The name ‘sockeye’ is thought to have come from the tribal word ‘sukkai’, for ‘red fish,’ which is the color these salmon change to when spawning. Sockeye salmon are also known as blueback (in regards to their coloring for most of their lives, pictured above) or summer sockeye (when they are most plentiful). As a species of fish that is anadromous, sockeye salmon are born in freshwater rivers and lakes, they then migrate to saltwater in the open ocean. At the end of their life, they migrate back to the freshwater where they were born, to spawn.
As one of Alaska’s most important industries, policies for all species of salmon are extensively managed by field-based, biological research and analysis. Since the 1970’s, fishery management practices have been put in place to make harvesting all stocks of salmon sustainable, supporting tens of thousands of jobs for the state as well as significant economic activity.
One of the sources of our sockeye salmon is from the fishery located in Yakutat, Alaska. This small town is located in the south- eastern, coastal area of the state, facing the Gulf of Alaska. In this small town, with a population of about 700 people, the majority of the inhabitants are involved in the commercial salmon fishery, mainly for sockeye. Fishermen use gillnet and seines primarily, though a small hydraulic longline can also be used, a version of hook and line, sometimes referred to as a “hook boat.” The largest sockeye salmon fishery, Bristol Bay, is located northwest of Yukatat. Located farther south along the coast is Sitka, Alaska, another source for our salmon.
Of all the Pacific salmon, sockeye is second in fat content only to the chinook, or king salmon, and has beautiful, bright orange-red meat. It is a smaller fish compared to the chinook, many times coming in less than ten pounds, and the meat is firm, rich and flavorful.