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Updated on August 2, 2016

Vancouver Salmon Fishing

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An Introduction to Pacific Salmon

What are the benefits of eating Pacific salmon? First and foremost, they are rarely farmed, so anyone serving you Pacific salmon is likely serving you a far better piece of fish. They are also more likely to be free of many contaminants that can make their way into farm raised fish imported from places like China.

Pacific salmon fishing is the best way to guarantee that you’re actually eating Pacific salmon. There’s no worry that someone will charge you the price of wild caught Pacific salmon and instead serve farmed salmon. The easiest solution is to buy from a fisherman you know, though not everyone has this option. An alternative is going on a salmon fishing charter and catching your own salmon, freezing the fish for later use. But before you plan that salmon fishing trip, let’s discuss the different types of salmon you could try to catch.
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King Salmon

King salmon are so named because they are the largest salmon species. They are also called chinook salmon. They have the most grease and fat that melts like it has been smoked, even when you’re putting it on the barbeque. This makes them prized by chefs, since they are so succulent. If you are in a restaurant, they’ll tell you if it is king salmon because they know how much better it tastes. Looks can be deceiving, since the bright red meat is not in and of itself a sure enough indicator.

Also called chinook salmon, they can weigh over fifty kilos. The largest ones grow in Alaskan waters, but those along the Canadian coast give the Alaskan strains a run for their money. The species is found as far south as Sacramento, California. Their numbers have crashed in the southern range, while over-fishing in the Kenai River has crashed their population there. If you want to go fishing for king salmon, talk to an experienced fishing guide so you know where you can legally find them.

Pink Salmon

Pink salmon are called humpback salmon or simply humpies for the humped backs the males form in their spawning stage. They are frequently available just because they are so abundant. They are found in the tens of millions. Pink salmon are one of the smaller salmon species, but you wouldn’t notice it when they form a living river trying to get upstream to spawn. Their favor, as with all salmon, tastes best before they go upstream to spawn. Even at this stage, they are a pale comparison to the king salmon.

These fish cook better when wrapped in foil to seal in their juices, at which point you can grill them. They are also commonly canned – so if you’re using canned salmon in a sandwich, it is probably pink salmon.

Chum Salmon

Chum salmon has been renamed silverbrite in an effort to improve its image, the same way Chilean sea bass is the popular name for the Patagonian toothfish. It is increasingly called keta salmon from the Latin name for the species. The chum salmon has even been called dog salmon, since it was fed to sled dogs.

They are large salmon and powerful. The reason people tend to ignore them when fishing is their appearance. For spawning season, their mouths curl into a snarl. Their chrome bodies become brown with red blotches or bars. They often mix with pink salmon, the latter of which is regularly caught and canned. Chum salmon’s appearance aside, their relatively low body fat causes some not to consider them for the dinner table. You can offset this by cooking the chum salmon in a sauce.

Coho Salmon

Coho salmon are popular with sport fishermen due to their fight when you reel them in. They are large – up to fifteen kilos. They aggressively strike lures and flies. They’ll fight when hooked and weigh enough to pose a challenge.

The end result is a rich, red meat with high oil content that rivals the quality of king salmon. Coho are more readily available because of their smaller size than king salmon, allowing them to spawn in almost every creek and waterway from northern California to Alaska. Their modest drop in population is more due to streams dammed or drained, reducing spawning locations.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon are the second smallest species of Pacific salmon. Their flesh is closer to fluorescent pink than pink or red. Their meat is rich, flavorful and firm. One of the benefits of sockeye salmon is the fact that the meat tastes good no matter how you cook it. Grill it, pan sear it, filet it before baking, it is prized for its sheer versatility. It has enough fat to be cooked like a steak and not come out dry, or you can cook it with the recipes reserved for chum salmon.

One of the unusual traits about sockeye salmon is the fact that many of them never enter the ocean. Instead, many of them spawn in river systems connected to lakes. This means that if you’re fishing on a river estuary draining into a lake for salmon, you’re fishing for sockeye salmon.

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