Sockeye Salmon

Oncorhynchus nerka

Market Name(s): Red salmon, blueback salmon

Contact Purchasing
Sockeye Salmon
  • Primary Source: Alaska, B.C., Washington
  • Season: May - August
  • Primary Fishing Method: Gillnet, seine, some troll (B.C.)

Size Range:

Max Size: 9 lbs

Avg. Size: 4-6 lbs

Product forms:

FRESH: H&G, skin-on, PBI and PBO fillets;

FROZEN: H&G, skinless, boneless fillets and portions.

Storage & Handling

Properly handled and well iced at 32°F, sockeyes will remain in good condition for up to 14 days after harvest. Frozen sockeyes will remain in good condition up to a year if stored at -5° to -15°F. The Pacific Advantage Largest buyer of Copper River salmon, ensures maximum availability of this “first-of-the-season” sockeye. Full line of once frozen PBO wild salmon fillets.

Cooking Suggestions

With an oil content similar to king salmon, and a stunning bright-red flesh color, sockeye salmon have a naturally delicious flavor. They are best when simply prepared with a touch of marinade or lemon. Grilling, broiling or baking are the most common methods, but they can also be poached.

Selling Points

  • Bright red meat and high oil content make sockeyes an exceptional salmon.
  • Available fresh four months of the year.
  • Adds variety to a menu or a seafood case—change of pace from farmed salmon.
  • Once-frozen PBO sockeye fillets are an excellent alternative to fresh sockeyes in the off season.


  • Soft flesh.
  • Bones protruding from belly cavity.
  • Reddish skin.
  • Excessive gaping in fillets (some gaping allowed where pinbones have been removed).
  • Bruises and blood spots.

The Pacific Advantage

  • Largest buyer of Copper River salmon, ensures maximum availability of this “first-of-the-season” sockeye.
  • Full line of once frozen PBO wild salmon fillets.


In Alaska, which produces more than 75% of the world sockeye harvest, in a good year sockeyes can account for almost 80% of the value of the state’s total salmon harvest. Although more than 80% of the North American sockeye harvest is exported, there’s a growing appetite for this great-tasting salmon in the Lower 48.

North American sockeye harvests have made a remarkable comeback since the 1970s, when annual catches were less than 15,000 tons due to a high seas interception fishery conducted by Japanese gillnetters. In recent years, sockeye harvests have been averaging about 100,000 tons.

Japan is the largest single market for sockeyes. In a typical year, about 60% of the North American harvest is frozen and exported to Japan, where sockeyes are highly valued for their bright red meat color and high oil content. In Japan, H&G fish are split, lightly salted (a process known as tei-en) and sliced for sale in supermarkets.

The largest sockeye run by far takes place in the first two weeks in July in Bristol Bay in western Alaska. Typically, about two-thirds of Alaska’s total sockeye catch comes from the Bay, where in a big year more than 60,000 tons of sockeye can be caught. At the peak of the run, more than 8,000 tons of reds are landed in a single day. When that happens, processors are usually forced to send some of their Bristol Bay fish to other processing plants in Alaska to keep up.

Sockeyes have more Omega 3s than any other fish. A seven-ounce sockeye fillet will have 4 grams of this heart-healthy fatty acid.

Because they have a very long cycle in fresh water (up to four years in a lake before migrating to salt water) and are highly susceptible to disease in captivity, sockeyes are not farm raised in pens.

The average size and oil content of sockeye varies by the area it was caught. Some of the best sockeye come from Copper River, Southeast Alaska, Kodiak, Chignik and the Fraser River run in British Columbia, which is also fished by U.S. fishermen in the San Juan Islands in Washington state.

About 30% of the North American sockeye harvest is canned. Most of this product is exported to the United Kingdom and Australia, where canned salmon remains a popular item.

The quality of sockeye (and other wild salmon) will vary within the same run, depending upon when the fish are caught. Early in the run, fish will generally be brighter and have more oil as they have to migrate farther upriver. A higher percentage of fish caught late in the run will have darker skin and less oil, as these fish will not travel as far upriver.

The price of sockeye can vary for a number of reasons, including the method of capture. The most expensive sockeye are landed in a small troll fishery off the West Coast of Vancouver Island (sockeyes are not trolled in Alaska). Seine fish caught off Kodiak, Chignik and in Southeast Alaska are also premium quality and premium price. The least expensive sockeyes are caught in Bristol Bay, where only gillnets can be fished.