what do salmon eat

3 months before migration Sockeye become voracious eaters increasing size by 80%

What do Salmon Eat?

Juvenile Sockeye Salmon stay in their birth river for several months feeding on stoneflies, water penny beetles, mussels, crayfish, and isopods, insects both aquatic and terrestrial as well as and zooplankton.


Some of the most popular insects in their diet include caddis flies and chironomids but they’ll go after pretty much any insect that manages to fall into the river or lake where they are located.


Juvenile Sockeye Salmon remain in the freshwater rivers and lakes for up to 3 years, but may leave as early as 1 year.

Adult Bait Preferences

Adult Sockeye Salmon eat small fish include herring, anchovies, sardines, alewife and smelts. They also eat mollusks and squid that can be found in the ocean as well as shrimp and crayfish.


When fishing in the ocean for Sockeye, herring is considered the most successful and desirable bait fish to use.


If you’re fishing in the Great Lakes for Kokannee, smelt work very well.

Mating and Feeding

In the last 3 months before Sockeye Salmon begin their migration, they become voracious eaters.

During this time they’ll increase their body weight by some 80% and therefore it’s a great time of the year to fish for Sockeye and Kokanee.


Summer fishing in the bays and estuaries can be stunning due to the action from all the bait fish schooling.


All spawning Sockeye Salmon die after spawning including the landlocked Kokanee Salmon.