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What is the Life Cycle of Pacific Salmon in Alaska?

/What is the Life Cycle of Pacific Salmon in Alaska?
What is the Life Cycle of Pacific Salmon in Alaska?2019-02-24T21:37:28+00:00

WHAT IS THE LIFE CYCLE OF PACIFIC SALMON IN ALASKA?

Starting life in freshwater, spending years in the ocean, and returning to the river, salmon are an amazing species of fish.

baby king salmon caught in alaska
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We will be fishing for all five species of Pacific salmon. King salmon or ‘Chinook’ is the largest species and the most sought after trophy fish.  Coho salmon or ‘silver’ is widely seen as the second best option. Chum salmon or ‘dog’ is a very prominent medium size salmon. Pink salmon or ‘humpy’ is the most numerous in SE Alaska and are always fun to catch. Occasionally, we will find a sockeye salmon or ‘red’. They have a very dark red meat and are particularly delicious smoked.

Eggs – Salmon’s life cycle begins in freshwater. A female’s nest of eggs is fertilized by the male. The eggs are hidden in the gravel of the riverbed throughout the winter while the embryos develop. In the spring, the eggs will hatch, and the fry will emerge.

Migration: Environmental factors direct the fry to begin their downstream migration towards the ocean. This is when smolting begins and scales begin to form.

Ocean Life: Once they have arrived in the ocean, salmon may spend one to seven years migrating with the season. Each species has a unique behavioral pattern and lifetime experience. All species eventually return home to their specific natal stream.  

Freshwater Return: Once the salmon reach their native freshwater, the stop feeding. During the journey home, their bodies instinctively prepare for spawning and their penultimate death. They deteriorate on the way and rapidly devolve. Salmon quickly begin to break down at this phase of their lives. They experience weight loss from loss, and atrophy as they slow, adapting to freshwater.  

Spawning & Death: The end is near when salmon prepare for spawning. Females build nests, or redds. These small riverbed depressions are made by the salmon using her tail to dislodge stones and pebbles. The males will be fighting among themselves for spawning rights. The salmon spawn releasing eggs and milt simultaneously. Subsequently, both the male and female will die, helping to cover the eggs for incubation. Once Fry hatch in the spring, the cycle begins anew.

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Locally born and raised fisherman Jos Govaars is at the heart of Alaska Go Fish. He has chartered extensively throughout the Inside Passage and knows the waters perfectly, so you are sure to enjoy your fishing adventures.

Man holding fish in alaska

Jos Govaars

President & Founder

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