A member of the Salmonidae family, sockeye leave the ocean to spawn in freshwater, as do other Paciﬁc salmon, but they enter only those rivers having lakes at their headwaters. The erection of dams and the alteration of habitat, however, as well as commercial overﬁshing and other factors, have caused an overall decline in sockeye stocks and the loss of some speciﬁc runs.
IdentificationThe sockeye is the slimmest and most streamlined of Paciﬁc salmon, particularly immature and pre-spawning ﬁsh, which are elongate and somewhat laterally compressed. The sockeye is metallic green-blue on the back and the top of the head, iridescent silver on the sides, and white or silvery on the belly. Some ﬁne black speckling may occur on the back, but large spots are absent.
Breeding males develop humped backs and elongated, hooked jaws ﬁlled with sharp, enlarged teeth. Both sexes turn brilliant to dark red on their backs and sides, pale to olive green on their heads and upper jaws, and white on their lower jaws. The totally red body distinguishes the sockeye from the otherwise similar chum salmon, and the lack of large, distinct spots distinguishes it from the remaining three Paciﬁc salmon of North America.