Salmon are a very popular fish because they are an excellent food item as well as providing anglers with an excellent fishing experience. In North America they are almost all grouped in the same genus, Oncorhynchus, that has ten species worldwide with nine in North America. The name is from two Latin words meaning 'hooked snout.'
Salmon are very similar to trout. Salmon are rather large fish, spending most of their life in the ocean but returning to fresh water to spawn. Trout are generally smaller than salmon and usually spend their entire life in fresh water. There are exceptions to this that sometimes make the use of the terms 'salmon' and 'trout' confusing. A few trout species have subspecies that spend part of their life in the ocean. [For example, sea-run rainbow trout that go to the ocean are then called steelhead and are similar to salmon in that they grow quite large. These steelhead can spawn more than once (although only about ten percent survive to do this).] North Pacific salmon spawn only once and then die. Some North Pacific salmon (Chinook, coho, and pink) live their entire life in fresh water but these were introduced to the Great Lakes and are not a native population. There is a fresh water form of sockeye salmon called kokanee that lives exclusively in lakes. This lesson will focus only on those North Pacific salmon that are born in fresh water, go to the ocean to grow up, and return to fresh water to reproduce and die.
Most of the images in this lesson were taken on a trip to southeast Alaska during the summer of 1985. The section on 'Salmon Fishery' is illustrated by images taken by one of my students (Lane) when he worked in the Alaskan salmon fishing industry. He spent many a summer on both the fishing boats and the tenders (that would offload salmon for the fishermen). Lane took the images specifically for me to illustrate my salmon lecture.