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Is spawning king salmon good to eat if meat is white?

9/9/20 @ 6:36 PM
User since 8/20/20

Hi everyone,

I happen to do King Salmon Fishing at Port Washington area. I stopped at bait shop for some spoons. I asked the owner if Spawning salmons good to eat? He replied, make sure that the meat is pink, if it’s white then don’t eat & trash the fish. Although I wasn’t lucky that day but today my friend caught a Female King Salmon and took home. He found the meat is white and called me. I told him what the baitshop owner said to me. I’d like to validate that statement, which the baitshop owner gave, is it good to eat the white meat or it goes to trash?

10/4/20 @ 4:05 PM
User since 1/19/07

Once they enter the river, the flesh will already start getting mushy, even if it's still pinkish. I've seen a lot of guys catch a fish and the flesh will be that light orangish yellow color, and the flesh mushy, yet they still think it's good for smoking. It's not. Flesh should be firm, not mushy. And salmon should be pink, not yellow or white.

9/25/20 @ 9:55 AM
User since 6/12/10

I love salmon, eat it all the time.  It's mainly seared in a pan or grilled.  I do like them smoked as well.  However, I absolutely don't enjoy spawning salmon.  Once they reach the spawning stage they get a nasty funky taste that I don't enjoy at all.  I can do fishy taste, but the taste I'm talking about is something different.  I just don't like it.  My uncle smoked one last year and said it was excellent, I tried one bite and spit it out.  Him and my dad loved it.  I guess like a lot of things it's all personal.  Only way to tell if you'll like it is to try it.  They are going to die either way so why not take one home and give it a shot.

9/24/20 @ 3:37 PM
User since 5/11/20

By the time they get to spawning they're not that good to eat, to be honest. Eat the nice silver lake fish, not the spawners.


9/12/20 @ 5:22 AM
Paranoid Percher
User since 8/19/18

Salmon only live 4 years thats why they spawn once and die

9/11/20 @ 11:36 PM
User since 5/10/20

Edward, Eyesman, and Tundra, Excellent advice.  I live about 8 minutes from Waukegan Harbor and see whats pulled out all the time. Talking PCP's, the DNR regs manual suggest sizes limits for safety reasons, but to each his own. Food safety is a Hugh consideration. The bigger the fish, the greater the contamination None of them compare to Walleye and Perch.

9/11/20 @ 8:28 AM
User since 7/30/01

If the meat has some color to it I'm fine with it. I brined and smoke up a very light pink King the other day and it was great. I'm not keen on the creamy looking ones, but to each his own.

9/10/20 @ 1:27 PM
User since 1/7/02

Quite a few years ago a friend called and asked if I could smoke some salmon for him. It was in the fall of the year. Back then I hadn’t ever fished on Michigan or new much about salmon. He brought the fish over and left. They were cleaned but in the whole so I filleted them off the backbone. I was surprised at the large size of the fish, noticed how dark the skin was and the pale white/gray of the meat. Brined them up and put in the smoker the next morning. While smoking another friend stopped by to see what was in my smoker. Told him of the salmon. He clues me in on what the dark skin and white flesh meant. Got them smoked and placed in a couple coolers. I sampled some and that was that, not so good. The friend came and picked them up offered me half for smoking which I declined. He never mentioned the salmon after that. I had in the past smoked some white bass and catfish for him which were good as could be. 

9/10/20 @ 1:12 PM
Edward Felcohands
User since 2/24/09

It’s all a matter of where your standards are at.  The meat color thing is an easy to explain guideline that a lot of people use to determine edibility.  I have caught chrome silver salmon that had very pale meat even cohos.  You can’t tell until you cut them open.   Lots of guys take moldy kings home to eat and they love it.  I had a buddy who would smoke nasty brown kings and use it to barter for goose spots with farmers in Dakota and those farmers said it was the best fish they ever ate.  Some guys like to eat brown trout too, at various color stages.  Personally I won’t eat anything out of Lake Michigan except perch, and silver coho and rainbows under 24” or so.  If the meat isn’t bright red on a salmon I’m not into it.  To me, 4 year old kings are gross before they even start to get a tan.  If I hadn’t grown up On the shore of Lake Michigan I might not be so picky.  It’s all just protein, none of it will kill you.  You could brine an old pair of tennis shoes and if you smoke it long enough it will start to taste good.

9/10/20 @ 11:41 AM
Phat Walleyes
Phat Walleyes
User since 3/31/15

What I meant was, I can understand how sea run salmon entering fresh water streams can cause their deaths, but fresh water, it made less sense...  

I guess like the octopus, these animals only spawn once and they stop eating which lack of nutrients cause them to die... (the stomachs in salmon develop atrophy involving apoptosis followed by death)

But they do hit lures out of aggression, most are caught by lines ending up inside their open mouths where the hook eventually rides up and gets lodged in their jaw... 

But I've seen on numerous occasions salmon chasing down my lure while upstream during a fall run...

9/10/20 @ 7:42 AM
User since 2/8/11

PW- “I still can't understand it, why spawn only once.”

In their native areas to spawn, the waters are very low in nutrients, so they die to provide nutrients to other creatures that the young salmon would then eat until they get to the ocean. 

As for the original question, I personally won’t eat salmon once they get more than looking tan, so pretty much any king past Sept 1. It’s just taste though, it’s not like they are harmful to eat. Some people don’t care what food tastes like, some do. Try one, if you don’t like it, pitch it. It’s not like you’re hurting the resource by keeping them. Salmon don’t release well and will likely die after you caught it anyway and even if they do live, they’ll be dead in October anyway.  

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