White Kings



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  • White Kings

    Anyone ever catch a mature salmon that had white or extremely pale pink flesh? If so, must have been a shock and rather disappointing.

    I haven't had any experiences, but have heard that it occurs more often than anglers would like to believe. Evidently, this anomaly is most common in kings.

    Wonder if it happens more frequently in certain streams or if it's a statewide genetic issue?

    Is there a difference in taste or texture of the meat? I suppose these fish are still decent tablefare despite appearing off-color.

    Would be interested in hearing about member encounters with white kings, as well as some of the theories on the cause of this phenonmenon.

  • #2
    White vs Red

    Disappointed with a White! - You gotta be kidding. Most locals consider it superior to red.

    Where do they occur? In southeast, the wild stocks returning to the Taku and Stikine Rivers have a fair number of white fleshed kings. I'd say in the 10-15% of total range. Not sure about the Chilkat run.

    Why? I'm not sure folks really know for sure. I've heard two theories: (1) genetics and (2) diet. The diet theory says that fish eating some krill or shrimp will have the pink flesh and those eating only baitfish will have white flesh. I worked a number of summers at the local salmon bake here in J-town. I saw, on several occasions, kings with both white and red flesh - basically zebra striped with alternative colors on muscle bands. I've also seen where a white king will turn to a blush pink color towards the tail. When fresh troll caught kings were in short supply, we sometimes served white kings to tourists. They thought we were trying to pull one on them. About half simply refused to accept it even tho we'd tell them they were king salmon.

    I've heard one occurance of a white Coho (Taku River genetics.) I would consider this extremely rare.

    Earlier this sping I BBQ'ed both a white and red. I didn't have the blindfold on, but there's really not much difference. Most folks consider the white to be richer and oilier. One of these days I'll have to conduct a true blindfold test.



    • #3
      I've caught a few White Kings in Cook Inlet and prefer them over any other colored meat.


      • #4
        The other "white" meat

        I'd give all the red kings away for white kings.... Gotta love 'em... Cut into steaks with a little Johnny's seafood seasoning and grilled with a little olive oil. Time to go fishing!


        • #5
          I'll trade three red kings for a white any day. We catch them regularly in saltwater, but I've never run across one in fresh. By actual measure, the oil content in whites is quite a bit higher than red. I know of two people who have set their smokehouses on fire with dripping oil from white kings. If you love sweet salmon oil, there is nothing better than a white.
          "Lay in the weeds and wait, and when you get your chance to say something, say something good."
          Merle Haggard


          • #6
            White Kings

            I have caught several from Willow Creek. They supposedly have more? oil in them and are considered better eating. I have eaten quite a few of the white fillets and they are good table fare, but my wife is a superb cook and I think she could make a piece of drift wood taste wonderful.


            • #7
              Wow, I'm surprised to hear that white kings are so highly regarded. If I'm fortunate enough to catch one, I'll be sure to treat it like gold.

              I'm a firm believer that the taste of the fish is directly linked to the oil content in the flesh. More is better.


              • #8
                I've caught a fair number of them around Petersberg..........They are darn good eating, can't say they are any better or worse than a fresh (chromer) red king though, not to my taste bud's anyway!



                • #9
                  Used to catch them when I commercial trolled out of Sitka back in the 70's and 80's. Were they worth a $1 a pound less then red kings, not in my opinion.


                  • #10
                    Caught White Kings in ketchikan

                    I caught some white kings while I lived in Ketchikan, They tasted great. Caught one small jack white, stuffed and grilled whole and it was amazing. Saw a rich couple come off a charter with a large white king, they where not pleased it was a white king until the lodge owner called it a pearl king instead of white and then they thought it was great. It is all in how it is percieved by the people. I have heard but no first hand knowledge that in some parts of BC they are more abundant than the pink flesh.



                    • #11

                      white kings lack the ability to metabolize carotene into the color red, thus they have no red pigment at all. the roe is yellowish, and when spawning they are a yellow-green instead of red.
                      they are, as was mentioned, more common in SE and especially from the Taku river south.
                      personally i think there is nothing to compare to a fat white king in the winter....like eating butter!!...we usually eat a 1/2 a pound of shoulder meat raw while we are waiting for the rest to come off the grill.
                      interesting to hear that there are a few in willow creek. when my wife was working the weir on deep creek years ago she passed a couple through one day.
                      Alaska Board of Game 2015 tour... "Kicking the can down the road"


                      • #12
                        the newest rage

                        I have heard that white king is now considered a delicasy in the high society circles and actually sells for more than the red meat in some markets.

                        Its all in the marketing. Same great tast and texture if you ask me.

                        Cheechako Bill


                        • #13
                          I Have Caught 10's Of Them The Last Couple Years Around Juneau, A Unuasually High Number Compared To Other Places I've Fished, Don't Know If Its Genetics In The Taku/stikine Or The Hatcheries Are Purposely Trying To Produce More Of This Fish, Have Caught Several That Were Half And Half As Well Kinda Like A Dixie Cup Swirl Of White/red,

                          Depending On Who You Ask You'll Get A Different Answer On The Quality, Like One Member Said Commerical Fisherman Used To Get Less For Them And Mostly Discarded Them, Now They Get More, Its All Marketing Sceme To Make More Money Kinda Like The Whole Copper River Scam, And Hats Off To Them For That, In Today's World People Will Pay More For Something If You Can Make It Seem Special Or Rare, Personally I Don't Think Either One Is Better Than The Other Humper Says
                          It Depends On The Cook

                          If You Were Blindfolded And Had The Two Prepared The Same In Front Of You I Don't Think You'd Be Able To Taste The Difference

                          Don't Buy Into That White King Is Better,

                          And If You Get Tired Of Salmon

                          Try Seal Meat



                          • #14
                            White Kings

                            Wow years agao I caught a smaller King in the Chena that had white, almost opaque looking, meat. I thought it was just because the fish were pretty beat by the time they got to the interior. I just threw it away figuring it was rotten. It looked pretty disgusting and I'm not sure why anyone would even find it appealing tablefare. But.....Even knowing what I do now, I'd still trash em! Nothing like a dipnet Red anyway!


                            • #15
                              the biology behind white kings

                              The ability of a salmon to store the red-orange pigment carotene in its fat cells is controlled genetically. So a sockeye salmon (red) stores carotene in its fat cells, and a chum salmon metabolizes it into a colorless Vitamin A. For a chinook salmon, flesh color is determined by two genes in a duplicate recessive gene interaction. Here is a list that will help explain this. It comes from an ADF&G publication. The genotype is the combination of capital and small case letters and the flesh color is defined.

                              AA,BB -red flesh color,

                              AABb - red,
                              AA,bb - white,
                              Aa,BB - red,
                              Aa,Bb - red,
                              Aa,bb - white,
                              aa,bb - white.

                              You can see from this that if a dominant gene (A and B) are both present then the flesh color is red.

                              The genes for white kings are rare in Alaska. A higher percentage is found in the Pacific Northwest.

                              How red a fish is or just a pink color depends on the amount of pigment in their diet. However, a white king cannot become a red king no matter the diet because the genes controlling the process are not available.

                              "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
                              The KeenEye MD


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