Kokanee and Sockeye Salmon







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Game Fish Species of British Columbia


Kokanee

Sockeye Salmon

Kokanee & Sockeye Salmon

Oncorhynchus nerka or Kokanee, Kickininee, Little Redfish, Land-Locked Sockeye, Kennerly's Salmon, Silver Trout, Yank (anadromous form - Sockeye, Red Salmon, Blueback Salmon)

There are well known populations of a truly freshwater form of this species, the kokanee, as well as the anadromous sockeye salmon. The kokanee is generally very similar to the sockeye except in ultimate length and weight.

DESCRIPTION - The streamlined body of this species is usually 8-9 inches long when mature. (A sockeye is about 24 inches long when it returns to freshwater.) The head is bluntly pointed and conical with a pointed snout and small teeth on the jaws. Breeding males have a more compressed head and body with a prolonged, hooked, turned up snout and a small hump before the dorsal fin. Breeding males and females experience a striking color change. Typical coloring of this species is a brilliant steel-blue to green-blue with no distinct spots and sides an overall bright silver with a white to silver belly.

DISTRIBUTION - The kokanee is found over most of the range of the sockeye salmon which extends in North America from the Klamath River in California to Point Hope, Alaska. The kokanee occurs naturally in Japan, USSR, Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Washington, Idaho and Oregon but they are more widely found and abundant in British Columbia.

BIOLOGY - Kokanee spawn in the fall from September to October. The mature adults usually enter inlet streams of the lake in which they are living or they may spawn in gravel beds along its shore. The female prepares the nest and lays 368-1764 (average 450) eggs where a few days to several weeks later the adults of both sexes die. Hatching occurs in December-January and emergence is not until March-May. Generally this species mature, spawn and die at 4 years of age. Kokanee as large as 21 inches in length and weights of up to 4 pounds are not uncommon. In the anadromous sockeye spawning takes place from July to December mainly from the Fraser River to drainages into Bristol Bay.

RELATION TO MAN - Kokanee have long since been a sport fish of interest. They are generally looked upon as hard to catch by anglers as this species are plankton feeders. Both Kokanee and Sockeye are considered excellent sportfish which eagerly take both flies and lures. Their flesh is often blood-red, oily and delicious cooked in a variety of ways, or brined and hot smoked. Canning is also a popular method of preservation.


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Kokanee and Sockeye Salmon