Have you ever seen an ivory salmon and wondered why that fish is different than the rest?
There have been many theories as to how or why this happens; some stories about how their diets are different, that they are bad to eat or that they are a completely different species. However, the Ivory gene only occurs in Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). They are exactly the same fish as the red Chinook. They feed on the same food, swim in the same water and look exactly the same…on the outside. The difference between an ivory and a red salmon is actually the result of an active enzyme that breaks down carotene. Carotene is what makes red salmon red and shrimp or flamingoes pink. Carotene is stored in the meat of normal salmon instead of being broken down. Ivory salmon has an enzyme that breaks down carotene resulting in a white coloured meat. To my knowledge, there is no way of telling whether you have a white or red on your line until you fillet the fish and see the flesh. Ivory or white fleshed salmon occurs naturally and affects about 1 in 20 fish. Some river systems are known to produce more ivory salmon than others but there hasn’t been much research on this. Years ago, many people thought that ivory salon tasted bad or that it is sub-par to red salmon. The meat of an ivory salmon actually contains more oils and has less of a ‘fish taste’. This salmon is becoming more popular in restaurants as a luxury item due to its unique look and taste. If you are so lucky to go home with an ivory salmon, take pride in knowing that you caught one of the best eating and most unique Chinook salmon.