Wild Salmon is generally fished for food, both for recreational purposes and commercial use.
  • Most Atlantic species are fished to near extinction, so now only farm-raised salmon are commercially available.
  • Most Salmon species are very important for the health of the ecosystems.

3. List of the 7 Types of Salmon

An invaluable key to sustaining the health of the river’s ecosystems, Salmon Fish Species provide food to humans and bears. Their nutrients are distributed throughout the rivers and oceans. After they die, the nitrogen is released during spawning, helping trees grow. 

3.1. Chinook Salmon or the King Salmon

As the name suggests, the King Salmon, or the Chinook Salmon, is the king of the Salmon species. It is the largest Pacific salmon, can grow up to 5 feet long, and weigh 100 pounds.

Most anglers strive to catch King Salmon at least once in their lifetime. It is also found all over North America. They are seen from the Pacific waters of southern California and the ice-cold rivers of northern Alaska. It is also true that King Salmon can be found in all five of the Great Lakes.

3.1.1. Features and the Appearance of the King Salmon

As the heaviest and longest of the salmon species, its body coloration is unique and impressive. It has a large mouth and very big teeth. The Chinooks are extremely strong; many anglers believe them to be the ultimate game fish.

Chinooks appear to have dark or darker backs, but their sides are either silvery or whitish shade. Black spots are on the upper half of its head, body, and tail fin. King Salmon or the Chinooks appear frightening due to their dark to black gum line.

Generally, all varieties of Salmon can be easily distinguished when spawning. During spawning, the Chinooks transform by having longer heads and mouths. Another transformation seen is when their tails change to olive brown or maroon.

3.1.2. Fun Facts of the King Salmon Species

3.1.3. The Texture and Taste of Chinook Salmon 

According to Matt Stein, former chief seafood officer of King’s Seafood Company, the Chinook Salmon tends to spend more time in the sea growing and eating. So, this variety would be loaded with Omega 3s and can retain more fat content and flavor.

As the texture of the meat is flavorful and thick, the King Salmon Fillets are mostly grilled and pan-roasted in a nonstick pan. Many chefs and home cooks sware by King Salmon as its nutty flavor is delightful to anyone relishing seafood.

The flesh of the Salmon ranges from white to red. It is considered a high-in-fat food; therefore, it is a high-end choice rich in flavor and texture.

Juvenile Chinook Salmon make a great meal for larger fish and birds, while larger marine mammals like sharks and whales usually prey on adult Chinook Salmon.

3.2. Coho Salmon or the Silver Salmon

Although not as big as the Chinook Salmon, the Coho salmon is quite the fighter. They are tough and pretty hard-headed. The Coho Salmon may not be everyone’s favorite, but its fighting spirit earns a great deal of respect in every angler’s heart.

The average weight of an adult Coho salmon lies between 8 and 12 pounds, but some even grow to 30 pounds. In general, most Coho Salmon species are much smaller.

Much of the Coho Salmon populations are deeply affected by ocean and climate change conditions such as global warming. Another reason for the negative impact on Coho Salmon populations is the inability to use the stream to spawn due to urban development and dam construction.

Coho Salmon can easily be located on both sides of the Northern Pacific Ocean, from Japan and Eastern Russia. They can then be seen swimming through the Bering Sea, to Alaska, and down south to Monterey Bay in California.

The Coho Salmon are now found in all the great lakes and a few landlocked reservoirs across the United States.

Coho salmon on rocks beside a fishing rod.
Image by David McCaughey from Pixabay

3.2.1. Features and Appearance of the Coho Salmon 

Coho Salmon have a reddish body as they move towards spawning grounds. But in the oceans, the Coho Salmon have bright silver flanks and blueish to dark blue backs.

This is why many saltwater fishermen call it Silver Salmon or Silvers. But once they enter freshwater, their appearance would change greatly. The sides of the Silver Salmon will be reddish to deep red. Their head will turn green or green-blue.

They will have small, dark spots on their backs. Apart from the above changes, the male cohos will develop a kype resembling a beak’s shape.

3.2.2. Fun Facts of the Soho Salmon Species

  • In some rare cases, male and female cohos can develop a kype shaped as a hooked nose or upper jaw.
  • They are nicknamed Hooknose Salmon as they use their ‘Kype’ to latch onto and fight other fish.
  • Angler Jerry Lifton caught a 34-pound coho in the Salmon River in New York in 1989.

3.2.3. The Texture and Taste of Soho 

As a small fish, the Silver Salmon has a medium fat content with subtle flavor. It is considered great for cooking as a whole fish. Doug Adams, a former chef at the Bullard in Portland, says that traditionally, native Americans cooked the fish simply by hanging them by the collar on a cross and leaning by the fire to slow cook it.

He also recommends cooking cohos on a grill after stuffing them with herbs. Overall, Silver Salmon is a delicate, delicious fish with a mild flavor.

3.3. Sockeye Salmon or the Red Salmon

Sockeye Salmon species are found in the Pacific Ocean off the west of the United States and most parts of Alaska. It belongs to the smaller size category of the Salmon variety. It averages 1 to 2 feet in length and weighs about 4 to 15 pounds.

The largest Sockeye salmon would be just half the size of King Salmon. Due to its blue dorsal coloring, iridescent sides, and white ventral side, Sockeye salmon is known as ‘Bluefish.’

Sockeye Salmon, being a freshwater fish, are anadromous. It means that they are born in freshwater and migrate to the oceans to feed and grow. Subsequently, Sockeye salmon return to freshwater to spawn and die. Some subspecies, like the Kokanee, are non-anadromous.

Sockeye Salmon rarely travels south of the Deschutes River in Oregon. They are strong and abundant in the Pacific waters of Alaska. Despite its size, this type of salmon is aggressive and usually puts up a good fight when they are caught.

A popular fish for fly fishing, Sockeye Salmon is generally a sought-after fish among many anglers who are quite surprised at their acrobatic skills.

3.3.1. Features and Appearance of Sockeye Salmon or Red Salmon

You can easily identify Sockeye Salmon by looking at their bright golden eyes. The eyes are much bigger than those of many other salmon. The inside of the mouth and gums are white. And they do not have any spots on the backs and tails.

A spawning Sockeye Salmon will look very similar to that of Coho Salmon. It will have a hooked nose and jaw. The males grow a bump on their backs. But their most important identification would be that during spawning, they turn bright red, earning them the nickname ‘Red Salmon,’ while their head and tail would be green.

3.3.2. Fun Facts about Sockeye Salmon Species

  • Some Sockeye Salmon species are found in the ocean.
  • Landlocked Sockeye Salmon Fish is known as Kokanee.
  • The biggest sockeye salmon weighed about 15 pounds. It remains a world record. Angler Sten Roach caught it in 1987 in the Alaskan Kenai River.

3.3.3. Texture and Taste of Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon is a flavorful fish. Its bright red flesh is generally leaner. They have a stronger fishy taste than all the other types of Salmon.

Sockeye Salmon is great for cooking fillets on a hot, well-oiled grill. Brush both sides of the fish with a thin layer of mayonnaise, season it with salt and pepper, and grill the skin side down.

Ultimately, Sockeye Salmon or Red Salmon, with its fishiest scent and flavor, is a tasty fish that is a lot leaner and a lot cheaper than King Salmon or Silver Salmon.

3.4. Pink Salmon

Facts: The Pink Salmon

Pink Salmon does not weigh more than five pounds, and its length does not exceed two feet. These characteristics make it the smallest Pacific Salmon.

Furthermore, an interesting aspect of pink salmon is that it looks more distinctive than other Pacific salmon species. Most ocean-dwelling salmon are silver or have blue-green backs. However, Pink Salmon looks greener, and the backs have large dark spots on the dorsal side.

A male Pink salmon develops a hump on its back that earns them the nickname “Humpback Salmon.” As anadromous, pink salmon are migratory fish and constantly move from fresh to saltwater at many life cycle stages.

Pink Salmon are usually found in the Pacific and Arctic oceans. They go from the Sacramento River in Northern California to the Mackenzie River in Canada.

Pink Salmon are among the fastest-growing salmon species. Once hatched, they migrate to the ocean and usually stay feeding and growing for nearly a year and a half. Subsequently, they would return to freshwater for the spawning process.

3.4.1. Features and Appearance of  Pink Salmon

Pink Salmon will be bright silver when they dwell in the oceans. After they swim upstream, the body’s shape and color would change. Bright silvery bodies of the Salmon change to a dull grey or white in freshwater. They would also develop a large oval and a dark spot on the back.

The mouths will become white with dark or black gums. This feature is commonly found in both pink salmon and chinook salmon species. As mentioned before, another distinctive feature of the Pink Salmon is the Humpbacks that the male species develop during the later part of their lifecycle.

3.4.2. Fun Facts of Pink Salmon Species

  • Pink Salmon got their name because of their intensely pink-orange flesh, not their body color.
  • In 2019, commercial US fishermen bought nearly 296 million pounds of Pink Salmon. They were light-coloured, and each fish weighed two and six pounds.
  • Female Pink Salmon tend to protect their nests till their death due to spawning.
  • The biggest Pink Salmon caught in 2001 in Monroe, Washington, weighed about 14 pounds. Angler Alexander Minerich still holds the world record.

3.4.3. Texture and Taste of Pink Salmon

Pink Salmon has a mild flavor. They are light-colored and low in fat. They are usually found fresh or frozen. In some cases, they taste best when it is smoked to perfection.

But above all, most Pink Salmon are either processed and sold in cans or pouches. As they are very small in size, the packaging becomes perfect.

3.5. Chum Salmon

As one of the larger varieties among the types of Salmon, Chum Salmon can average nearly 8 pounds to 15 pounds. In some instances, these Salmon grow up to three and a half feet long and can weigh up to 35 pounds.

Although Chum Salmon are as anadromous as other salmons, they do not reside in freshwater for long periods. The young ones migrate to marine waters directly to feed and grow for most of their lives. Furthermore, Chum Salmon returns to freshwater for spawning. 

Chum Salmon can be found in British Columbia, Canada, and Alaska, down to California in North America. It is the largest fish compared to other salmon types, and it is also found in the Asian Pacific Ocean.

Chum salmon lying on a wooden surface after fishing.
Image by Martin Schotte from Pixabay

3.5.1. Features and Appearance of Chum Salmon

You will be surprised to know that most ocean-dwelling Chum Salmon are metallic green-blue in color and have black speckles on the dorsal side. The ventral belly side would have a light greyish-silver coloring.

They are also known as the Keta Salmon, Dog Salmon, or Chub. Most Chum Salmon have beautiful features; some will look like colorful paintings. They are distinctive and deeper in color.

As they draw near to the spawning process, their bodies will transform into lovely purple blotchy streaks on their side. Male Chum Salmon will develop a prominent kype, and the fins will be tipped with white. A pre-spawn male Chum Salmon will also possess large teeth.

3.5.2. Fun Facts about Chum Salmon

  • A freshwater Chum Salmon is bound to put up a fight once caught.
  • Chum Salmon is generally used as bait in saltwater fishing. Chum fish eggs are a good bait for Salmon fishing.
  • Chum are regarded as the least desirable food fish.
  • Angler Todd Johansson caught the world’s biggest Chum Salmon on the Edye Pass in British Columbia, weighing about 35 pounds. It remains a world record.

3.5.3. Texture and Taste of Chum Salmon

Chum Salmon is a smaller breed. It has less fat, and due to its lighter pale color, it may be less appealing to the eye.

Chum Salmon is often used for canning and is best known for roe, which is fish eggs found in the belly of the fish. The fish roe is much bigger than usual fish eggs and is tastier than normal ones. It is often used as a topping to sushi, even though their flesh is not much preferred.

3.6. Atlantic Salmon

A species of Atlantic salmon beside a fishing rod on grass.
Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

The Atlantic Salmon is the second largest salmon species. Among the types of Salmon, the Atlantic Salmon is the only salmon variety that can be found in the Atlantic Ocean.

A young Atlantic Salmon swims in freshwater for the first eight years of its life. They are the only Salmon species that is iteroparous.

It means that they are the only ones among the types of Salmon to recover from spawning. An Atlantic Salmon can then swim back into the ocean and return for another spawning period.

Sadly, the population of Pacific Salmon Species is at risk due to overfishing. 

3.6.1. Features and Appearance of Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic Salmon body color adapts to the darker environment of the rivers. This makes them brownish or dark reddish in colour when swimming in freshwater.

The body of Atlantic Salmon develops a bright silver color once they enter sea waters. The adult Atlantic Salmon have black spots on the back and upper halves of the gill plater. The lower flanks and bellies will remain silvery or whitish.

3.6.2. Fun Facts about Atlantic Salmon

  • Popular in North America and Europe both as game and food fish.
  • Female Atlantic Salmon can lay an average of 7500 eggs. At most, 20% survive.
  • Henrik Henriksen holds a world record for catching a gigantic Atlantic brown trout while fishing in the Tana River in Norway in 1928.

3.6.3. Texture and Taste of Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic Salmon has a milder flavor than many other Salmon. The color of the flesh varies from pink to orange depending on the level of pigment added to the feed.

The flesh of Atlantic salmon is medium firm in texture. They will have large flakes with medium fat content.

3.7. Masu Salmon

The Masu Salmon is the smallest variety among the Salmons. It can only be found in the western parts of the Asian Pacific Ocean. It usually weighs about 4-5.5 pounds maximum and can grow up to 20 inches long.

ヤマメ / Masu salmon

3.7.1. Features and Appearance of Masu Salmon

This variety of Salmon has beautiful small and big dark spots and stripes on its body. When they reach adulthood, the dark spots on the body of Masu Salmon will turn bright red. This is the reason Masu Salmon is often called Cherry Salmon.

3.7.2. Fun Facts about Masu Salmon

  • There is debate about the different types of Masu Salmon species in Asia. The two types are anadromous and resident. They dwell in salt and fresh water, and another is completely landlocked.

3.7.3. Texture and Taste of Masu Salmon

Masu Salmon is a premium fish famous for its unique and delectable taste. It has a moist texture and oily flavor due to its high-fat content.

Although it is pretty fatty, Masu Salmon has a light and subtle flavor, and there are many ways to prepare it. You can either grill, pan-fry, or make delicious sushi with it.

4. Takeaway

Every Salmon variety has a special feature and is unique in its way. Some of them would put up a hard fight. At the same time, some will give up too soon. Some salmon species would be marvelous to look at and taste so good. And some will not taste or look good as well.

This article would help identify the different types of Salmon whenever you go fishing. Even if you don’t go fishing, you will appreciate the beauty and splendid nature of the Salmon Fish Species.

Last Updated on by Narayani Bhardwaj

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