Sockeye salmon are one of the smaller species of Pacific salmon, measuring 18 to 31 inches in length and weighing 4-15 pounds. Sea-going sockeye salmon have iridescent silver flanks, a white belly, and a metallic green-blue top, giving them their “blueback” name. Some fine black speckling may occur on the back, but large spots are absent. Sockeye salmon are prized for their firm, bright-orange flesh.
As sockeye salmon return upriver to their spawning grounds, their bodies turn brilliant red and their heads take on a greenish color, hence their other common name, “red” salmon. Breeding-age males develop a humped back and hooked jaws filled with tiny, visible teeth. Juveniles, while in fresh water, have dark, oval parr marks on their sides. These parr marks are short-less than the diameter of the eye-and rarely extend below the lateral line.
Sockeye salmon are the most economically important salmon in Alaska. More pink salmon are caught, but sockeye salmon are a higher quality fish and sell for a much higher price.
Length = 24 inches (Record: 31 inches); Weight = 6 lbs (Record: 16 lbs).
3 to 7 years
North America “– Klamath River, OR to the Chukchi Sea. Asia – Hokkaido, Japan to Anadyr River, Siberia
Zooplankton,small crustaceans, small fish
Marine mammals, bears
The most economically important species of salmon in Alaska
- Other Names
Red and blueback salmon, kokanee (landlocked form in lower 48 states and Canada)
- Stock Status
3rd most abundant species of Pacific salmon. Populations currently healthy in Alaska. Human induced habitat loss and direct mortality has depressed populations in the lower 48 states.
A Note from Captain Steve on Sockeye Salmon…
We catch the sockeye starting in mid June on the Kenai and Russian Rivers from the banks. The early run in June and early July average 3 to 6 pounds. Light tackle of 12 pound mono woth a long graphite rod is best for them. They are mostly being snagged in the mouth with flies. In July the second run comes in and they are BIG! 7 to 13 pounds on average. The limit can go from 3 to 6 fish depending on how many enter the river. They fight with the current hard! 20 pound test is the minimum on these! They are the most expensive salmon on the market with the darkest red meat you can imagine.
Season: June 10 – August 15
Limits: Coho, chum, pink, and sockeye salmon limits: 16 inches or longer—6 of each species daily, 12 of each species in possession. Coho, chum, pink, and sockeye salmon (in combination) limits: less than 16 inches—10 daily, 10 in possession
Licensing: You can fill out the Pre-Arrival Packet and your license will be taken care of for you, or you can go directly to the Fish and Game website to buy one and print it out yourself. If you intend to fish for King Salmon you will need to have a King Salmon Stamp, which you can get through the Fish and Game website.
Gear Required: Supplied by Captain Steve’s Fishing Lodge
Recipes: The Fishing Alaska magazine has great Sockeye Salmon recipes, like this one - Poached Sockeye Salmon with Mustard Herb Sauce
This recipe for Baked Sockeye Salmon with Bell Peppers and Capers looks good, too!