Sockeye spend up to 3 years first in the fresh water where they were born, before turning towards the ocean. They will live 4 to 5 years in total. Sockeye caught in Alaska will weigh 6 to 9 pounds (2.5 to 4 kg); the ones caught in British Columbia will weigh 4 to 14 pounds (1.5 to 6 kg.)
Sockeye are prolific breeders. There has been no need yet (as of 2004) for supplementing the population with hatchery-bred fish.
They have fine black specks on their sides, a greenish tail, and no teeth in their mouth. Their skin changes to a bright red as they head for spawning.
Their flesh is several shades darker than that of other salmon, both before and after cooking. Because of this, it’s hard to find it fresh in the stores as fillets, because some consumers assume the colour is too pronounced to be natural. Most of the catch is frozen for export to Japan, where it’s popular for sushi, or canned for the North American market.
Sockeye is a close cousin to Kokanee salmon.
The flesh is also rich and oily, which makes it good for barbequing, if you can find it outside of a tin.