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Salmon Flesh (Eating) - After They Change Colour


Once the salmon change colour in freshwater, does their meat quality change with it? I know that Chum and (sockeye?) change colour very quickly, moreso than others, but last time I was salmon fishing on the Vedder last year, I caught a 15lb Chum, but it changed colour.

Are they still eatable? I personally have never tried eating one. Waste of killing a fish if I 'try' and they taste bad.


The different salmon species vary greatly in how fast they deterierate after they enter fresh water.

The quality of salmon meat in pink goes downhill faster than any other salmon. To me, they taste crappy out of the ocean much less in the river.

Chum aren't much better, but you can occasionally catch chromers in the Fraser and Squamish systems. Chromer Chum taste alright. Once the colour in the tiger stripes start to show , the chromness disapears quickly, and the quality lessens fast. When the chrome is gone, this is generally the point when you don't want to eat one.

Sockeye are good quite a bit longer. The natives get the occasional chromer by Prince George. That is at least 10 days to 2 week trip for the Sockeye. Once the Sockeye start to turn redish, that is when the meat starts to lose quality. A pale silvery-redish fish is ok for smoking.

Coho, in my opinion are the hardest to judge. They can turn a bit black but still shine if the sun hits them just right. They are still good at this point. If they turn too black and then maybe even red(depending on gender), the meat turns more white. If the meat isn't a deep red-orangish colour, it may be only good for smoking. If the meat turns white, its garbage. Sometimes a fairly chrome coho might turn a little dark on the beach. This isn't a big deal. Its still in good shape.

White springs usually turn colour as soon as they lose their chromeness. Once the chrome is gone these fish are garbage. I only smoke these fish, even if caught out of the ocean.

Red springs are the best eating salmon on the planet. These fish taste good on the barbeque even if the skin has a fair amount of black on it. I bonked one this year out of the Chehalis that was quite black. I figured I would just smoke it. When I got it home, the meat was still deep red-orangish and very firm. I ended up barbequing it. It was great. Over my years of eating fish, red springs are the one fish that really keep their flavour and texture after entering fresh water.

A word of advise, if you are entertaining people with a salmon dinner, and you are only able to catch pink or chum or white spring, make sure it is absolutely chrome. These salmon species if kept when past their best have been known to permanently turn people off from eating salmon.

Hope I've helped



Always,always bleed your fish DON'T bonk it.
Just cut the gills right thru and hold 'em in the net/water until they are dead,not long a minute or so if you've cut 'em right.
It's funny to see so many people taking home a 'bag 'o blood' then eating it-YECHHH!
If it was a chicken/deer/hog whatever you'd make sure it was bled but for some reason people can't understand the need to bleed a Salmon,or Halibut.
Other bottom fish don't seem as bloody.
I had a good laugh a few months back,an article in BC Outdoors by Eric Carlise,he said that bleeding 'wasn't necesarry',the guy's never had a decent feed of Salmon in his whole life,or has a palate of sandpaper.
Try it,you'll never go back.
Just remember to hold 'em under water so the blood doesn't congeal when exposed to air.

Mickey, bonk is just a term for kill, but your right about bleeding. I was invited over for dinner to a buddies place for salmon. The fish just tasted gross. I later learned he didn't bleed the fish. Also, it is amazing how much blood a fish loses if you hold it under water compared to out of water while bleeding it. I can't believe someone from would actually right an article saying not to bleed the fish. What issue was that??

I pitch 'em out as soon as I'm finished,it's just not worth keeping that Mag around any more. It was an article about Lower Mainland something or other-I gather he never gets out much,he just mentioned that some people bleed their fish.

I agree with you that bleeding your fish is absolutely necessary. I would suggest however, that your method of just cutting the gills and letting the fish bleed to death is a very cruel form of killing your quarry. Dispatching your catch by a sharp blow to the head will not stop the heart from pumping. Cardiac nerves are extremely resilient and will continue to pump all the blood out long after the fish has been killed.

On a side note,I hope one day, either of you gentlemen can contribute as much to conservation and the sport as Eric Carlisle has.

Do commercial fishermen bleed their catch?

Ian-no,generally they don't have time.
There is one outfit in Pr.Rupert,a small seiner?, that carefully handles all it's fish,keeps 'em live until the last minute,then bleeds&ices 'em.
They deliver an fantastic product to Sushi bars here in Vancouver,very-high end.
As to bonking,smashing them on the head causes a reaction of some kind,I can tell the difference between a fish that's been bled properly and one that's been bashed and half-bled,it's just not the same thing,not even close.
As to cruelty-gimme a break-hooking a fish&dragging 'em around can be construed as cruel if you like,death is death the fish expires very,very rapidly,they don't even 'shiver' when they're cut in the water.
Nothing against Carlisle he just doesn't know much about food that's all,from his uninformed comments that's obvious.

Bleeding the fish makes a more attractive product. I bled my sockeye this summer and filleting them at home I didn't have to cope with the usual gory mess. However I didn't find the flavour was greatly changed. It's a bit better and I think keeps better - fridge or frozen but no radical change.

BTW there is no accounting for taste. I think Pinks are a great fish as long as they are clean.
They are bland compared to sockeye or spring but far more tasty than cod or sole or any other number of commercially available fish.
Any fish that is a bit advanced in colour can be nicely done in a teryaki or another marinade. A favourite of mine uses a half cup of wiskey and gives the flesh a smoked taste

If you've got to eat Pink and don't own a smoker then I suggest baking with the cavity fll of onions and lemon and pour a cup of Italian Salad dressing over the top. The dressing soaks into the flesh and gives a very bland fish some flavor. For those of us that get a fiar bit of sockeye there is not eating of pink salmon, but for those that partake here is an alternative.


Hey Scott, also after filling the cavity, you forgot to mention that he needs to marinade the Pink Salmon in terryiaki and garlic for 3 months in the fridge, then he needs to soak it in brown sugar and sweet and sour for another month. Then bake it continuously basting it in salty oil while cooking. This might actually make a Pink taste like food and not a pair of sweat socks.

I'm serious, these fish are gross. I'm not speaking for everyone, but out of the hundred or so fishermen that I know fairly well, maybe 2 of them will consider Pinks for smoking or canning. I don't know any fishermen who would actually cook or barbeque a fresh Pink. We are talking bland, tasteless, and sometimes very fishy. It's like when comparing Pinks to Coho or Red Spring, the same as comparing grade AAA beef tenderloin to beef blade steaks or chuck roast. Thats how much difference there is in taste.

I believe more pinks are caught and sold commercially than any other species. Lots of people eat them so I assume they find them acceptable. Perhaps you've only eaten dinner plate
pinks as opposed to the near chrome fish that come into the Fraser and Harrison in late Sept/Oct.

Pinks are sold fresh at $0.99 lb. Sockeye and Red Spring are sold fresh at approx $6.99 lb.

A half pint of canned pink at Safeway goes for $0.99 to $1.29.
A half pint of canned Sockeye at Safeway is over $4.00.
Need I say more.
I've eatin 3 pinks in my life. 2 were ocean caught, 1 was a Fraser chromer. Ocean Pinks should be better than Fraser or Harrison fish, right??? It made very little difference.

I've had bbq pink salmon fresh out of the chuck and didn't find it too bad at all. It doesn't have the flavour or texture of the high-grade species, but if it's fresh, cooked quickly with the lid down and lots of smoke, it's just fine. I like prime rib, but a good pot roast is hard to beat too :)

I've caught Pinks in the chuck and chromers from the Harrison last two cycles and they were just great. We baked a couple, we barbequed a couple and even filleted a couple and done a sort of poaching/sauce type thing and I have absolutely no problem with how pink salmon taste. Sure the consistency and colour of the meat as compared to sockeye or coho is less firm and colourful, but it eats just fine. Just so there is no question as to my palate, I have also had fresh sockeye, chinook baked/steaked/fillets and while there is a difference in taste. firmness/texture, they all make fine meals depending on how they are prepared. All my pinks from the Harrison were bled out immediately and then thrown in the cooler on ice within an hour or so. Some had even been frozen in my fridge for a couple months, and they were still a fine meal. Perhaps I'm just not as finicky as some, I figure if I'm going to kill something I better make use of it. I have had muddy trout from cool interior lakes and rockfish and cod from the chuck and it all depends on how the fish was prepared when killed and how it was kept before cooking it. A lot of people tend to either over or undercook their fish and maybe that does something to the table quality. I've tasted some sockeye caught in the chuck that rivalled some muddy tasting interior trout, and it's likely that those fish (from "friends") sat in a warm basin of water all day while cannonballs were trolled around Alberni inlet....



I've eaten wild Atlantic salmon and wild sea-trout since childhood.None of the pacific salmon species can hold a candle to either of these.I'd rather eat a 6-7lb sea trout than any salmon any day.

Have you had a Spring Salmon fresh-bled from the outside of the Charlottes?
Well then you ain't lived yet,esp if you like most folks have been eating River Fish,an inferior product by far.

Sea-Trout is the name for Sea Run Browns in Europe not sure what exactly you mean if it was caught in Atlantic Canada.
I'ts confusing because the Chileans are raising something called 'Sea Trout' and selling it here,I have no idea what it really is.
As to Wild Atlantic I had some last year,brought from Iceland,lox,a fine product but greasy.
I guess they need all that fat to survive in cold Atlantic water,I understand it's colder than here by about 10 degrees.
Sooner or later I'll get an Atlantic that 's lived here in the wild for a while,feeding on something other than chicken feathers it'll be interesting to see how it tastes.
In any case most of you missed the point,Salmon like crab,pizza&revenge is best eaten cold!



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