British Columbia

Delicious sockeye salmon not just a coastal catch

"The flavour is more delicate than most sockeye. It's lighter and quite buttery," says food columnist Gail Johnson.

Food columnist Gail Johnson highlights the delicious Okanagan sockeye

Light, buttery and delicately delicious: Okanagan sockeye is a definite must-eat treat in B.C.'s Interior. (CBC)

West Coasters might love their salmon, but many may not realize there's a delicious inland species caught in Okanagan lakes. 

On the Coast food columnist Gail Johnson first tasted the Okanagan sockeye at Osoyoos' Watermark Beach Resort, where Chef Adair Scott prepared a charcuterie plate with warm olives and crispy crackers.

"The fish was ruby red in colour, smoked with cherry wood, and I have to say — delicately delicious," describes Johnson.

Part of the reason many people might not have heard of this interior sockeye species is because the stock became close to extinction in the mid-1990s.

Johnson says the Okanagan salmon she ate was the result of a project coordinated by the Okanagan Nation Alliance, who spearheaded efforts to restore the species.

Howie Wright, the fisheries program manager of the Okanagan Nation Alliance told Johnson efforts to restore the species have paid off after it was reintroduced to Osoyoos and Skaha lakes.

"It took many years of hard work," Johnson explained. "At 2014, 490,000 salmon [passed] through Wells Dam, the confluence the Okanagan and Columbia Rivers in Washington."

The species has also been recently reintroduced to Lake Okanagan in 2016 but is not yet being sourced as food from that lake.

The fishery is sustainably managed and proceeds from are reinvested into the alliance's programs to conserve native fish and aquatic resources within the Okanagan Basin.

Despite the low yield this year, Wright says it is far more stable now than it was several years ago, according to Johnson.

As for whether Interior sockeye tastes different from Coastal sockeye, Johnson says the "the flavour is more delicate than most sockeye. It's lighter and quite buttery."

In a way, it's just like wine.

"When we speak about wine we say the terroir will influence the flavour profiles of wine, like the soil it grows in will affect the flavour profiles. It only makes sense that fish will take on their own distinct taste depending on what route they take to the Pacific and back."

With files from On the Coast