Recreational Salmon Fishing
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Salmon/Steelhead Species Information

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Sockeye (Red) Salmon

  • Mouth is white with a white gum line
  • Almost toothless
  • No spots on tail or back
  • Large, bright gold, glassy eye

Jaw
The mouth is white and the gum line is white.  The lips are fleshy.  The teeth are small and well developed in both jaws.  There are no teeth on the base of the tongue.

Sockeye (Red) Salmon Jaw

Tail
There are no spots on the tail.

Sockeye (Red) Salmon Tail

Sockeye (Red) Salmon
Oncorhynchus nerka

Other names: red salmon, blueback (Columbia and Quinault Rivers),
kokanee or "silver trout" (landlocked form)
Average size: 5-8 lbs, up to 15 lbs

Sockeye are the most flavorful Pacific salmon. In Washington, sockeye are found in Lake Washington, Baker Lake, Ozette Lake, Quinault Lake, and Lake Wenatchee.

Spawning
Sockeye are unique in that they require a lake to rear in as fry, so the river they choose to spawn in must have a lake in the system. This seems to be the most important criteria for choosing a spawning ground, as sockeye adapt to a range of water velocities and substrates.

Sockeye Salmon Spawning Phase

Large rivers that supplied sufficient room for spawning and rearing historically supported huge runs of sockeye, numbering into the millions. One such run still exists today on the Adams River in British Columbia, a tributary to the Fraser River. The Canadian government has built viewing platforms for visitors, and annual runs of over a million sockeye are common.

Rearing
Juvenile sockeye rear for one or two years in a lake, although they are also found in the inlet and outlet streams of the lake. Sockeye fry are often preyed on by resident lake fish, and because they use freshwater year-round, they are susceptible to low water quality.

TERMS

Alevin - The lifestage of a salmonid between egg and fry. An alevin looks like a fish with a huge pot belly, which is the remaining egg sac. Alevin remain protected in the gravel riverbed, obtaining nutrition from the egg sac until they are large enough to fend for themselves in the stream.

Anadromous - Fish that live part or the majority of their lives in saltwater, but return to freshwater to spawn.

Emergence - The act of salmon fry leaving the gravel nest.

Fry - A juvenile salmonid that has absorbed its egg sac and is rearing in the stream; the stage of development between an alevin and a parr.

Kype - The hooked jaw many male salmon develop during spawning.

Parr - Also known as fingerling. A large juvenile salmonid, one between a fry and a smolt.

Smolt - A juvenile salmonid which has reared in-stream and is preparing to enter the ocean. Smolts exchange the spotted camouflage of the stream for the chrome of the ocean.

Substrate - The material which comprises a stream bottom.