Salmon has played an important role in the diet of the people of Japan for countless generations. Remnants of major salmon fishing have been excavated in Ishikari City dating back to the Jomon period (some 4,000 years ago). Today, salmon is widely eaten everyday grilled and seasoned with salt, deep fried, in chanchan yaki and in ishikari-nabe hot pot.
Salmon born in the rivers of Hokkaido mature in the nutrient-rich waters of the North Pacific and in the autumn they return to these same rivers to spawn. However, very few salmon actually survive the journey on their own. This is why many juvenile fish are grown at hatcheries set up around Hokkaido. After released, these fish mature after three to five years and return to the river. Hatcheries have been set up at more than 100 locations in Hokkaido and salmon are released at more than 200 places.
Hokkaido accounts for about 80% of Japan’s total salmon catch. During the autumn salmon are fished along nearly every coastline in the prefecture. Areas with particularly large catches include Nemuro, Abashiri and Shiretoko, each along the Okhotsk Sea.
■Map / Main municipalities with fishing grounds
Shari Town, Abashiri City, Nemuro City, Shibetsu Town, Rausu Town, Kitami City, Bekkai Town, Monbetsu City, Esashi Town, Erimo Town, Ishikari City, Hiroo Town, Toyokoro Town, Shinhidaka Town
Salmon (chum salmon) are primarily caught in Japan off Hokkaido and Tohoku. They are also called aki-aji because they return to rivers in the autumn and they are one of the most well known autumn fishes of the northern country. Salmon caught in the Pacific Ocean and Okhotsk Sea from spring to summer are called tokishirazu, salmon that have yet to mature that are caught off the Shiretoko Peninsula in the autumn are called keiji, while similar juvenile salmon caught along the coast of the Okhotsk Sea are called mejika. These are occasionally enjoyed as a delicacy because of their deliciously high fat content.
During the autumn fishing season salmon return to rivers between September and December, with September and October the peak. Salmon caught at sea from spring to summer (April to July) are called tokishirazu.