Different types of salmon you should know about

11 mins read
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Salmon are highly sought after for both sport and food, and I believe that the vast majority of us have either fished for them, eaten them, or at the very least heard of this incredible fish. But are you familiar with the several strains of salmon that may be found in the wild?

There are six primary subspecies of salmon found around the globe. They consist of the Pacific salmon species king, sockeye, chum, coho, and pink, and the Atlantic salmon species, the only species of its kind. In addition, there are five more species of salmon that are not as well recognized as the others.

Without a shadow of a doubt, salmon is the most popular family of fish in North America. Salmon fishing meccas such as Alaska and British Columbia are destinations of pilgrimage for anglers who are passionate about their sport.

Salmon of many different species are important to the commercial fishing industry. One might argue that salmon fishing was a significant factor in the development of North America into the region that it is now.

The trouble is that there is more than one Salmon swimming about in these waters. Incomparably greater than that.

Do not be concerned if you cannot differentiate between Chinook and Coho salmon or if you are not familiar with the many species of salmon. We have compiled an easy-to-understand reference to the salmon species found on the continent.

You will be able to learn what they are, what sets them separate from other things, and how to differentiate between them.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the commercial value of salmon in the United States in 2017 was $688 million, making it the most valuable species of seafood in the country.

The fish is highly sought after because of the many health advantages it offers, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids it contains.

However, not all salmon is made equal; in fact, there are six distinct salmon species available for purchase in the commercial sector in the United States.

If you’ve ever been in the seafood area of your local grocery store and heard titles like “Sockeye” or “King,” we’re here to explain the distinctions between the two types of salmon.

But before we get into it, the aspect of salmon that calls for the greatest attention is its farming method.

photo by Dana Tentis l pexels

Wild vs. Farmed Salmon

Salmon that has been taken in its natural habitats, such as the ocean, rivers, or lakes, is referred to as wild salmon. However, most of the salmon that is marketed across the globe now comes from farms. To breed fish, fish farms employ a technique known as aquaculture.

To create bigger fish, the fish are often fed an industrial food product that is rich in fat and protein.

The nutritional profiles of wild salmon and farmed salmon are considerably different from one another because they are fed quite diverse diets.

While farmed salmon is richer in vitamin C, saturated fat, and calories, wild salmon has greater mineral content. Wild salmon also has more minerals.

There is evidence from several research that suggests that farmed atlantic salmon may have greater levels of pollutants than wild salmon.

Although both types of salmon have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, wild salmon is the superior option for your health if you have the financial means to pay a higher price for it.

If you want to eat just wild salmon, your best bet is to stick with Pacific salmon, of which there are five different varieties: king, sockeye, cohof, pink, and chum.

It’s not that Atlantic salmon is awful; the problem is that there are so few of them left in the wild today owing to overfishing and the loss of their habitats.

Therefore, the majority of Atlantic salmon comes from farmed sources. Continue reading to get knowledge on the six most frequent forms of salmon.

What Kinds of Salmon Are There in the World?

There are now six distinct species of salmon, five of which are found in the Pacific Ocean and one that lives in the Atlantic Ocean.

All of these fish are native to the seas of North America and have a highly prestigious place in the world of fishing, both for sport and for sustenance.

In addition, there are five species of salmon that are not native to North America and cannot be found there. On the other hand, these salmon species are native to either Europe or Asia.

Photo by Kyrie Murphy / pexels

Species of Salmon Found in North America:

It would be beneficial to review the fundamentals first before delving into the specifics. In North America, there are six distinct subspecies of salmon. They are known as Pacific Salmon and originate from the shore of the Pacific Ocean.

These are the five species of salmon: Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, and Chum. The Atlantic Salmon is the common name given to the other species, native to the ocean’s Atlantic region.

A map of North America with the many species of salmon is shown in the colors they use in the ocean and when they spawn.

You can see the five species of salmon that live in the Pacific Ocean on the left: Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye Salmon. The Atlantic Salmon may be found over on the right.

In reality, Atlantic Salmon are more closely related to Brown Trout than they are to any other salmon species.

Despite this, every salmon has a few key characteristics. They are powerful predators that like water that is quite cold.

They spend most of their lives in saltwater, but they go inland to freshwater when it’s time to reproduce. When it does, they canon gain an advantage by transforming and altering their color and shape.

Are there chameleon-like predators roaming free in our oceans and rivers? This seems like it was taken straight from a scary movie!

The King of Salmon Is the Chinook

It is simple to see why anglers refer to these fish as King Salmon; the name fits them well. Chinook Salmon are the longest and heaviest of all the species of salmon found on the globe.

They may grow to five feet and weigh more than one hundred pounds. Because of this, landing one of these fish is on the “bucket list” of fishermen all around the globe.

In addition to being the largest, Chinook Salmon are also the most common kind of salmon found in North America.

They have been found everywhere, from the frigid rivers of northern Alaska to the warm seas of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.

In addition to this, they have been introduced into each of the five Great Lakes. Whenever they move, hundreds of fishers immediately follow them.

photo by Sergey Filippov / pexels

The Identifying of the Chinook Salmon

The mouths of Chinook Salmon provide the clearest indication of their identity.

The term “Blackmouth Salmon” comes from the fact that the salmon’s gums and the whole of the interior of their mouths are black.

You don’t have the guts to come that close to the pointy end of an apex predator, do you?

You may also look for spherical spots about the size of a grain of rice throughout their backs and on both the top and lower portions of their tails.

When they spawn, salmon are considerably simpler to distinguish from one another than at other times. During the transformation process, Chinook experience a lengthening of their heads and jaws.

Their body and tails change to a maroon or olive-brown color. The blackhead only thing about them that remains the same throughout time is the pattern of spots that can be seen on their backs and tails.

The Coho Salmon Is the Champion

Although Coho Salmon may not reach the same size as Chinook Salmon, they make up for this difference in size by fighting twice as fiercely.

They are known to be the salmon species that are the hardest and most obstinate in their thinking.

They are not the fish that most people consider their favorite, but because of their tenacious nature, many fishers rate them in second place. Perhaps this is why they are referred to as “Silver Salmon.”

Chinook salmon go somewhat farther south than do coho salmon. In Oregon, you’ll first see them, but by the time you reach Washington, they’re almost everywhere.

They may be found wherever else Chinook salmon are found, including the whole northern Pacific coast and each of the five Great Lakes.

The Identification of Coho Salmon

The lips of Coho Salmon, like those of other Pacific Salmon species, are the most distinctive feature of these fish. They have dark jaws similar to Chinook’s, but the gums on their faces are white.

They, like Chinook, have spots running down their backs, but the spots on their tails are limited to the upper half of the tail alone.

When coho salmon are in the process of spawning, they can no longer be mistaken for any other kind of fish. They become a vivid crimson or maroon color, while their backs, heads, and tails remain dark.

In addition, males develop a long nose hooked at the end and are termed a “kype.” This nose is meant to grasp onto other fish and battle them off. Because of this trait, they are often referred to as “Hooknose Salmon.”

The sockeye salmon is known as a delicacy.

sockeye salmon
photo by cottonbro / pexels

The Sockeye Salmon is the most delicious of all the kinds of salmon found in North America.

The flesh of this fish, which is sometimes referred to as Red Salmon, is dark and fatty, and it is a favorite of posh restaurants and well-known chefs all over the globe.

Not to mention the hundreds of grizzly bears patiently waiting for the yearly river rush.

The range of the sockeye salmon extends from Washington up the west coast to Alaska. In addition, you may find them in all of the Great Lakes except Superior.

In addition to that, freshwater “Kokanee Salmon” are introduced into lakes all around the United States and Canada.

Characterization of the Sockeye Salmon

A spawning sockeye salmon, several whose red body and green head may identify at this stage of its life.

The word “sockeye” is already in their name, which should help you recognize them. They have eyes that are golden in color and much larger than the eyes of other varieties of salmon.

When you open their mouths, you’ll see that the interior is white, and their gums are white. Last but not least, the backs and tails of Sockeye Salmon are completely spotless.

Spawning The snout and jaw of a Sockeye Salmon are hooked, like those of a Coho Salmon. In males, a hump will also develop on the back.

During the spawning process, sockeye salmon become a brilliant shade of red, with a green head and tail. However, you won’t need any of this information. Stay away to identify them.

Pink Salmon: The Despite

Pink Salmon are the smallest species of salmon in the world, with an average length of around 18 inches and a maximum length of about 30 inches.

Despite their size, they are a lot of fun to catch and are regarded as one of the species of Pacific Salmon that has the third-best flavor, behind Sockeye and Chinook.

The Pink Salmon is a special species since it only reproduces once every two years. Instead, they go to Alaska in years that are even in number. In Washington and British Columbia, the years that finish in an odd number are the ones in which they spawn.

You must plan your vacation around the period when these adorable creatures are at their most active; otherwise, you may go to the Great Lakes, where they are present throughout the year.

Pink Salmon Identification

The salmon is in its spawning phase, which may be identified by its unique humpback, gray back, cream belly, and huge snout and mouth.

As you would have imagined, Pink Salmon has a body-color body color that is somewhat pinkish in tone. You may also recognize them by the specks of darkness distributed over their bodies and the huge, oval markings distributed across both halves of their tails.

If nothing else works, you should examine their lips. They should have the reverse coloration of the coho, with a white inside and brown gums.

It seems that there are two names for salmon in general. In this instance, we’re talking about the Humpback Salmon. When female Pinkies are ready to spawn, they develop a massive hump on their backs, resembling an extreme form of the hump seen on Sockeye Salmon.

However, unlike sockeye, their flesh does not become red when cooked. Instead, the upper half of their bodies develop a dull gray color, while the bottom half of their bodies turn a white or cream color.

The Chum Salmon, Also Known as the Underdog

In most cases, the Chum Salmon is considered to be the least desirable member of the family.

They do not have the same delicious flavor as other kinds of salmon.

They don’t put up much of a struggle against us. Many fishermen consider the Chum Salmon to be more of an annoyance than a treasure.

They do have one thing going for them, though, and that is the fact that their role rollaway is far larger and more flavorful than is typical. Even though the meat in the sushi isn’t raw, it’s often utilized as a topping for the sushi.

They begin to appear in the northern mainland United States, and they reside along Canada’s Pacific coast and up to the Gulf of Alaska.

This native range of the Chum Salmon is the same as that of most Pacific Salmon. On the other hand, in contrast to other species, the Great Lakes have never had any of them imported.

Chum Salmon Identification

In a somewhat shallow stream, a Chum Salmon may be seen breaching the surface of the water.

The green body of the salmon and the purple stripes on its back indicate that it is getting ready to spawn.

Sockeye Salmon and Chum Salmon are often mistaken for one another. They both have lips that are entirely white and spotless. If you look closely, though, you should be able to notice gradations of color going down the length of their body.

Oh, and in comparison to the teeth of other species of salmon, those of the Dog Salmon are much larger, thus the name.

The Chum Salmon is one of the most recognizable species of fish while they are in the process of spawning. They take on the appearance of some kind of undead tiger, becoming a spooky green with striking purple stripes.

They also develop hooked jaws, similar to those of the sockeye and the Coho salmon, which completes the ghastly appearance of these fish.

The Atlantic Salmon, Also Known as the Lonely

atlantic salmon
photo by Rajesh TP / pexels


The Atlantic Salmon is an exception to the rule when compared to other species. To begin, their home is on the other side of the continent from where we are.

In addition to this, a significant portion of their range was fished to the point of extinction.

If you do manage to find one, though, you are in for a real treat. They put up a fight comparable to that of the coho and reach virtually the same size as Chinook.

In theory, you should be able to capture Atlantic Salmon from Connecticut to Quebec, and even farther west into the Great Lakes. These days, catching an Atlantic Salmon is a challenging task.

The areas in and around Lake Ontario and the secluded rivers that run along the Northeastern Atlantic coast provide the finest fishing opportunities for capturing them.

Atlantic Salmon Identification

You shouldn’t have to be concerned about mistaking other kinds of salmon for Atlantic Salmon, at least not in theory. After all, they inhabit a different ocean than we do.

However, since both species of salmon have been imported far outside of the seas in which they naturally occur, there is some overlap between them.

The spotting on their bodies is the most reliable indicator of their presence. They feature big black dots on the covers of their gills and marks shaped like an x or yon on their upper bodies.

Atlantic Salmon spawn in freshwater environments and have a completely different appearance from their ocean-going counterparts.

They acquire a smoky, bronzy hue and, in some cases, grow red dots in place of the black x-shaped ones that are more typical of them.

As a result, brown trout are often mistaken for rainbow trout. The black dots on their gills and the absence of markings on their bottom halves are the most reliable indicators of their identity.


Every type of salmon has its unique qualities. Some fight fiercely, while others have a delicious flavor. Some of them are not very good at those things, but they try to compensate for it with their bizarre appearance.

When you catch a fish in the future, maybe it will be simpler for you to determine what kind of fish you have. If nothing else, you should be able to acknowledge how great the whole of this fish family is.

Also check out How Far is Alaska From Russia.

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