Types of Salmon

There are five common types of salmon that inhabit the waters around Alaska.  Are salmon freshwater or saltwater fish?  The answer is "Yes"!.  Salmon spawn and are born in freshwater.  However, salmon will then run back to the saltwater for a large portion of their lives.  Salmon are great to eat, and an Alaskan Salmon fishing trip is second to none.  Copper River features an unbelievable King Salmon run.  Salmon are big fish, fun to catch and turn colors when they make the spawn.

Types of Salmon Alaskan Salmon Identification
The following website will give you much more information about Alaska Salmon:

Remembering Types of Salmon

Alaskan fishing guides will teach you how to remember these five salmon found in Alaskan waters using your thumb and 4 fingers.  The five types of salmon are: Chum Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, King Salmon, Silver Salmon and Pink Salmon.  Called a mnemonic (silent m) which is a technique that aids in the retention to memory of something, this one is great!

  • Thumb - Chum Salmon: Rhymes with Thumb
  • Index Finger - Sockeye Salmon: Think about pointing even poking or socking at someones eye
  • Middle Finger - King Salmon: Your biggest finger to remind you about the biggest salmon the King Salmon
  • Ring Finger - Silver Salmon: Perfect for jewelry - remember Silver
  • Little Finger - Pink Salmon: this is your little pinky finger

Fishing Copper River

If you are able to catch the king salmon run up the Copper River, you will not regret it.  A common outing covers about 10 miles of the river.  You will stop at several hot spots and depending on the day are likely to hook into several large kings.  Many can be brought to shore for a picture opportunity, and others may run down river and break off.  Either way excitement abounds.  Guide boats are often large enough for up to 4 anglers and a guide and it is not uncommon to catch 6 or more in a day.   Some get hooked up only to make long runs and eventually be broken off. 

King Salmon Copper River Salmon

Alaskan Salmon Fishing Outing

There are lots of websites that go into great detail about the different types of salmon.   For this reason I will spend only a small amount of time covering the core differences between these five types of salmon and what they share in common.  I have always heard about Alaska Salmon Runs and placed seeing that on my bucket list.  Usually bucket list items are one and done, but this one is going back on my "to do again list."

King Salmon Copper River Salmon

Alaska Salmon Runs

Salmon Spawning near Mendenhall GlacierSalmon Spawning Near Mendenhall Glacier

These five types of salmon share several common characteristics, the main one being their runs back to fresh water rivers and streams to spawn.  Salmon are hatched in fresh water streams and grow in this fresh water environment for anywhere from 4 months to a year.  At this time they travel to the open salt water where they feed and grow to maturity.  They spend from 3-5 years growing in this manner.  An internal clock triggers them when it is time to swim back to the rivers and streams from which they were hatched.  This can be up to hundreds of miles.  

Ketchikan Salmon Run

Ketchikan Salmon Ladder Ketchikan Salmon Ladder

A great way to see many of these ports including Ketchikan, it to take an Alaskan Cruise.  While stopped at Ketchikan, you will observe salmon running up a small stream near the Mendenhall Glacier and also up a river in Ketchikan proper, which runs along side Creek Street.  (Of course in order to see this your trip must be planned during the time of year when salmon are spawning.)  You can walk a long way alongside these rivers, watching as salmon maneuver through rapids, water falls and also through  man made "salmon ladders."  TThese are built to assist the salmon to bypass a huge waterfalls.  You can often follow these rivers until they get very wide and shallow and can observe many salmon laying their eggs in the rocky bottom.  The salmon ladder is on the left side of the picture,  Note the rushing water fall that is high and long.  The ladder has been built like a switch back in a road to climb a mountain.  The ladder has a series of much smaller water falls enabling the salmon to traverse this rapid water.  The photo below is evidence that many salmon make it to much farther up stream.

Ketchikan Salmon Spawn Ketchikan Salmon Spawn

Alaska Salmon Runs - Spawning

The spawn begins their life cycle all over again.  After spawning the adult salmon will die and remain in the river - feeding the eco-system.  Many commercially available pictures are available showing salmon making amazing jumps up water falls - going to extremes to make it to their ideal spawning locations.  Pictures also abound of black bear and grizzly bear along side of and in streams seeking to enjoy their own feast of salmon.

In open salt water salmon are mostly all silver, differing in size, shape and mouth structure. As salmon move into their spawning sites amazing color changes and shapes begin to occur. The following link on this website summarizes these characteristics. The majority of this information has come from the Alaska Fish and Wildlife website. Alaska is known for native and not farm raised Salmon. Alaska teaches folks to use their hand to remember the 5 main types of salmon: Looking at your hand and the thumb, that is the chum. Now the index finger and point to you eye - the sockeye. Now your middle finger, usually the biggest finger is the King or Chinook. Your ring finger is usually gold but not today, try silver. Silver Salmon or the Coho. And Last is your pinky finger, the pink salmon, also the smallest. For more information visit the Alaska Fish website: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishing.main