Everyone throughout the United States knows salmon, but
people living far inland or even along the Atlantic Coast do not know
salmon as the people of the Pacific states know it. Salmon is a saltwater
fish, which spawns in fresh water. The Columbia River, the Puget Sound
area, and Alaska are especially noted for their fine salmon. The life
cycle of the salmon is an interesting one. Spawned in freshwater streams,
the young salmon travel to sea early. Here they live and grow for three or
four years. In the spring, after they reach maturity, the adult salmon
return to their native streams to spawn. They will leap over any obstacle
in their way, such as braving dams and waterfalls, hurling itself many
feet out of the water until it surmounts the obstacle or dies of
exhaustion in the attempt; there is no turning back. For some unknown
reason, the female always dies after spawning. The distinctive color of
the flesh of a salmon is part of its attraction. It can vary from a very
delicate pale pink to a much deeper shade, verging on red.
- Atlantic Salmon: A salmon that
weights between five and ten pounds with light pink flesh that is full
flavored and firm textured.
- Chinook or King: Average
size 10 to 15 pounds, up to 135 pounds. Soft in texture, very rich in oil,
and separates into large flakes, making it excellent for salads and
recipes calling for large pieces. Chinook salmon are the largest of the
Pacific salmon, with some individuals growing to more than 100 pounds.
These huge fish are rare, as most mature Chinook are under 50
pounds. Kings run in the spring.
- Chum or Dog: Average size
10 to 15 pounds, up to 33 pounds. Large flaked, very light in color, low
in oil, and is especially suitable for cooked dishes where color is not
important. Male chum salmon develop large "teeth" during spawning, which
resemble canine teeth. This many explain the nickname dog salmon. It is
also said they are called Dog Salmon since they are commonly dried and
used for feedng dog teams during winter.
- Coho or Silver: Average
size 6 to 12 pounds, up to 31 pounds. Is large flaked, a
lighter red than sockeye, and is good in all dishes. Coho are a very
popular sport fish in Puget Sound. This species uses coastal streams and
tributaries, and is often present in small neighborhood streams. Coho can
even be found in urban settings if their needs of cold, clean, year-round
water are met. They run in the fall.
- Pink or Humpback: Average
size 3 to 5 pounds, up to 12 pounds. Male pink salmon develop a large hump
on their back during spawning, hence the nickname humpback salmon. This is
the smallest of the fall-spawning Pacific salmon species and is used for
- Sockeye or Red: Average
size 5 to 8 pounds, up to 15 pounds. Has deep red meat and considerable
oil, is of firm texture, and breaks into smaller flakes, making it
attractive for hot dishes and salads. Sockeye are the most flavorful
Pacific salmon. These run from late spring through summer and contains
less oil than kings.