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THE PACIFIC SALMON
THE salmon of the Pacific is a genius that is very close to the Atlantic salmon, differing chiefly in the increased number of anal rays and in the fact that they spawn but once and all die after spawning.
When in the sea the salmon are supposed to dwell 20 to 40 miles off the mouth of their native river and return to spawn, being attracted by the cold river water.
There are five species of salmon in the Pacific.
The largest species is the Quinnat, chinook, tyee or king salmon (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha) which is found from Monterey Bay to northern Alaska and also in the Siberian rivers. This fish frequents large rivers and is taken in the Yukon at Dawson which is 1,500 miles from the sea.
They are said to attain a weight of over 100 pounds. They will average 25 pounds, many fish weighing over 40 pounds. The largest I have seen weighed 72 pounds.
It has never been explained why there is a heavy run of fish every fourth year. This heavy run occurs the year following leap year. For example in 1921 and again in 1925.
The fishermen claim that these fish remain in the sea for four years, and those that weigh about 20 pounds have returned sooner and are called springfish.
The very large fish, those over 50 pounds, may have remained away for more than four years or perhaps have been more fortunate in obtaining good food.
The Blueback or Sockeye salmon (0. nerka) forms the greater part of the canned salmon of the world and is found from southern Oregon to Alaska. This fish also has a heavy quadrennial run. They enter the Columbia and Fraser rivers in great numbers and journey over 1,000 miles from the sea. Their maximum weight is 15 pounds.
The Silver or Coho salmon (0. kisutch) resembles the Atlantic salmon for it has a brilliant silvery skin. It is the gamest fish of the lot and usually weighs from 3 to 8 pounds, although individuals have been taken that weighed over 20 pounds. They are found from Monterey Bay northward and also along the Asiatic coast, being common in Japan.
The Humpback salmon (0. gorbuscha) reaches a weight of from 3 to 6 pounds and is the smallest of the genus. It is in very great abundance in the rivers of Alaska. The run of this fish is heavier in the odd than in the even years. This fish, unlike the other species, will not take a spoon or lure of any kind.
The Dog salmon (0. keta) is very abundant but the least valuable as a food fish. It is found from the Sacramento northward and reaches a weight of 10 to 12 pounds.
The Steelhead (Salmo gairdneri) although called a salmon by the fisherman is a trout. This is a very game fish that takes a fly. Its maximum weight is said to be 20 pounds, although the usual run is from 2 to 6 pounds. In California the taking of this species is restricted to hook and line fishing.
The number of salmon in the Pacific is beyond all belief. Taking the year 1909 as an example we find the catch was very heavy owing to the quadrennial heavy run of sockeye and chinook and the biennial run of humpback salmon.
The total catch of California was 12,141,937 pounds and of Alaska 175,934,000 pounds.
The total catch of the whole coast including British Columbia in 1909 is said to have been 365,336,482 pounds of salmon and steelhead trout, which returned the fishermen $7,224,024, and in addition there were the millions of fish that died after spawning.
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