Gone Outdoors

Difference Between King Salmon & Sockeye Salmon

by Jennifer DeDonato

King salmon and sockeye salmon both belong to the Pacific Ocean species of salmon. But they have many differences, including size, habitat and spawning habits.


King salmon, also called chinook, average 10 to 15 pounds, with some rare kings weighing up to 100 pounds. Sockeye salmon are smaller, averaging 5 to 8 pounds, with a maximum weight of 15 pounds.


The life span of all salmon is the same, about two to seven years; the cause of death is usually fishing, illness or natural predators.


King salmon feed on small fish and bugs in the water. Sockeye salmon have a unique way of eating called filter feeding: They drink in water with plankton and expel the water through gill rakers, which retain the plankton as food.


Both king and sockeye salmon spawn in the fall. Kings spawn in large rivers with high water flow, while sockeye stick to rivers with a tributary to a lake.


The young king salmon, called "fry," rear in freshwater for up to a year. Sockeye fry rear in a lake for one to two years.

About the Author

Jennifer DeDonato currently works as a freelance writer, proofreader and editor. She earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1997 and has published study materials for an educational company. While a college student in 1995, DeDonato started writing for her university's yearbook and spent her college career writing and editing. She has been a professional writer for more than 14 years.

Photo Credits

  • Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Sharon Mollerus