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Oncorhynchus Nerka



Inshore, Lake, River

4 - 15 pounds

18" - 32"

Sockeye Salmon Game Fish Quality Very Good
Sockeye Salmon Meal Quality Excellent
Sockeye Salmon Fly Fishing Quality Excellent

Sockeye Salmon 

Sockeye Salmon 
Also Known As: Blueback Salmon, Red Caviar, Red Salmon  

Guides Who Fish This Species


Kalama, WA

22ft - 4 guests

Starting as low as



Red Bluff, CA

24ft - 6 guests

Starting as low as


Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus Nerka) Description

Sockeye Salmon (Salmonidae family) is a small fish compared to other species in the salmon family. Wild sockeye salmon have a metallic blue-green back, silver sides, and a white belly. Unlike other pacific salmon, it lacks distinct black spots, but few specks can be found on the back only. There are none on their fins and tail. When they return to the freshwater spawning grounds, the sockeye's head turns green, and their body turns red.  

Size and Weight 

The average Sockeye Salmon is 18 to 32 inches and weighs 4 to 15 pounds. 

Habitat and Distributions 

Sockeye Salmon Fish United States Fishing Heatmap

The Sockeye Salmon are born in rivers and streams that are tributaries of the Pacific, then as adults, travel to the Pacific Ocean. They return to the rivers during spawning season. Due to the degradation of its habitat and overfishing, studies show that this salmon species' population is in decline. 

The Northern Pacific Ocean and its tributaries are native points of these wild salmon. They range from Bristol Bay, Alaska, to the infamous Copper River. They are found in many areas of British Columbia and as far south as the Sacramento River, California. They can travel inwards up to 900 miles.

Interesting Facts

Sockeye Salmon are also called red salmon and blueback salmon. 

They are anadromous in nature, which means they travel from freshwater to seawater and then later return to their hatching point to spawn.  They can identify their home stream using their smell and will travel incredible distances to return for spawning.   

All salmon species have a unique spawning process where they watch the nest, dying shortly after spawning.  

The landlocked sockeye are called kokanee and are not anadromous. 

Wild salmon is a well-known delicacy, fetching top dollar. A salmon fillet with orange or pink meat has high nutritional value.  


Juvenile Sockeye feed on zooplankton, amphipods, and insects. Once they reach the ocean, the adult sockeye diet comprises small adult fishes, larvae, and sometimes squid. 

Fishing Techniques - How to Catch Sockeye Salmon

Salmon fishing is one of the most exciting experiences for the fly fisherman. Alaska and British Columbia are renowned for their Sockeye Salmon runs. 

The best time for fishing sockeye is May through September.  At this time, the fish swim upriver and close to the bottom. With their mouths opening and closing, the trick is to find the right lure for the water level and place it where the leader is at mouth level.  Large flies are for high water and smaller ones are best for low water. When the water temperature is over 60 degrees, salmon have a greater desire to go after a dry fly. When fishing in the fall, the most successful flies are traditionally larger and very colorful. If you are unsure about what size fly you should be using, your best bet is to start with a #6 wet fly.  A 7-9 weight 9-foot fly rod is good to catch a feisty red salmon.

Anglers who are bait-casting should use spinning rods in the 8 - 20 pound range. Sand shrimp and salmon roe are popular live baits.  Small spoons, spinners, small flies, and streamers are good lures.

World Record

The world record for sockeye salmon is 15 pounds 3 ounces and was caught on the Kenia River in Alaska by Stan Roach.