Wild-caught sockeye salmon is among the most popular types of salmon in the world, especially for people who want fish that are healthy and delicious. A big part of what makes them so popular is the wild-caught harvesting method. Learning about how these wild salmon are harvested will help you understand why this salmon is so popular.
Harvesting Methods for Wild Sockeye Salmon
While there are about eight different methods for catching wild seafood, there are only a couple that are popular for sockeye salmon specifically. More than other species of salmon, sockeye is most often caught with netting. Gillnetting or parse seining methods are both effective. The best quality salmon arguably comes from small-scale purse seining and gillnetting. With smaller nets, the fishermen are able to pull most of the salmon out of the nets while they are still alive.
With salmon trolling, there are typically six wired fishing lines weighted with lead balls and salmon lures. Most of the time, trolling is used for king, coho, keta, and pink salmon. While sockeye salmon may occasionally show up on these trolling lines, it doesn’t happen all that often due to their feeding habits. Sockeye salmon subsist entirely on a plankton diet, making them harder to catch with trolling methods.
Where Wild Sockeye Salmon is Caught
Though they may be found as far south as Oregon, the vast majority of wild-caught sockeye salmon is harvested in Alaskan waters. The protected waters of Bristol Bay are world-renowned for the quality of their sockeye salmon runs. However, other Alaskan wild-caught sockeye salmon is also considered to be of premium quality.
Fishermen have different methods for tracking and communicating the location of the sockeye salmon they sell to their customers. For example, some companies indicate simply that they harvest all their sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay. Other companies may tag and track all the salmon they harvest from particular Bristol Bay watersheds (Togiak, Nushagak, Naknek-Kvichak, Egegik, Ugashik). The online order and salmon packaging may then show this location information.
How to Identify Wild-Caught Sockeye Salmon
There’s good news here. Unlike some types of seafood, it’s relatively difficult to substitute other types of fish for salmon. It can even be difficult to substitute different types of salmon for one another. Sockeye salmon is sometimes called red salmon for the deep red color of its meat. While king salmon may have a deep red color, it’s also a more expensive variety of salmon. It also tends to yield thicker salmon fillets.
Though rare, if a less scrupulous company is going to mislabel their sockeye salmon, they will use coho, chum, or farm-raised salmon. Coho salmon tends to have a similar, but paler red color and is only marginally less expensive than sockeye, anyway. Chum salmon is something of a chameleon because its color depends on its diet and location. Thus, redder varieties of chum salmon may rarely be confused with or mislabeled as sockeye salmon. Even less commonly, farm-raised Atlantic salmon (which is naturally gray) will be dyed red and mislabeled. However, the texture and flavor of farm-raised salmon is different enough that this type of mislabeling would be quickly discovered.
Best Places to Buy Wild-Caught Sockeye Salmon
Unless you’re living in Alaska during the summer months and can buy the salmon straight from the docks and daily markets, the best place to buy wild-caught sockeye salmon is often online. There are several Alaskan salmon companies who follow the best practices of harvesting, cleaning, freezing, and vacuum-sealing their catch on a daily basis. You can find these companies right here at Fish House Stanley Park.
Other great options include local buying clubs and neighborhood fish markets that work directly with Alaskan fishermen. Many restaurants also serve wild-caught sockeye salmon. Just be sure to go to a restaurant you trust. Likewise, if a restaurant or fish market has “red salmon” on the menu, it’s usually sockeye salmon, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. The server (or kitchen staff) should be able to confirm the type of salmon being served.