Sockeye salmon also called red salmon or blueback salmon in the USA, is a species of salmon found in the Northern Pacific Ocean and rivers discharging into it. There are also completely landlocked populations of the same species, which are known as kokanee or “silver trout”. Sockeye salmon is the third most common Pacific Salmon species, after pink and chum salmon. The name “sockeye” is an anglicization of suk-kegh (sθə́qəy̓), its name in Halkomelem, the language of the indigenous people along the lower limits of the Fraser River (one of British Columbia’s many native Coast Salish languages). Suk-kegh means red fish. Sockeye are blue tinged with silver in color while living in the ocean.
Sockeye spawn mostly in streams whose whatersheds include a lake. The young fish, known as fry, spend up to three years in the freshwater lake before migrating to the ocean. Some stay in the lake and do not migrate. Migratory fish spend from one to four years in salt water, and thus are four to six years old when they return to spawn between July and August. Navigation to the home river is thought to be done using the characteristic smell of the stream, and possibly the sun. Some fish spend as long as four years in fresh water lakes before migrating. In rivers without lakes, many of the young move to the ocean soon after hatching. These salmon mature after one to four years in the ocean.
Sockeye salmon, unlike other species of Pacific Salmon, feed extensively on zooplankton during both freshwater and saltwater life stages. Their numerous gill rakers strain the plankton from the water. They also tend to feed on small aquatic organisms such as shrimp. Insects are part their diet at the juvenile stage.