Salmon (Sockeye) (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Salmon (Sockeye)

  • Size 4-8 lbs
  • Food Value Excellent
  • Game Qualities Good
  • Habitats Inshore, Lake, River

Sockeye Salmon are the most delicious of all the Pacific species. Some might say they are also the most intriguing, given their dramatic change in color when they run upstream to spawn. In fact, the brilliant red color they change to is how they got their second name “Red Salmon.” This fish wears many hats, as it happens, also taking on the title of “Kokanee” when it spends its entire life in landlocked waters. No matter what you decide to call them, Sockeye Salmon are always a treat to reel in.

How Big?

Sockeyes average 4-8 lbs, occasionally reaching up to 15 lbs. The IGFA world record for Sockeye Salmon is 15 lbs 3 oz. Kokanees tend to be smaller, rarely growing longer than 14”.

When and Where

Red Salmon mainly live in the waters stretching from Alaska down to Oregon as well as Hokkaido, Japan. Recreational anglers typically catch these fish in rivers, but they can be found swimming deep in the bays and offshore waters, as well. The farthest inland that this species is known to travel is more than 900 miles, to Redfish Lake in Idaho.

The Sockeye run begins in May, as they head toward the rivers where they were born to spawn. In Port Alberni, BC, anglers celebrate their arrival each year as hundreds of thousands of them flood Alberni Inlet. In some areas, they stick around as late as October, but might disappear by August in other places.

Kokanee (landlocked Sockeye) can be found in the Canadian provinces of Yukon Territory and British Columbia. In the United States, these fish occur in lakes across the continent, from Alaska and the entire west coast to Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Wyoming, and New York. You can also catch this fish in Nantahala Lake in North Carolina.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon caught in Cooper Landing, Alaska

How to Catch Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon fishing involves the fundamental techniques used to catch all Pacific Salmon: trolling and mooching. Mooching takes on different forms depending on the area, either as a form of drift fishing or slow trolling. Some anglers swear by this traditional method, while others have started to rely on trolling much more. Spinning or mooching gear are the weapons of choice, paired with spinners, small spoons, and squid-like lures.

Good to Eat?

The rich, red flesh on this fish puts it above and beyond all other Salmon species. Fresh, smoked, canned, grilled, baked—you name it, and it’s something to drool over.

Fish Species Similar to Salmon (Sockeye)

Salmon

Salmon (Atlantic)

Salmon (Chinook)

Salmon (Chum)

Salmon (Coho)

Salmon (Pink)


Top Salmon (Sockeye) Fishing Charters

Top Salmon (Sockeye) Fishing Destinations