Sockeyes are the third most common Pacific salmon species, ranging across the northern Pacific from Canada to Japan. Their life cycle begin in fresh water rivers and lake. They migrate to the sea before they return to the rivers to spawn and die. There are significant physical changes to the salmon's appearance prior to spawning.
Where the salmon live
Sockeye salmon, known as red salmon or blueback salmon, is the third most common salmon species after pink and chum salmon. Its scientific name is Oncorhynchus nerka.
The wild sockeye salmon comes in two forms. The best-known is the sockeye. This is an anadromous fish, meaning that it spends much of its time in the sea, but that it returns to freshwater to breed, and in a sockeye's case, to die. Landlocked populations trapped in lakes are known as kokanee.
Range and physical description
The sockeye is found in the north Pacific mainly from British Colombia as far north as Bathurst Inlet in the Arctic and sometimes as far south as Northern California. It also reaches the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
It is characteristically silver with a blue tinge. The kokanee varietes are smaller than the sockeye. Black kokanee, which were thought extinct, have been found to survive in a lake and are protected by law.
The females spawn in the gravel beds of freshwater streams and lakes. Both sexes find their way up stream by leaping up rapids. It is noteworthy that their preferred streams have freshwater lakes in the catchment area.
Before mating, physical changes occur. They turn red with a green head and have a dark stripe along the side. The males develop a hooked jaw, probably for fighting other males to compete for females. Sockeye also develop a hump. After mating, they die.
Like other salmon species, the females create nests in the gravel river bed and deposit their eggs therein, while the males eject sperm onto them.The females then cover the beds. The young salmon hatches after a few months and spends up to three years in freshwater lakes. However, those which are in rivers tend to go to sea quite quickly.
Ultimately, they migrate to the sea, where they spend four years feeding. After this time, they return for their mating. During their time at sea and in freshwater, they feed on zooplankton [microscopic animals] and shrimp. In the juvenile phase, they also eat insects that hover near the water's surface.