Wild King Salmon

(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha): WILD

Wild King Salmon, commonly known as Chinook salmon, are the largest of all salmon, commonly caught weighing between 15-40 lbs, although 100 lb specimens have been recorded. They are the fattiest of the salmon family, boasting the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, resulting from the long distance they must swim through the ocean before spawning in fresh water rivers.  They are further distinguished by have the largest scales, but their flesh is considered softer and more delicate than other salmons such as the Atlantic and Coho.

Ranging from southern California to the Alaskan Arctic, Kings spend the first 2 or so years living in fresh water before making the migration to the open ocean. After 2-4 years in the ocean they return to the rivers and waterways in which they were born to spawn the next generation. Many King Salmons are commercially known and sold under the river system they are native too, such as the coveted “Columbia River Kings” of Alaska, whose early run in May generally marks the beginning of the salmon fishing season. Kings will “run” at different times depending upon their waterway of origin; many starting in early Spring but others in late Fall.

An anomaly to nature, some Kings are known as “Ivory” due to having pale white flesh distinct from the bright red typical to the species. It is thought that only 1 in 100 wild king salmon are Ivory. What causes this difference is unknown, with theories ranging from diet to genetics. Ivorys and Reds live side to side together, and there is no physical distinction between the two until they are caught and filleted. While Ivorys are often coveted, some debate exists among chefs as to the distinction between the two in terms of texture and flavor. Some think that Ivorys are fattier and richer in flavor, others find no difference.

Regardless of the color of their flesh, the flavor and texture of King Salmon is full, rich and pronounced with a buttery and delicate texture and large, soft flakes.  Salmon is extremely versatile in the kitchen (hence it’s great popularity) and is delicious as fillet or steak cut pan fried, steamed, grilled skin on, poached and braised. Fresh salmon is also served sashimi style, and is of course wonderful when cold or hot smoked.

Catch Region: Pacific North West, Central California to Alaska

Seasonality: Seasonal Runs Early Spring- Late Fall

Catch Method: Troll Caught, Gill Net

Yield (Fillet Percentage): 65-70%

Flavor Profile: Rich, Buttery and Full

Texture Profile: Moderately Firm; Delicate with Large Flakes

Substitute:

  • Atlantic Salmon
  • Arctic Char