The way for a customer to find the freshest Atlantic salmon is through sight and smell. This is true whether the salmon is whole, in fillets, or in luscious, glistening horseshoe shaped steaks. The customer should inspect the fish! The gills of the whole fish are red and healthy, the eyes are clear and bright. The white flesh between the pink of the fillets and steaks is still snowy white and everything smells not of fish, but of the sea.
The Atlantic Salmon
This most delicious and sought after fish can grow to be nearly 4 and a half feet long and can weigh up to 50 pounds, though most fish caught commercially weigh only about a quarter of thet. The adults are brownish above with silvery sides embellished with black, X-shaped freckles. The males also have red patches on the sides. Wild Atlantic salmon are found off the coast of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada and all the way to Scandinavia and the Arctic circle. The fish famously leaves the ocean to spawn in streams and freshwater lakes, and there are some captive populations in lakes in New England. This species of salmon doesn’t necessarily die after spawning, even though they’re pretty weakened by the experience.
The salmon spawn in the fall, with the males dramatically changing their shape. Their heads enlarge and a hook appears on their lower jaw. The female digs a nest in the gravel, then lays her eggs there while the male fertilizes them at the same time. The process of building a nest and laying and fertilizing eggs can take a week. Eventually, a female who weighs about 10 pounds can eventually lay 8,000 orange eggs at a spawning. Some Atlantic salmon who survive this might spend the winter in the river, recuperating, then go back to the ocean in spring.
The eggs hatch around April. The newborn salmon are called alevins. They become parr when they reach about 65 mm in length, then smolts when they’re about 12 cm long. This is when they go to sea. Some come back to spawn after a year, others wait two years.
While they’re at sea, salmon feed on many types of food, from plankton to smaller fish, but they stop eating before their spawning time and don’t eat again till they return to the ocean.