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Catching up with wild salmon

The Baltimore Sun

Is "wild-caught" salmon different from "wild"? Is all wild salmon seasonal? Is all wild salmon Pacific?

There are six species of Pacific salmon - chum, coho, king (chinook), pink, sockeye and steelhead - and all are wild. ("Wild" and "wild-caught" are synonymous terms.)

Salmon live in both fresh and salt water. Mature salmon spawn (deposit their eggs) in fresh-water rivers and streams. Then, the young salmon swim out to the ocean to grow to maturity.

Miraculously, when it is time for the adult salmon to spawn, they head back to the very same fresh water whence they came. This heroism takes a toll on the quality of their flesh, however. You want to eat salmon before it starts its journey back upstream. That's why fishermen catch salmon in the ocean.

The so-called "wild-salmon season" is really made up of many subsidiary seasons. Because there are six species of Pacific salmon, and because they can be found along the coast from California all the way up to Alaska, something can usually be caught from spring until early fall. At other times of the year, wild salmon has almost certainly been frozen.

Atlantic salmon is a distinct species from the six Pacific salmons. There is virtually no wild-caught Atlantic salmon; if it says "Atlantic," chances are it has been farmed. Because it has no season, farmed salmon is available fresh year-round.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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