Different Types of Salmon – An Introduction to the Salmon family


Salmon are generally considered one of the best freshwater species of fish to catch. Known for their acrobatic fight and sheer power, plus their incredible table fare, salmon are coveted by anglers from coast to coast. As is the case with many species of fish, not all variations of salmon are available throughout the US. For the most part, the most variety of salmon can be found in the northwest and into Alaska. For many of us on the east coast, the different types of salmon available to us are the Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, Steelhead Trout, and Atlantic Salmon. Here you will learn a little bit about the different types of salmon and where to find them in the United States.

 Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon are found commonly in the northern Pacific ocean and its rivers and tributaries. The Sockeye can weigh anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds. Its landlocked version, called Kokanee, can be found in many western US states as well as New York and North Carolina. The landlocked version tend to be much smaller, however, rarely exceeding 14 inches in length. Red in color when spawning, the migratory Sockeye spawn and die in rivers and tributaries after returning from the ocean. Their meat happens to be the most prized of all the pacific salmon, even though they tend to be smaller.

Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic Salmon are found traditionally in the northern Atlantic Ocean, hence the name. They have been introduced in the northern Pacific as well. Atlantic Salmon, along with Chinook salmon, are the largest species of salmon. An Atlantic salmon netted in 1960 was weighed at 109 pounds, although they typically weigh between 8 and 12 pounds. Atlantic salmon are prevalent in New England glacial lakes and are a prized fish for their fight and taste.

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Chum Salmon

The Chum Salmon is the least desirable table fare of the Pacific salmon, as it typically used for drying. As most pacific salmon, chum salmon are found primarily in the northern pacific region of the US. They can grow between 10 and 22 pounds with the current record fish at 42 pounds. Spawning males usually have enlarged teeth on their elongated jaws.

 Pink Salmon

Pink salmon is the smallest and most abundant species of Pacific salmon. Found in the Pacific northwest, they typically reach an average of 5 pounds. The maximum recorded size of a pink salmon is 15 pounds. During its spawning stages, the male pink salmon develop a large hump in their backs, which have branded them the nickname, “humpies.” Interestingly, these salmon have a strict two year life cycle, thus spawning only in odd years.

Coho Salmon

Another member of the Pacific Salmon, Coho salmon are slightly more prevalent around the country than its relatives. Cohos are found primarily in the pacific northwest, but are regularly caught in the great lakes. Coho are nicknamed “silvers” due to their silvery sides and dark blue backs. Their colors change during spawning, usually to a light pink or red shading. Mature adults average between 7 and 11 pounds, with some reaching as high as 36 pounds. Its habit of schooling in relatively shallow water, particularly near beaches, make this fish accessible to anglers on banks as well as in boats.

 Steelhead Trout

It’s peculiar to list Steelhead Trout among other salmonids, but loosely related, it belongs to this list. Resembling a Chinook or Coho, the Steelhead is a favorite among many anglers for its aerobatic displays during a fight. A steelhead is really a rainbow trout, but is oceangoing unlike freshwater rainbow trout. They are silvery like salmon, and can grow to large sizes just like salmon. A fun fish to fight, steelhead trout are abundant in the great lakes.

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Chinook Salmon

Saving the granddaddy of salmon for last, the Chinook salmon, otherwise known as King Salmon, is the largest and most prized salmon of the species. Originally from the Pacific Northwest like most other salmon, you can find king salmon roaming all the great lakes. Truly a king, they can grow as large as 100 pounds or more. King salmon average 10 to 50 pounds, with larger sizes commonly found in Alaska. A favorite eating salmon as it contains high levels of the important omega 3 fatty acids. If you have the opportunity to fish for kings in the great lakes or in the pacific northwest, do it.

 Different Types of Salmon – Conclusion

There are many different types of salmon available to fish for in the US. To catch these salmon, use the same or similar techniques as you would when targeting trout. They all have similar diets and feeding tendencies. One other tip about bait: color is very important. Salmon tend to be aggressive to colors that “annoy” them in the water. Speak to your local bait shop to learn what colors work best for the salmon in your area. You can also refer to this article about best trout lures to get an idea of what you can use to catch salmon. Also pay attention to your local fishing regulations. Salmon are protected species in many waters and may have specific requirements for tackle when attempting to fish for them.

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