How long does a silver salmon last upon entering fresh water?
I was curious as to how long a silver salmon remains a good edible fish upon entering fresh water. Also, how long in fresh water until they lose significant fighting ability? Any information will be much appreciated.
Fragility and edibility. . .
Silvers are very fragile upon entering freshwater and should not be fished for in tidal or estuary waters (that part of a lower river influenced by tides)unless one intends to keep the catch. Silvers in the lower Kenai suffered a mortality rate of between 30% and 40% just from being handled by ADF&G biologists, and an ADF&G study on the Little Su some years back found sport-caught-and-released silvers suffered a mortality rate of 69%. On the Kenai, ADF&G moved their test site much farther upriver, miles above tidewater. And I know one guide who will not let his clients c&r sivers in tidewater. If one is fishing silvers just for "sport," move upriver.
The farthest upstream I've caught a silver in the Kenai is about 25-30 miles, and they fought just fine.
As for how good their flesh is after entering fresh water, most folks I know eat them like any other salmon — as long as they're bright. For my money, and this includes all salmon, I don't like to eat them after they've left tidewater. To my palate, there's a big difference in taste between salt or tidewater reds, silvers, pinks, and chinook and the same fish caught 15-20 miles or more upstream. The upriver fish are fine for smoking.
Though I cannot readily validate the figures from Marcus on c&r mortality, I have no reason to doubt them. I know for a fact that when we catch silvers in tidal waters (and beyond to some extent) the scales are very loose and fall off very easily (thus in the net, in the hands of the angler, on the bottom of the boat. However after the silver has been in the fresh water for a while, they seem to "harden" if you will.
I also agree with Marcus on the edibility factor. I have heard it explained that if you can leave a dent in the flesh with your finger, it is not likely to be very tasty...
The silver is a very interesting fish biologically. They spend roughly 1.5 years in the river as alevin to fry. Then only 1 year in the ocean... they leave the river at about 8" in length and return sometimes HUGE!!! ADF&G claims that there is only one month that the silver has not been documented in the Kenai River.... that is June. It is believed that the fish really doesn't spawn until very late winter/early spring... thus they likely over-winter under the ice (since they prefer the slower waters). Indeed, many years ago, before restrictions, I recall a friend catching bright, fiesty silvers in December and January...
There is much to learn about this fish nonetheless.
Hope that helps to answer your question...
hey thank you for these posts guys. I enjoyed reading this and learned a lot.