Wild Sockeye Salmon Flavor Profile

Sockeye Salmon Flavor Scale

Fresh wild Sockeye Salmon has the firmest, reddest flesh of all wild Pacific salmon and is my personal favorite. It is a delicious, full-flavored fish which lends itself to a wide variety of cooking applications. In the Pacific Northwest we look forward to each new Sockeye Salmon season which starts in mid May with the opening of Copper River Salmon. It is considered the most valuable of US salmon species and much of it is shipped to Japan where it is relished. The name “Sockeye” is a butchered pronunciation of the Native American name “Sukkai”.

Sockeye Salmon is a fabulously full-flavored fish with a high fat content which contributes to its rich flavor. It has a firm-texture with medium sized flakes and flesh which ranges in color from orange to deep red. Compared to Chinook (King) Salmon, Sockeye has a denser, meatier texture and a more intense flavor, while King has a more succulent, tender texture with larger flakes.

Typical Cooking Methods

  • Bake
  • Broil
  • Deep-Fry
  • Grill
  • Poach
  • Saute
  • Smoke
  • Steam
  • Sushi


Sushi Health Code Notes for Salmon

These are notes from the Washington State Health Code, the health codes in your region may be different.
Wild salmon for sushi should be frozen following these guidelines to kill any potential parasitic larvae:

  • frozen and stored at -20° F (-29° C) for a minimum of 7 days (168 hours), or
  • frozen at or below -31° F (-35° C) until solid and then stored at that temp for a minimum of 15 hours, or
  • frozen at or below -31° F (-35° C) until solid then stored at -20° F (-4° C) for a minimum of 24 hours

Aquacultured salmon for sushi can be served fresh (never frozen) under the following circumstances:

  • they are raised in open-water net-pens, or
  • are raised in laned-based systems such as ponds or tanks
  • and are fed a formulated feed (such as pellets) which contains no live parasites. This means they are NOT fed live fish, or fresh fishmeal and/or algae.
  • (I don’t quite understand these distinctions for aquacultured fish as it seems to allow virtually all aquacultured fish! Very minimal standards. Apparently, the parasite issue is much more prevalent among wild fish.)

Proper documentation for sushi products

  • If freezing the fish in-house, documentation must show the temperatures and time held at each temperature for all product
  • If frozen product is purchased from a vendor then supporting documentation from the vendor is required stating temperatures and time held at each temperature for all product
  • Fresh aquacultured fish must have supporting documentation from the vendor stating the fish was cultivated according to the standards stated above.
  • All documentation must be kept for 90 days

Alternate Names

Blueback, Red Salmon, Kokanee Salmon if it is landlocked, Quinault, Jack Salmon (they return to the river earlier than expected and are usually males).

Sockeye Salmon Description (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Sockeye change color as they migrate from saltwater to fresh water. In saltwater they are blueish-green on their top half and silvery on the bottom with a light speckling of spots on the back and tail. In fresh water they have a light green head and bright red bodies. Sockeye Salmon can be up to 33″ long and weigh up to 16 lbs but average around 6-8 lbs. They have an average life span of about 5 years, and all sockeye die within a few weeks of spawning. Follow the link for a video on how to identify species of salmon.

Sockeye Salmon
Image courtesy of BCSalmon.ca
Image from Wikipedia-click for licensing


Fresh Wild Sockeye Salmon Availability

The chart below shows the annual availability of fresh wild Sockeye Salmon: green areas show peak availability, light green show limited availability, gray indicates not available fresh. Frozen available all year long.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec


Sockeye Salmon Butchering Yield Percentage and Recovery

Item To Skin/On Fillets To Skin/Off Fillets Notes
Whole Head/On gutted 57% 50%
Head/Off gutted 72% 62%
Skin/On Fillets 87% If you have additional yield info on this fish please leave a comment below.
Yield % varies according to a number of factors including: size of fish, season, sex, and the skill of your fishmonger.


How to Fillet Sockeye Salmon Video

Fishmonger’s demo on how to break-down a whole salmon. This is a training demo, taking things slow and showing some of the specific angles and techniques to get the most meat out of the fish.


Range & Habitat

Sockeye Range & Location
AquaMaps Data sources: GBIF

Sockeye Salmon inhabit the North Pacific from: northern Japan to the Bering Sea and to Los Angeles, California, USA. Landlocked populations in Alaska, Yukon Territory and British Columbia in Canada, and Washington and Oregon in USA.

Typical Wholesale Products

Whole Head/On gutted, Whole Head/Off gutted, Filets, Steaks

Sockeye Salmon Sustainability Info

Name Alternate Names Catch Method Catch
Sockeye Blueback, Red Salmon, Kokanee Wild – Drift Gillnet, Purse Seine, Troll US – Alaska Green-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png Green-icon_20.png Low
US – CA, OR, WA Yellow-icon_20.png Red-Dot_20.png Yellow-icon_20.png
Canada Green-icon_20.png Yellow-icon_20.png
Reefnet – early summer run WA – Lummi & San Juan Islands Green-icon_20.png n/a Green-icon_20.png
Reefnet – late summer/fall runs Yellow-icon_20.png n/a Yellow-icon_20.png
Farmed – Closed System US n/a Green-icon_20.png n/a
Roe Ikura Wild – Drift Gillnet, Purse Seine, Troll US – Alaska Green-icon_20.png n/a Green-icon_20.png Low
Canada n/a n/a Yellow-icon_20.png
Disclaimer: The sustainability info above is accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, each program randomly updates their information without our knowledge. We therefore recommend that you verify the current accuracy of this information.

Green-icon_20.png = Best Choice/Recommended Yellow-icon_20.png = Good Alternative Red-Dot_20.png = Avoid/Not Recommended
August 2013


Nutritional Information

based upon a 6 oz (171 grams) raw edible serving.

* Calories/Calories from fat 288/128
* Protein grams 37
* Fat grams 15
* Saturated fat grams 2.6
* Sodium milligrams 81
* Cholesterol milligrams 106
* Omega-3 grams 3.3
more sockeye salmon nutrition



Comments from before Site Migration

Add a Comment!

DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Mar 09, 2015 ]

Great catch Chuck! Thanks for pointing it out. I have rounded it from -28.89 to -29 C.

CHUCK THOMPSON []    [ Mar 08, 2015 ]

Just a bookkeeping note about the temperature values you listed for sushi-suitable sockeye:

You equated -20 F with -4 C, which is clearly off the charts.  I believe you should have used -28 for the Celsius equivalent.

DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Jun 11, 2013 ]

Thanks, I have updated the info.    [ Jun 10, 2013 ]

Yields listed are optimistic compared to those supplied by Alaska Department of Economic Development


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