Red Salmon

Jim Rusk Fishing FAQ’s

red salmon

Red Salmon: Mid July to End of JulyRed Salmon are a local favorite. The Fishery has a very limited time frame for catching. They only run in large enough numbers from mid-July to the end of July. They show up by the thousands and rush up stream quickly. They are caught on a fly-rod with a “Red Fly”. They do not bite but go up stream opening and closing their mouths. In order to catch one you must thread that line through their mouths and in essence “snag” them in the mouth. Thats why the numbers must be great in order to catch these amazing fighters otherwise how lucky would you need to get to get that line in their mouths? Its not luck it’s huge numbers. Reds “snagged” anywhere other than the mouth must be thrown back.

General Description

Sockeye salmon are one of the smaller species of Pacific salmon, measuring 18 to 31inches in length and weighing 4-15 pounds. Sea-going sockeye salmon have iridescent silver flanks, a white belly, and a metallic green-blue top, giving them their “blueback” name. Some fine black speckling may occur on the back, but large spots are absent. Sockeye salmon are prized for their firm, bright-orange flesh.

As sockeye salmon return upriver to their spawning grounds, their bodies turn brilliant red and their heads take on a greenish color, hence their other common name, “red” salmon. Breeding-age males develop a humped back and hooked jaws filled with tiny, visible teeth. Juveniles, while in fresh water, have dark, oval parr marks on their sides. These parr marks are short-less than the diameter of the eye-and rarely extend below the lateral line.

Life History

Like all species of Pacific salmon, sockeye salmon are anadromous, living in the ocean but entering fresh water to spawn. Sockeye salmon spend one to four years in fresh water and one to three years in the ocean.

In Alaska, most sockeye salmon return to spawn in June and July in freshwater drainages that contain one or more lakes. Spawning itself usually occurs in rivers, streams, and upwelling areas along lake beaches. During this time 2,000 – 5,000 eggs are deposited in one or more “redds”, which the female digs with her tail over several days time. Males and females both die within a few weeks after spawning.

Eggs hatch during the winter, and the young “alevins” remain in the gravel, living off their yolk sacs. In the spring. they emerge from the gravel as “fry” and move to rearing areas. In systems with lakes, juveniles usually spend one to three years in fresh water, feeding on zooplankton and small crustaceans, before migrating to the ocean in the spring as “smolts”. However, in systems without lakes, many juveniles migrate to the ocean soon after emerging from the gravel.

Smolts weigh only a few ounces upon entering salt water, but they grow quickly during their 1-3 years in the ocean, feeding on plankton, insects, small crustaceans, and occasionally squid and small fish. Alaska sockeye salmon travel thousands of miles during this time, drifting in the counter-clockwise current of the Alaska Gyre in the Gulf of Alaska. Eventually they return