Sockeye, also called "red salmon," are one of the most unique of the Pacific Salmon in that they require a lake for part of their lifecycle. When they are young fish, called fry, they spend anywhere from a few months to a couple of years in their lake. Sockeye can sometimes be found spawning on the shores of the same lake where they spent their younger years. Sockeye almost always spawn in a water body that is somehow connected to a lake, be it a stream or the lake shore itself! Since we have many lakes in King County, and two large lakes in our survey territory, we often see spawning sockeye. (Remember, if it's a small fish, it may be a kokanee!) If you see a salmon, here's some tips to use to determine whether or not it's a sockeye...
Photos from Inland Fishes of Washington by Whitney and Wydoski, © 1979 University of Washington Press. Reprinted by permission of the University of Washington Press.
Adult Male Sockeye Salmon.
Adult Female Sockeye Salmon.
- In males, back and sides are bright red to dirty red-gray, head is bright to olive green, tail is green to black
- In females, colors not as bright, but red above lateral line
- NO distinct spots on back or tail fin
- Males have a large dorsal hump
- Range in length from 20-28 inches
- Early August through late December
Now that you know all about identifying salmon in streams, test yourself! Click on the mystery fish page to find out more!