Restaurant owners like silver or coho salmon because the fillets are not too big or too small and the flesh retains its orange-red color. The coho is the second largest species of salmon found in Alaskan waters. In addition to being great off the grill it’s also a nice fish to smoke. When deciding which variety of salmon to purchase consider that a 3.5 ounce piece of coho salmon has 1.1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fast fact: 75% of the coho catch in the U.S. comes from Alaska.
Coho average between 8 and 12 pounds in size and are usually between 24 and 30 inches in length. This species is found throughout Alaska, from southeast up to the Chukchi Sea and down to the Yukon. You’ll find coho in streams and rivers that flow into the Pacific and Bering Sea. Coho salmon are distinguished from other salmon species by their bright silver coloration and small black spots on the back and upper lob of the tail fin. Unlike Chinooks, this species does not have spots on the lower lobes of the tail and the gums are gray as opposed to black.
Coho salmon are in streams to spawn between July and November. In streams featuring natural barriers, like falls, fish hit the rivers earlier while water levels are lower and falls somewhat passable. The larger the river and the further away the spawning grounds, the earlier the fish need to arrive. Further effecting the arrival timing of spawners is the water temperature.:
- If water temperatures are low, then eggs develop more slowly; spawners compensate by arriving earlier.
- If water temperatures are warm, then spawning adults arrive later. Adults will stay in deeper river pools until the eggs ripen before moving upstream to spawning grounds.
- The adult salmon died after spawning but not the eggs, which mature during the winter months and hatch in early spring.
- The newly hatched salmon fry will stay in the shallow stream margins, ponds, lakes, and pools in streams and rivers.
During the fall months millions of newly hatched (juvenile) coho travel many miles looking for off-channel habitat where they pass the winter free of floods. Some fish leave fresh water in the spring months and grow in brackish estuary waters. Later they return to fresh water. Coho salmon spend one to three winters in streams and up to five winters in lakes before leaving for salt waters as smolt. The time they spend in the ocean varies. Some males mature early and return to freshwater streams as soon as 6 months but more typical is 18 months.
The months of July, August, September, October and November are the peak times for coho fishing.
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