Sockeye and Kokanee Salmon Introduction
We’ve been contacted by many anglers; well more like we’ve been told off for not having a representation of Kokanee Salmon on our site. For many years Kokanee Salmon were thought to be a separate species of salmon, when they’re not. So you’ll find we’ve included all techniques and information for both Kokanee and Sockeye Salmon under the species of Sockeye pages.
Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) is a member of the Salmonidae family and is a Pacific Salmon. They’re both seagoing (anadromous) and also freshwater only capable (non-anadromous). As with other Pacific Salmon they hatch from eggs that are located in the headwaters of clean, cool, gravel-based rivers and streams.
It’s known by many names with Kokanee being the most popular. You’ll also find Sockeye called red salmon, blue back salmon, wild pacific sockeye and big red fish.
What is a Kokanee?
Kokanee Salmon is Sockeye that lives it’s entire life in freshwater. There’s little distinction in DNA to differentiate Kokanee from Sockeye Salmon. These fish don’t migrate to the ocean to feed and as a result are generally smaller than Sockeye.
Freshwater names for the Sockeye include Kokanee salmon, Kennerly’s salmon, Kokanee, landlocked sockeye, kickininee, little red fish and silver trout.
Ocean and Freshwater Habitat
These are the key points you need to know.
- Like all Pacific Salmon the Sockeye salmon prefer cool, crisp water in both their rivers and streams and in the ocean.
- River habitats contain gravel aggregate and are usually mountain or spring fed.
- Freshwater Kokanee also prefer cool crisp water and won’t successfully spawn in rivers and streams that are not fitting these requirements.
All Tackle Record
The all tackle record for a Sockeye Salmon is a massive 15.3 lbs/6.9 kg caught in the Kenai River in Alaska with the average you can expect to catch being a respectable 4 to 8 lbs/1.8kg to 3.6kg.
The freshwater Kokanee is smaller in size as is usual for freshwater variants of their native seagoing cousins.
What Sockeye Eat
Sockeye Salmon and Kokanee feed on plankton, insects, crustacean larvae, various small or bait fish and squid. They’re not fussy and will eat any small fish they encounter. More specifics are available here.
They have a native distribution across the northern reaches of the pacific ocean to the Arctic ocean and all coastal rivers and streams in that area that conform to their preferred habitat. This includes the countries of the United States, Canada, Japan and Russia. They can also be found inland in the Great Lakes and the rivers of Alberta, California and Washington. You’ll find more specific information on their distribution by clicking on this link.