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Types of Salmon Species

'Tis the Season! A Primer on Pacific Salmon

American farm-raised catfish is seeing a pretty dismal season, but luckily, the same won't be said for salmon. Last week, fish and wildlife officials announced that Pacific salmon season will kick off May 1 and likely run through September — a breath of fresh air after a shortened schedule in 2010 and no season to speak of at all in 2009 and 2008.

While most of the season's salmon buzz revolves around king, or chinook salmon, keep in mind that it's only one percent of the salmon catch — there are plenty of other salmon in the sea! For a little bit of salmon species 101, read ahead.

  • Chinook: Historically prized as the crème de la crème of the catch, for its rich, buttery flavor. The largest of salmon species, chinook is also the most expensive, largely because it's the least abundant salmon variety in North America. Flesh varies from white to pink to red. Also known as king salmon.
  • Coho: Another Pacific Northwest salmon type valued for its delicate texture and flavor, and large size. It has a flesh that's orange-red in color, and can be found in the coastal waters of British Columbia and Alaska. Also known as silver salmon.
  • Chum: With its subtle flavor and low fat content, chum resembles a mild white fish in taste. Chum salmon flesh color varies from red to pink; the fish can be found everywhere from California's Sacramento River to Siberia's Lena River. It's regularly canned and exported. Alternatively called keta.
  • Pink: The most widely available salmon, known for its light pink color, mild flavor, and low fat content; these are the smallest Pacific salmon, and often canned and sold. Because they develop a hump on their backs when they spawn, pink salmon are also known as "humpies" or humpback salmon.
  • Sockeye: This species is the third most available after pink and chum, and is noted for its dark, orange-red meat and bold flavor. It's known as red salmon, too.

What variety of salmon are you most likely to cook with?

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