It evidently remains absolutely true that Salmon is North America’s favourite 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 there are many different types of salmon swimming in the oceans all over the world? Above all, you must realize that Chinook salmon is much different from your Coho Salmon. So, this article will help you understand the different salmon species that are 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 that are found on the Pacific Coast are the Chinook salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Pink Salmon, and Chum Salmon. Another variety of salmon that is traditionally found in the Atlantic Ocean is the Atlantic Salmon.
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 available for commercial use.
- 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 the spawning process, helping trees to grow.
3.1. Chinook Salmon or the King Salmon
As the name suggests, King Salmon or the Chinook Salmon is the king of the Salmon species. It is regarded as the largest of the Pacific salmon and can grow up to 5 feet long and weigh up to a whopping 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 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 colouration is unique and impressive. It has a large mouth and very big teeth. The Chinooks are extremely strong, and 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. There are black spots 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 they are 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
- The name Chinook comes from a group of indigenous people in the Pacific Northwest of the United States known as the Chinookan people.
- A giant king Salmon caught in the Alaskan Kenai River in 1985 weighed nearly 100 pounds and remains a world record.
- Killer Whales consider Salmon the first choice of food.
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 flavour.
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 flavour is simply delightful to anyone relishing seafood.
The flesh of the Salmon ranges from white to red. It is considered a high-in-fat food, and therefore, it is a high-end choice that is rich in flavour 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 favourite, but due to its fighting spirit, it earns a great deal of respect in every angler’s heart.
The average weight of an adult Coho salmon lies between 8 to 12 pounds, but some even grow up to thirty 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, all the way 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.
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 the main reason many saltwater fishermen either 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 in colour. 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 that will resemble the shape of a beak.
3.2.2. Fun Facts of the Soho Salmon Species
- In some rare cases, both the 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 medium fat content with subtle flavour. 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. On the whole, Silver Salmon is a delicate fish that is delicious with a mild fish flavour.
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 between 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 colouring, iridescent sides, and white ventral side, Sockeye salmon is also 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 taking a look at their bright golden eyes. The eyes are much bigger than many other Salmons. The inside of the mouth and gums are white in colour. And they do not have any spots on the backs and tails.
A Sockeye Salmon that is spawning 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 the most important identification of them would be the fact 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. It was caught by Angler Sten Roach 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 do 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 flavour, is a tasty fish that is a lot leaner and a lot cheaper than King Salmon or Silver Salmon.
3.4. Pink Salmon
Pink Salmon does not weigh more than five pounds, and its length does not exceed more than two feet in length. These characteristics make it the smallest Pacific Salmon.
Furthermore, an interesting aspect of Pink Salmon is that it looks more distinctively than that of 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 they are anadromous, pink salmon are migratory fish and constantly move from freshwater to saltwater at many stages of their life cycle.
Pink Salmon are usually found in the Pacific and Arctic oceans. They make their way from the Sacramento River in Northern California and way down 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 for nearly a year and a half, feeding and growing. Subsequently, they would return to freshwater for the spawning process.
3.4.1. Features and Appearance of Pink Salmon
Pink Salmon will have a bright silver colour when they dwell in the oceans. After they swim upstream, the body’s shape and colour 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 and not their body colour.
- 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. The world record is still held by Angler Alexander Minerich.
3.4.3. Texture and Taste of Pink Salmon
Pink Salmon has a mild flavour. They are light-coloured 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 in length and can weigh up to 35 pounds.
Although Chum Salmon are anadromous as the other Salmons, they do not reside in freshwater for long periods of time. The young ones migrate to marine waters directly to feed and grow for the most part of their lives. Furthermore, Chum Salmon returns to freshwater for spawning.
Chum Salmon can be found in British Columbia in Canada and Alaska down to California in North America. As the larger fish when compared to other types of Salmon, it is also found in the Asian Pacific Ocean.
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 colour and have black speckles on the dorsal side. The ventral belly side would have a light greyish-silver colouring.
They are also known as the Keta Salmon, Dog Salmon, or Chub. Most Chum Salmon have beautiful features; some will look like colourful paintings. They are distinctive and deeper in colour.
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 colour, 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 used as a topping to Sushi very often, even though their flesh is not preferred much.
3.6. Atlantic Salmon
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 spends the first eight years of its life swimming in freshwater. They are the only Salmon species that is iteroparous in nature. 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 again for another period of spawning.
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 colour 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 colour once they enter sea waters. The adult Atlantic Salmon have black spots on the back and also on the upper halves of the gill plater. The lower flanks and bellies will remain silvery or whitish in colour.
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 back in 1928.
3.6.3. Texture and Taste of Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon has a milder flavour than many other Salmon. The colour 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 in length.
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 found in Asia. The two types are anadromous and resident. They dwell in salt and fresh water, and another one is landlocked completely.
3.7.3. Texture and Taste of Masu Salmon
Masu Salmon is a premium fish that is quite 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.
Every Salmon variety has a special feature and is unique in its own 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 simply marvelous to look at and would taste too good. And some will not taste or look good as well.
This article would help in identifying 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.