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What is King Salmon?

What is King Salmon?What is King Salmon?What is King Salmon?

Living on Monterey Bay has its perks. And oh boy, access to wild, local king salmon is one of them! King salmon is one of six types of salmon in North America. Also called Chinook (“king” in the native Chinookan peoples’ language), this salmon is the biggest and heaviest of all. An individual adult California King Salmon averages 12 pounds, but can sometimes reach over 50 pounds and almost 3 feet in length. That’s the size of a human! 


King salmon exhibit extraordinary, anadromous (lives in both salt and freshwater) life styles. This means that they hatch in freshwater, migrate downriver as juveniles, spend their adulthood in the sea, and then migrate back upriver to spawn in freshwater and produce the next generation. King salmon are found from Southern California all the way up to Alaska, and depending on their life stage can be found in the depths of the Pacific Ocean to the cold rivers of northern Alaska. 


Salmon is one of the most popular fish to eat in North America...and for good reason. All salmon are wonderful sources of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, and are versatile in the kitchen. King salmon in particular have rich fat content that gives a buttery, almost decadent texture. Its fillets break into large flakes that are soft and succulent, and loaded with flavor even on their own. 


If you’ve ever wondered why salmon is orangey-red in color, it’s due to their diets, which largely comprise of crustaceans. Crustaceans, like shrimp and krill, are rich in carotenoids, the same pigment that makes carrots orange. King salmon can easily metabolize carotenoids and this yields their beautiful hue. You can tell the wild King salmon that we source from Monterey Bay are happy and well fed from their deep orangey-red color. 


If you’re wondering how other salmon compare to King salmon, here are some tasting notes for reference: 

  • Sockeye salmon (aka Red salmon) have a rich, deep flavor though its fat content is not as high as King salmon’s. This leaner salmon has brilliant, bright red flesh and is generally smaller than King salmon.
  • Coho salmon (aka Silver salmon) have moderate fat content and a lighter, more subtle flavor than King salmon. These fish also tend to be smaller, which means they can be cooked whole in the oven or on the grill.


It’s important to maintain healthy populations of these fish, not only for our ecosystem, but also for recreational and commercial fishing purposes. In comparison to the Atlantic salmon, which is endangered and no longer has a commercial fishery, we’re lucky to have an abundance of wild salmon on the West coast and must protect these populations.

Did you know California King Salmon cross under the Golden Gate bridge to go out to the ocean and come back under to go up the steam that they came out?


In California, the King salmon commercial fishery is determined by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, who dictate when and how long a season will run depending on the health of fish stocks. Usually, the season runs from May to October, allowing fish to make their way back to the Sacramento River to spawn in the winter months. So, make sure you grab your fill of local King salmon in the summer and fall seasons!


In addition to fillets, we’ve got salmon bellies and collars at a lower price point in the shop. Try cooking these lesser known, grievously underrated cuts and let us know what you think. You can find our fish at our storefront on Santa Cruz Harbor or at any of our farmers markets stands!

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Ever wondered where we get our custom stickers from? We use Sticker Mule for all of our sticky needs. They offer a fast turn around and the customer service is always amazing! They even have a new label dispenser​​ that helps us get orders out the door even faster. Check them out!

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