Salmon is the common name for several species of Fish of the family Salmonidae.
Several other fish in the family are called trout.
Salmon live in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Great Lakes and other land locked lakes.
Typically, salmon are anadromous: they are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce. Folklore has it that the fish return to the exact spot where they were born to spawn. In Alaska, the crossing-over to other streams allows salmon to populate new streams, such as those that emerge as a glacier retreats.
The precise method salmon use to navigate has not been entirely established,
though their keen sense of smell is involved. In all species of Pacific salmon,
the mature individuals die within a few days or weeks of spawning, a trait known
However, even in those species of salmon that may survive to spawn more than
once (iteroparity), post-spawning mortality is quite high (perhaps as high as 40 to 50%.)
Male Coho Salmon
Salmon has long been at the heart of the culture and livelihood of coastal dwellers. Most peoples of the Northern Pacific shore had a ceremony to honor the first return
of the year. For many centuries, people caught salmon as they swam upriver to spawn. A famous spearfishing site on the Columbia River at Celilo
Falls was inundated after great dams were built on the river. The Ainu, of northern Japan, taught dogs how to catch salmon as they returned to their breeding grounds en
masse. Now, salmon are caught in bays and near shore.
Salmon population levels are of concern in the Atlantic and in some parts of the Pacific but in Alaska stocks are still abundant. Fish farming is outlawed and the State of Alaska’s fisheries management system is viewed as the global leader in the management of wild, sustainable fish stocks. The most important Alaska Salmon wild sustainable fisheries are located near the Kenai River, Copper River, and in Bristol Bay. In Canada, the Skeena River wild salmon returning which support commercial fisheries, aboriginal food fisheries, sports fisheries and the area’s diverse wildlife on the coast and around communities hundreds of miles inland in the watershed. The Columbia River salmon population is now less than 3% of what it was when Lewis and Clark arrived at the river.
Both Atlantic and Pacific Salmon are important
to recreational fishing around the world.
Life Cycle of a Salmon
Eggs in different stages of development. In some only a few cells grow on
top of the yolk, in the lower right the blood vessels surround the yolk and
in the upper left the black eyes are visible, even the little lens.
Salmon fry hatching
Salmon fry hatching – the photo above shows how the larva has grown around
the remains of the yolk – visible are the arteries spinning
around the yolk and little oildrops, also the gut, the spine, the main caudal
blood vessel, the bladder and the arcs of the gills.
In order to lay her roe, the female salmon uses her tail fin to excavate a shallow depression, called a redd. The redd may sometimes contain 5,000 eggs covering 30 square feet. The eggs usually range from orange to red in color. One or more males will approach the female in her redd, depositing his sperm, or milt, over the roe. The female then covers the eggs by disturbing the gravel at the upstream edge of the depression before moving on to make another redd. The female will make as many as 7 redds before her supply of eggs is exhausted. The salmon then die within a few days of spawning.
The eggs will hatch into alevin or sac fry.
The fry quickly develop into parr with camouflaging vertical stripes.
The parr stay for one to three years in their natal stream before becoming smolts which are distinguished by their bright silvery colour with scales that are easily
rubbed off. It is estimated that only 10% of all salmon eggs survive long enough
to reach this stage. The smolt body chemistry changes, allowing them to live in salt water. Smolts spend a portion of their out-migration time in brackish water, where their body chemistry becomes accustomed to osmoregulation in the ocean.
The salmon spend one to five years (depending on the species) in the
open ocean where they will become sexually mature. The adult salmon returns primarily to its natal stream to spawn. When fish return for the first time they are called whitling in the UK and grilse or peel in Ireland. Prior to spawning, depending on the species, the salmon undergoes changes. They may grow a hump, develop canine teeth, develop a kype (a pronounced curvature of the jaws in male salmon). All will change from the silvery blue of a fresh run fish from the sea to a darker color. Condition tends to deteriorate the longer the fish remain in freshwater, and they then deteriorate further after they spawn becoming known as kelts.
Salmon can make amazing journeys, sometimes moving hundreds of miles upstream
against strong currents and rapids to reproduce. Chinook and sockeye salmon from
central Idaho, for example, travel over 900 miles and climb nearly 7000 feet
from the Pacific ocean as they return to spawn.
Each year, the fish experiences a period of rapid growth, often in summer, and one of slower growth, normally in winter. This results in rings (annuli) analogous to the growth rings visible in a tree trunk. Freshwater growth shows as densely crowded rings, sea growth as widely spaced rings; spawning is marked by significant erosion as body mass is converted into eggs and milt.
Freshwater streams and estuaries provide important habitat for many salmon species.
They feed on terrestrial and aquatic insects, amphipods, and other crustaceans while young, and primarily on other fish when older. Eggs are laid in deeper water with larger gravel, and need cool water and good water flow (to supply oxygen) to the developing embryos. Mortality of salmon in the early life stages is usually high due to natural predation and human induced changes in habitat, such as siltation, high water temperatures, low oxygen conditions, loss of stream cover, and reductions in river flow. Estuaries and their associated wetlands provide vital nursery areas for the salmon prior to their departure to the open ocean.
Wetlands not only help buffer the estuary from silt and pollutants, but also provide important feeding and hiding areas.
Salmon as Food, Wild Salmon is Best
Salmon is a popular food.
Consuming salmon is considered to be reasonably healthy due to the fish’s high protein, high Omega-3 fatty acids, and high vitamin D content.
Salmon is also a source of cholesterol, ranging 23–214 mg/100g depending on the species. According to reports in the journal Science, however, farmed salmon may contain high levels of dioxins. PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) levels may be up to eight times higher in farmed salmon than in wild salmon. Omega-3 content may also be lower than in wild caught individuals, and in a different proportion to what is found naturally. Omega 3 comes in three types, ALA, DHA and EPA; wild salmon has traditionally been an important source of DHA and EPA, which are important for brain function and structure, among other things. This means that if the farmed salmon is fed on a meal which is partially grain then the amount of Omega 3 it contains will be present as ALA (Linoleic acid). The body can itself convert ALA Omega 3 into DHA and EPA, but at a very inefficient rate (2–15%). Nonetheless, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the benefits of eating even farmed salmon still outweigh any risks imposed by contaminants.
Type of Omega 3 present may not be a factor for other important health functions.
A simple rule of thumb is that the vast majority of Atlantic salmon available on the world market are farmed (greater than 99%), whereas the majority of Pacific salmon are wild-caught (greater than 80%). Farmed salmon outnumber wild salmon 85 to 1.
Salmon flesh is generally orange to red in colour, although there are some examples of white fleshed wild salmon. The natural colour of salmon results from carotenoid pigments, largely astaxanthin (E161j), in the flesh. Wild salmon get these carotenoids from eating krill and other tiny shellfish. Because consumers have shown a reluctance to purchase white fleshed salmon, astaxanthin, and very minutely canthaxanthin (E161g)), are added as artificial colorants to the feed of farmed salmon because prepared diets do not naturally contain these pigments. In most cases the astaxanthin is made chemically; alternatively it is extracted from shrimp flour. Another possibility is the use of dried red yeast, which provides the same pigment. However, synthetic mixtures are the least expensive option. Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant that stimulates the development of healthy fish nervous systems and that enhances the fish’s fertility and growth rate. Research has revealed canthaxanthin may have negative effects on the human eye, accumulating in the retina at high levels of consumption. Today the concentration of carotenoids (mainly canthaxanthin and astaxanthin) exceeds 8 mg/kg of flesh and all fish producers try to reach a level that represents a value of 16 on the “Roche Color Card”, a colour card used to show how pink the fish will appear at specific doses. This scale is specific for measuring the pink colour due to astaxanthin and is not for the orange hue obtained with canthaxanthin. The development of processing and storage operations, which can be detrimental on canthaxanthin flesh concentration, has led to an increased quantity of pigments added to the diet to compensate for the degrading effects of the processing. In wild fish, carotenoid levels of up to 20–25 mg are present, but levels of canthaxanthin are, in contrast, minor.
Canned salmon in the U.S. is usually wild Pacific catch, though some farmed salmon is available in canned form. Smoked salmon is another popular preparation method, and can either be hot or cold smoked. Lox can refer either to cold smoked salmon or to salmon cured in a brine solution (also called gravlax).
Raw salmon flesh may contain Anisakis nematodes, marine parasites that cause Anisakiasis. Before the availability of refrigeration, the Japanese did not consume raw salmon. Salmon and salmon roe have only recently come into use in making sashimi (raw fish) and sushi.
Many wild Salmon stocks have seen a marked decline
in recent decades, especially north Atlantic populations which spawn in western
European and eastern Canadian waters, and wild salmon of the Snake and Columbia
River systems in the Northwest USA. The causes of these declines likely include
a number of factors, among them:
- Disease transfer from open net cage salmon farming, especially sea
lice. The European Commission (2002) concluded “The reduction of wild salmonid
abundance is also linked to other factors but there is more and more scientific
evidence establishing a direct link between the number of lice-infested wild
fish and the presence of cages in the same estuary.” It
is reported that wild salmon on the west coast of Canada are being driven to
extinction by sea
lice from nearby salmon farms.
- Overfishing in general but especially commercial netting in the Faroes and
- Ocean and river warming which can delay spawning and accelerate transition
dermal necrosis (UDN) infections of the 1970s and 1980s which severely affected
adult salmon in freshwater rivers.
- Loss of suitable freshwater habitat, especially degradation of stream
pools and reduction of suitable material for the excavation of redds. Historically
stream pools were, to a large extent, created by beavers. With the extirpation
of the beaver,
the nurturing function of these ponds was lost.
- Reduction of the retention of the nutrients brought by the returning adult
salmon in stream pools. Without stream pools, dead adult salmon tend to be washed
straight back down the streams and rivers.
- The construction of dams, weirs, barriers and other “flood prevention” measures,
which bring severe adverse impacts to river habitat and on the accessibility
of those habitats to salmon. This is particularly true in the northwest USA,
where large numbers of dams have been built in many river systems, including
over 400 in the Columbia River Basin.
- Loss of invertebrate diversity and population density in rivers because of
modern farming methods
and various sources of pollution,
thus reducing food availability.
- Reduction in freshwater base flow in rivers and disruption of seasonal flows,
because of diversions and extractions, hydroelectric
power generation, irrigation schemes,
and slackwater reservoirs, which inhibit normal migratory processes and increase
predation for salmon.
There are efforts to relieve this situation. As such, several governments and NGOs are sharing in research and habitat restoration efforts.
- NOAA’s Office
of Protected Resources maintains a list
of Endangered Species, the Endangered
- Sweden has generated a protection program as part of its Biodiversity
of Salmon maintains an IUCN redlist
of endangered salmon
- The Kamchatka Peninsula, in the Russian Far East, contains the world’s greatest salmon sanctuary.
- Bear Lake, Alaska, is the site of salmon enhancement activities since 1962.
Salmon and Beaver
Beaver ponds may provide critical habitat for juvenile salmon. An example of this was seen in the years following 1818 in the Columbia River Basin. In 1818, the British government made an agreement with the U.S. government to allow U.S. citizens access to the Columbia catchment (see Treaty of 1818). At the time, the Hudson’s Bay Company sent word to trappers to extirpate all furbearers from the area in an effort to make the area less attractive.
In response to the elimination of beavers from large parts of the river system,
salmon runs plummeted, even in the absence of many of the factors usually associated with the demise of salmon runs. Salmon recruitment can be effected by beavers’ dams because dams can:
- Slow the rate at which nutrients are flushed from the system; nutrients provided
by adult salmon dying throughout the fall and winter remain available in the
spring to newly-hatched juveniles
- Provide deeper water pools where young salmon can avoid avian predators
- Increase productivity through photosynthesis and by enhancing the conversion
efficiency of the cellulose-powered detritus cycle
- Create low-energy environments where juvenile salmon put the food they ingest
into growth rather than into fighting currents
- Increase structural complexity with many physical niches where salmon can
Beavers’ dams are able to nurture salmon juveniles in Estuarine tidal marshes
where the salinity is less than 10ppm. Beavers build small dams of generally
less than 2 feet high in channels in the Myrtle zone. These dams can be overtopped
at high tide and hold water at low tide. This provides refuges for juvenile salmon
so they don’t have to swim into large channels where they are subject to predation.
Salmon aquaculture is the major economic contributor to the world production of farmed fin-fish, representing over $1 billion US annually. Other commonly cultured fish species include: tilapia, catfish, sea bass, carp, bream, and trout. Salmon farming is very big in Chile, Norway, Scotland, Canada and the Faroe Islands, and is the source for most salmon consumed in America and Europe. Atlantic salmon are also, in very small volumes, farmed in Russia, Tasmania, Australia.
Salmon are carnivorous and are currently fed a meal produced from catching other wild fish and other marine organisms. Consequently, as the number of farmed salmon increase, so does the demand for other fish to feed the salmon. Work continues on substituting vegetable proteins for animal proteins in the salmon diet. Unfortunately though, this substitution results in lower levels of the highly valued Omega-3 content in the farmed product. But still the farmed salmon contains more Omega-3 than what is found in wild salmon. Intensive salmon farming now uses open net cages which have low production costs but have the drawback of allowing disease and sea lice to spread to local wild salmon stocks.
On a dry-dry basis, it takes 10 kg of wild caught fish to produce one kg of salmon. The other 9kg enters the sea in the form of faeces and to some extent, uneaten food. In areas with low currents, this organic material collects on the bottom and turns anaerobic. Salmon farms (feed lots actually as there is no farming involved) introduce levels of untreated sewage into the ocean that has already been outlawed for sea side communities.
Another form of salmon production, which is safer but less controllable, is to raise
salmon in hatcheries until they are old enough to become independent. They are
then released into rivers, often in an attempt to increase the salmon population.
This practice was very common in countries like Sweden before the Norwegians developed salmon farming, but is seldom done by private companies, as anyone may catch the salmon when they return to spawn, limiting a company’s chances of benefiting financially from their investment. Because of this, the method has mainly been used by various public authorities as a way of artificially increasing salmon populations in situations where they have declined due to overharvest, construction of dams, and habitat destruction or disruption. Unfortunately, there can be negative consequences to this sort of population manipulation, including genetic “dilution” of the wild stocks, and many jurisdictions are now beginning to discourage supplemental fish planting in favour of harvest controls and habitat improvement and protection. A variant method of fish stocking, called ocean ranching, is under development in Alaska. There, the young salmon are released into the ocean far from any wild salmon streams. When it is time for them to spawn, they return to where they were released where fishermen can then catch them.
An alternative method to hatcheries is to use spawning channels. These are artificial streams, usually parallel to an existing stream with cement or rip-rap sides and gravel bottoms. Water from the adjacent stream is piped into the top of the channel, sometimes via a header pond to settle out sediment. Spawning success is often much better in channels than in adjacent streams due to the control of floods which in some years can wash out the natural redds. Because of the lack of floods, spawning channels must sometimes be cleaned out to remove accumulated sediment. The same floods which destroy natural redds also clean them out. Spawning channels preserve the natural selection of natural streams as there is no temptation, as in hatcheries, to use propholactic chemicals to control diseases.
Farm raised salmon are fed the dye astaxanthin (3,3′-hydroxy-?,?-carotene 4,4′-dione), a carotenoid pigment, so that their flesh color matches wild salmon
Diseases and Parasites Affecting Wild Salmon
According to Canadian biologist Dr. Dorothy Kieser, protozoan parasite Henneguya salminicola is commonly found in the flesh of salmonids. It has been recorded in the field samples of salmon returning to Queen Charlotte Island streams. The fish responds by walling off the parasitic infection into a number of cysts that contain milky fluid. This fluid is an accumulation of a large number of parasites.
Henneguya and other parasites in the myxosporean group have a complex lifecycle where the salmon is one of two hosts. The fish releases the spores after spawning. In the Henneguya case, the spores enter a second host, most likely an invertebrate,
in the spawning stream. When juvenile salmon out-migrate to the Pacific Ocean, the second host releases a stage infective to salmon. The parasite is then carried in the salmon until the next spawning cycle. The myxosporean parasite that causes whirling disease in trout has a similar lifecycle.
However, as opposed to whirling disease, the Henneguya infestation does not appear to cause disease in the host salmon – even heavily infected fish tend to return to spawn successfully.
According to Dr. Kieser, a lot of work on Henneguya salminicola was done by scientists at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo in the mid-1980, in particular, an overview report which states that “the fish that have the longest fresh water residence time as juveniles have the most noticeable infections. Hence in order of prevalence Coho are most infected followed by sockeye, Chinook, chum and pink.” As well, the report says that, at the time the studies were conducted, stocks from the middle and upper reaches of large river systems in British Columbia such as Fraser, Skeena, Nass and from mainland coastal streams in the southern half of B.C. “are more likely to have a low prevalence of infection.” The report also states “It should be stressed that Henneguya, economically deleterious though it is, is harmless from the view of public health. It is strictly a fish parasite that cannot live in or affect warm blooded animals, including man”.
According to Klaus Schallie, Molluscan Shellfish Program Specialist with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, “Henneguya salminicola is found in southern B.C. also and in all species of salmon. I have previously examined smoked chum salmon sides that were riddled with cysts and some sockeye runs in Barkley Sound (southern B.C., west coast of Vancouver Island) are noted for their high incidence of infestation.”
As noted above, the Lepeophtheirus salmonis, a sea louse, causes deadly infestations of farm-grown and wild salmon. On the Pacific coast of Canada, the louse-induced mortality of pink salmon is commonly over 80%. Climate change in Washington is a possible cause of disease.
Atlantic Ocean Species of Salmon
Atlantic ocean species belong to the genus Salmo. Atlantic salmon or Salmon (Salmo salar), is the species after which all the others are named.
Pacific Ocean Species of Salmon
Pacific species belong to the genus Oncorhynchus, some examples include;
Cherry salmon (Oncorhynchus masu or O. masou) is found only in the western Pacific Ocean in Japan, Korea and Russia and also landlocked in central Taiwan’s Chi Chia Wan Stream.
Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is also known locally as King, Tyee, Spring salmon, Quinnat, Tule, or Blackmouth salmon. Chinook are the largest of all Pacific salmon, frequently exceeding 30 lbs. (14 kg).
Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) is known locally as Dog or Calico salmon. This species has the widest geographic range of the Pacific species: south to the Sacramento River in California in the eastern Pacific and the island of Ky?sh? in the Sea of Japan in the western Pacific; north to the Mackenzie River in Canada in the east and to the Lena River in Siberia in the west.
Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) is also known locally as Silver salmon. This species is found throughout the coastal waters of Alaska and British Columbia and up most clear-running streams and rivers.
Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), known as humpies in south east Alaska, are found from northern California and Korea, throughout the northern Pacific, and from the Mackenzie River in Canada to the Lena River in Siberia, usually in shorter coastal streams. It is the smallest of the Pacific species, with an average weight of 3.5 to 4 lbs. (1.6 – 1.8 kg).
Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) is known in the USA as Red salmon. This lake-rearing species is found south as far as the Klamath River in California in the eastern Pacific and northern Hokkaid? Island in Japan in the western Pacific and as far north as Bathurst Inlet in the Canadian Arctic in the east and the Anadyr River in Siberia in the west. Although most adult Pacific salmon feed on small fish, shrimp and squid; sockeye feed on plankton that they filter through gill rakers.
Steelhead or Steelhead trout or Rainbow trout (Oncorhychus mykiss) are river spawners, usually found in the same rivers that produce Chinook, especially the Columbia, Snake, Skeena, and other large rivers on the Pacific Coast. Steelhead have also been introduced into some rivers surrounding the Laurentian Great Lakes.
Other Species of Salmon Land-locked salmon (Salmo salar sebago) live in a number of lakes in eastern North America. This subspecies of Atlantic Salmon is non-migratory, even when access to the sea is not barred.
Kokanee salmon is a land-locked form of sockeye salmon.
Huchen or Danube salmon (Hucho hucho), the largest permanent fresh water salmonid
Salmon in Mythology
In Irish mythology, the hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, leader of the Fianna, gained powers of perception from a salmon. The young Fionn met the poet Finegas near the river Boyne and studied under him. Finegas had spent seven years trying to catch the salmon of knowledge which lived in a pool on the Boyne, for whoever ate the salmon would gain all the knowledge in the world. Eventually he caught it and told the boy to cook it for him. While cooking it Fionn burst a blister on the salmon’s skin, burning his thumb, and instinctively put his thumb in his mouth, swallowing a piece of the salmon’s skin. This imbued him with the salmon’s wisdom.
In Norse mythology, when Loki, god of mischief and strife, tricked Hod the blind god into killing Baldr, god of beauty and light, Loki jumped into a river and transformed himself into a salmon in order to escape punishment from the other gods. When they held out a net to trap him he attempted to leap over it but was caught by Thor who grabbed him by the tail with his hand, and this is why the salmon’s tail is tapered.
1. Endangered Salmon. U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
2. McGrath, Susan. Spawning Hope. Audubon Society. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
3. a b c Pacific Salmon, (Oncorhynchus spp.). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
4. A Salmon’s Life: An Incredible Journey. U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
5. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health.
Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved on 2007-12-13.
6. Cholesterol: Cholesterol Content in Seafoods (Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp).
7. Montaigne. Everybody Loves Atlantic Salmon: Here’s the Catch…. National
Geographic. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
8. a b c Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Animal Nutrition on the use
of canthaxanthin in feedingstuffs for salmon and trout, laying hens, and other
poultry. (PDF) 6–7. European Commission – Health & Consumer Protection Directorate.
Retrieved on 2006-11-13.
9. Scientific Evidence.
10. a b Martin Krkosek, Jennifer S. Ford, Alexandra Morton, Subhash Lele, Ransom
A. Myers, and Mark A. Lewis Declining Wild Salmon Populations in Relation to
Parasites from Farm Salmon. (14 December 2007) Science 318 (5857), 1772.
11. Project Bear Lake. Retrieved on 2007-02-03.
12. Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Extinction. Retrieved on 2007-12-21.
13. K. D. Hyatt, D. J. McQueen, K. S. Shortreed and D. P. Rankin. Sockeye salmon
(Oncorhynchus nerka) nursery lake fertilization: Review and summary of results.
Retrieved on 2007-12-21.
14. M. M. Pollock, G. R. Pess and T. J. Beechie. The Importance of Beaver Ponds
to Coho Salmon Production in the Stillaguamish River Basin, Washington, USA.
Retrieved on 2007-12-21.
15. An overlooked ecological web.
16. Pigments in Salmon Aquaculture: How to Grow a Salmon-colored Salmon. Retrieved
on 2007-08-26. “Astaxanthin (3,3′-hydroxy-?,?-carotene-4,4′-dione) is a carotenoid
pigment, one of a large group of organic molecules related to vitamins and widely
found in plants. In addition to providing red, orange, and yellow colors to various
plant parts and playing a role in photosynthesis, carotenoids are powerful antioxidants,
and some (notably various forms of carotene) are essential precursors to vitamin
A synthesis in animals.”
17. Crosier, Danielle M.. Whirling Disease – Myxobolus cerebralis. Retrieved
18. N.P. Boyce, Z. Kabata and L. Margolis (1985). “Investigation of the
Distribution, Detection, and Biology of Henneguya salminicola (Protozoa, Myxozoa),
a Parasite of the Flesh of Pacific Salmon”. Canadian Technical Report of
Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (1450): 55.?
19. Formosan salmon. Taiwan Journal. Retrieved on 2006-12-13.
20. Chinook Salmon. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
21. Chum Salmon. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
22. Pink Salmon. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
23. Sockeye Salmon. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
24. Fenian Cycle attributed to Oisín
25. Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson
Salmon 2100 Project An unbiased collaboration on the outlook for wild pacific
of Washington Libraries Digital Collections – Salmon Collection A collection
of documents describing salmon of the Pacific Northwest.
Effect of Pacific Decadal Oscillation on Alaskan Chinook Harvests and Market
Price, Kevin Ho, Columbia University, 2005.
Department of Fish & Game Salmon Species Descriptions
- Tribal Salmon
content in salmon
Our Wild Salmon Coalition a non-profit union of over 50 organizations and
6 million members working to restore wild salmon in the Pacific NW, especially
the Columbia/Snake basins.
Salmon A salmon sustainability and awareness effort
- SalmonFund.org A
registered non-profit for sustainable development of salmon habitat in the Pacific
Nation A movement to create a bioregional community, based on the historic
spawning area of Pacific salmon (CA to AK).
Hour Radio Broadcast on Farmed Salmon in British Columbia, Canada – Kootenay
Co-op Radio’s Deconstructing Dinner program
Something Fishy Going On? by Linda Joyce Forristal, worldandi.com, 2003 –
Something Fishy Going On? by Judith E. Foulke, FDA Consumer, September 1993
– General talk on consumer fraud in the fish industry, with a section on salmon
of Salmon on the skin disorder Acne
of Salmon Canning in British Columbia
for the Salmon, Simon Fraser University
Summit on Salmon, Simon Fraser University
fossils dated to 1 million years
- NASCO, North
Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization
Status of Atlantic Salmon in Maine: Interim Report (2002) online book
Code of Federal Regulations 21CFR161 Fish and Shellfish
- Atlas of Pacific Salmon, Xanthippe Augerot and the State of the
Salmon Consortium, University of California Press, 2005, hardcover, 152 pages, ISBN
- Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Fisheries Crisis,
Joseph E. Taylor III, University of Washington Press, 1999, 488 pages, ISBN
- Trout and Salmon of North America, Robert J. Behnke, Illustrated
by Joseph R. Tomelleri, The Free Press, 2002, hardcover, 359 pages, ISBN
- Come back, salmon, By Molly Cone, Sierra Club Books, 48 pages, ISBN
0-87156-572-2 – A book for juveniles describes the restoration of ‘Pigeon
- The salmon: their fight for survival, By Anthony Netboy, 1973, Houghton
Mifflin Co., 613 pages, ISBN
- A River Lost, by Blaine Harden, 1996, WW Norton Co., 255 pages, ISBN
0-393-31690-4. (Historical view of the Columbia River system).
- River of Life, Channel of Death, by Keith C. Peterson, 1995, Confluence
Press, 306 pages, ISBN
978-0870714962. (Fish and dams on the Lower Snake river.)
- Salmon, by Dr Peter Coates, 2006, ISBN
January 31, 2007: U.S. Orders Modification of Klamath River – Dams Removal May
Prove More Cost-Effective for allowing the passage of Salmon
age and sex composition and mean lengths for the Yukon River area, 2004 / by
Shawna Karpovich and Larry DuBois. Hosted by Alaska
State Publications Program.
Tails: Linkages Between Russian Salmon Fisheries and East Asian Markets. Shelley
Clarke. (November 2007). 120pp. ISBN 978 1 85850 230 4.en:Salmon
All text is available under the terms of the GNU
Free Documentation License.
The Barkley Adventure Station thanks Wikipedia for this article.
West Coast Salmon Fishing, Compiled by John Spencer
The West Coast’s wonder-fish is staging a comeback . . . or is it? Here is
how and where to go fishing. And here is how to understand the salmon dilemma.
“Fish on!” the deck hand shouts, staring hard in your direction. For
an instant no one moves, and then everyone moves at once. Angling pals back away
as you scramble for the dancing rod, feet sliding on the pitching deck. Reeling
for all you’re worth, you quickly feel the power of the salmon at the other end
of the line.
Will the 20-pound-test hold, will the hook stay put, will your prize
be lost at the net? The battle has been joined, but the outcome is never guaranteed.
That’s part of salmon fishing’s appeal, and why so many of us in the West can’t
get enough of it.
After decades of decline in salmon’s fortunes, some runs are
rebuilding, offering good fishing from California’s Monterey Bay to Vancouver
Islands La Perouse Bank, to Alaska, Is this the beginning of a general turnaround,
as fisheries managers contend? Or do recent increases, welcome as they are, only
mask fundamental problems?
On these pages, we survey the nascent West Coast salmon
comeback. You’ll find tips on where to fish and when, how to book a charter or
go on your own.
But not only sportsmen have a stake in salmon and their fate.
This legendary fish affects all of us in one way or another.
Salmon means food
for the table and a livelihood for commercial fishermen. It’s the spiritual centerpiece
of North Coast Indian culture and a barometer of the health of our streams. With
so much at risk, we review what’s being done (or not done) to protect salmon
on our coasts.
Born to roam, salmon begin their lives in Western rivers.
Five species of Pacific salmon, or Oncorhynchus, originate in fresh-water streams from Alaska, to British
Columbia, to California or, increasingly these days, in hatcheries.
In the wild, the miracle begins in gravel beds beneath the waters of clear, cold, fast-flowing
streams. Battered and exhausted after their long journey from the ocean, their
bodies transformed by the onset of spawning, salmon pair up, mate, then die.
With her powerful tail, the female digs out a nest, or redd, about 18 inches deep
and deposits up to 5,000 eggs. The male-back arched, jaws booked, teeth enlarged
to ward off other suitors fertilizes the eggs with a milky liquid called milt.
More gravel is layered over the eggs, and the cycle begins.
Young fish typically
feed in fresh water for 3 to 18 months before migrating to sea. Most spend two
to five years roaming the North Pacific, generally in a counter clockwise direction.
Finally, salmon return to the streams of their birth, sometimes traveling across thousands
of miles of ocean to reach our coast. They school at river mouths before ascending
their natal streams, often for hundreds of miles, to spawn.
When salmon meet fresh water, they begin to lose their silvery brightness and gradually take on darker
Big Chinook, tasty Sockeye, feisty Coho
Salmon boast a string of common names and aliases.
Starting below, we describe
the five West Coast species (a sixth is native to Japan).
Pink (O. gorbuscha)
are smallest (1-1/2 to 12 pounds) and, off Vancouver Island, run only in odd-numbered
years, such as 2001, 2003, etc.
Chum (O. keta), or dog salmon, range from 3 to
35 pounds and are largely commercial fish. You’ll know them by their pattern
of faint vertical stripes.
Coho (O. kisutch), or silver, spend one to two years
at sea, and average about 8 pounds (30 pounds tops). But Coho are great leapers,
famous fighters, and much prized by sportsmen, Look for a whitish gum line and
tail with few spots.
Sockeye (O. nerka), alias red, spend a year or so in a fresh-water
lake before heading to sea, where they roam up to four years. Average weight
is 7 pounds, maximum is 12. Sockeye are often regarded as a primarily commercial
species, but sport anglers swear that they’re the most flavourful salmon. Most
streamlined of the species, sockeye have prominent eyes and soft, almost toothless
Chinook (O. tshawytscha) earn the nickname “king” (also tyee
or spring) for their enormous size-average weight is 20 pounds, the world record
126 (commercially caught, the largest sport caught salmon is 96 lbs). The most
important salmon to sport fishermen, Chinook are bigger because they spend up
to five years (sometimes even 6 or 7) at sea; “five-salt” salmon are
always bigger than two-salt fish. Look for a black gum line and flowing tail
covered with round spots.
What you catch, and where upriver migrations begin in spring in many areas, with successive runs continuing
through summer, into fall, and even into early winter on some streams.
Ocean sport fishing begins in May in Ucluelet, and lasts to as late as mid October. Legal
fishing seasons vary widely, but check with local authorities fore regulations
in your area. Pacific salmon species are not evenly distributed. Chinook predominate
along Vancouver Islands West coast.
The Washington coast and Strait of Juan de
Fuca nurture all species, but Chinook and Coho are most often caught. Farther
north, pinks grow in abundance, and sockeye begin to predominate in major streams
like the Fraser in British Columbia, culminating in runs of some 30 million fish
into Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
What’s the forecast for the future? “Bright, but
uneven,”. Look for “another
banner year” for ocean charters in Ucluelet, strong local returns are expected.
But trouble spots abound. Ocean fishing in areas 2 and 4 (see box below) is still
plagued with short or uncertain seasons. Salmon are abundant, but managers limit
fishing to protect weaker stocks (in numbers) that intermingle with stronger
Going fishing: timing your trip
Salmon runs arrive at slightly different times each year, following variations
in rainfall, weather, and stream temperatures. But fairly predictable patterns
allow you to fish at optimum moments.
The profiles below will help you keep pace
with a multitude of runs and host of management zones, amid a maze of changing
Limits, regulations, even seasons are often adjusted to meet quotas.
Preliminary dates in each area are noted, but final ones will be set this month.
For updates, call Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Profiles cover different ocean management zones, giving best months and prospects for bay, river, and lake angling.
We also list state hotline numbers, fisheries offices, and charter boat and river
guides’ associations. All can direct you to the best fishing at a given moment.
limits vary widely-standard ocean limit is two fish. One-day licenses cost $7
to $35 (less for children and seniors); Annual Licenses are also available.
Going fishing: how and where
Standard charters are best for most of us: they’re convenient, affordable, and
successful. Charters are great for youngsters, out-of-town guests, and a family
The charter office can make up a group, so you don’t need to bring
your own party; but a group of 4 to six is still the best way to go; the skipper
finds the fish, often using sophisticated electronics; and the deck-hand shows
you how to reel them in and often baits your hook. You may troll, mooch (drift
with the current), or jig. All tackle and bait are provided; you bring lunch,
warm clothes, rain gear, and perhaps seasickness remedies. Operators fish every
day of the season, except when storms lock boats in port.
Group size varies from
2 to 40, on boats that range from 35 feet and up, with heated cabins and heads
(toilets). Trips last a full day. Cost runs from $395 to $495 per person ($600
or more in Alaska).
The charter experience is much the same from Ucluelet to Alaska.
Main differences are group size, and price, it is a lot more accessible to Fish
Vancouver Islands West coast than it is to travel all the way to Alaska. Whether
you fish in protected waters like Barkley Sound, or on the open ocean, and how
far you “run” to
good fishing; Ocean fishing often means longer runs, rougher water, and more
chance of seasickness enough to dissuade some would-be anglers. The potential
reward for offshore fishing is intruiging all in itself.
Charter fishing also
necessitates a group approach, so a private group of 4-6 is ideal.
More personal guided outings on both salt water and fresh are growing in popularity,
but they cost more than standard charters, and success is incredible.
boats with a guide and one or two anglers are widespread in the protected waters
of British Columbia. This is standard at fly-in resorts in both B.C. and southeast
Alaska. At such resorts, a guide and boat are part of a package covering lodging
and meals and costing about $1500 to $3000 a 2 day per person. Trolling and mooching
are principal methods.
Fishing on your own, for some, is the only way to go. But
to succeed, you need experience and angling savvy if you’re a newcomer, go with
a guide or take a charter first, and ask a lot of questions.
The more unfamiliar
the water, the more questions you must ask. What are local seasons, regulations,
and limits? When do key runs arrive? What times of day and What fishing methods
Marinas and nautical and tackle shops can supply charts, tide tables,
If you don’t own a boat, public piers and jetties (Oregon coast, in Puget Sound)
provide the easiest approach. You can get by with spinning equipment to drop
jigs and cast spoons.
With a small boat (your own or rented), fishing options
include protected bays and river mouths in Barkley Sound, Ucluelet, into the
Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, and inland waters of B.C. and Alaska.
Ask about public boat ramps, water conditions, and safety factors.
Here are the West’s six major salmon-fishing areas, what you can expect, where to get details
Six fishing management areas mark the West Coast from California, to Vancouver
Island, to Alaska. Here are details on each.
Mexico to Shelter Cove, California
This southernmost salmon-fishing area boasts the West’s longest ocean season
(mid-February to mid-November). Fishing’s best for 5- to 10-pound Chinook early
on-with another peak in July or August-on.
Most river fishing is on the Sacramento and its tributaries, prime time is August
Shelter Cove to Port Orford, Oregon
Season begins around Memorial Day for Chinook averaging 10 pounds, trophies to
40 pounds. Go in June or early July, as limits and seasons may be curtailed later.
A few charters, leave from local marinas. Bay fishing for Chinook averaging 15
pounds is best at mouths of Klamath and Rogue rivers; August and September are
This 300-mile stretch of coast claims Oregon’s most stable season
(Memorial Day to Labour Day), mainly for 8- to 11 -pound Coho; leave from a dozen
Bays offer excellent small-boat fishing for Coho and Chinook when aquaculture
or hatchery stocks return, September into November :for Chinook to 40 pounds,
try the Bays in October and November.
Best stream fishing for Chinook is in the
Elk and Sixes rivers (November and December); Umpqua, Siuslaw, Alsea, Siletz,
Nestucca in early fall; Miami, Trask, Wilson, Kilchis, Nehalem (September through
Cape Falcon to Canada
The Pacific Ocean, offers a wide range of fishing.
Ocean season begins in May, lasting about six months (but regulatory changes
that curtail fishing are likely). Chinook action peaks in July and August; for
Coho, try August and September. Main charter ports are Ucluelet, Tofino, Victoria,
Campbell River, Bamfield, and Port Alberni. Barkley Sound offers year-round fishing
for both migratory (August) and “stay-at-home” salmon (early winter).
Salt-water angling is mostly year-round, 80 percent of it in Strait of Georgia
(Victoria north to Campbell River). Chinook average 12 to 18 pounds, peak in
July; Coho average 8 pounds, peak in late August. Small-boat guides abound at
lodges and fly-in camps; standard charters go from Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo,
In December, there’s good fishing for resident Chinook from Victoria, Sooke,
Best fishing is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and Queen
Charlotte Islands. Chinook, averaging 20 to 30 pounds, peak in Late July, and
early August; Coho, 12 to 18 pounds, peak in late August. River fishing is limited,
but still available to those anglers without boats.
This is still the world’s premier salmon sport fishery (mainly Chinook and Coho),
but multitudes of streams, runs, peak times, charter boats, guides, and lodges
defy easy summary. Best approach: study a guidebook, then decide where to go
and email the Charter Company for detailed information on the area you choose.
This Article was compiled by John Spencer.