We get asked this question often as “salmon shark” must be a name for something else. The answer is simple: a salmon shark is a salmon shark. Unlike many fish, it goes by only one name. Clearly, not many people have heard of this highly evolved predator that preys heavily on, you guessed it, salmon. This species is one of five members of a family of sharks that include the mako, the great white, and the porbeagle which is also known as a mackerel shark. These are dense, muscular, powerful predators capable of explosive bursts of speed.
Salmon sharks, like tuna, have a counter current heat exchange system with the blood vessels coming to and going from the gills. Without going into detail, this results in a body temperature warmer than the water in which they swim. This gives them a metabolic boost. They range throughout the North Pacific from Southern Japan to California, with Alaska a center of abundance on our side of the ocean.
We seldom target salmon sharks. We mainly hook them incidentally while salmon or halibut fishing. This is a tough fish to land on salmon gear because of their potential size which can reach over 500 pounds. Even the smaller individuals are a challenge on salmon gear because they chew through monofilament leaders and their sand paper skin abrades line. We land them at a higher percentage on halibut gear and we do carry the equipment for targeting them if our anglers make the request.
Aside from a big-game fight and the bragging rights of catching a big shark, salmon sharks are very good eating – quite similar to swordfish. Like all sharks, they can be easily overfished and the annual limit is two, and that’s one more than a person could ever need. Currently there is no commercial fishery on our side of the Pacific and no concern about the stocks of salmon sharks.
So, if you’re in the mood and willing to take time away from salmon, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish, this is an option. The odds of catching one aren’t super high, but sometimes they show up in numbers. This season we’ve seen quite a few and Captain James, fishing with the Weathers party even landed a 75 pound salmon shark in, of all places, “The Shark Hole”.
If you’re fortunate enough to have salmon shark, try one of our latest recipes of the week – Lemon Marinated Salmon Shark.