Salmon migrate hundreds of miles to spawn in the rivers of the Alaskan wild. Some have migrated up to 3,845 km. For the Alaskan salmon, the big migratory spawning run is paved with a multitude of challenges and the survivors turn into ghastly river zombies.
The salmon undergoes 6 stages throughout it’s lifecycle: eggs, alevin, fry, smolt, adulthood and spawners. The salmon can live up to nine years, remaining in fresh water between 3 months to two years before migrating to estuaries as smolts and then finally making their way into the ocean to feed and mature into adulthood. Less than two percent will actually return to their birth streams to spawn.
Aside from narrowly escaping predation of both local fisherman and bears, the salmon’s body begins to deteriorate during their intense spawning migration. The deterioration is due to the fact that salmon do not feed during their trip up stream, using only stored nutrients for energy. The salmon seem to morph into a completely new fish as their bodies take on a gnarly shape – their head twists into a new form and their teeth and jaw become more pronounced. Their cool, silvery bodies turn to a fiery red on their epic migration and much like what is seen on zombie movies, their flesh begins to rot off of their bodies.
In the last 25 years, salmon harvesting has dropped 96% due to the need to protect declining runs. King salmon numbers are running lower than ever. Zeb Hogan and several local fishery biologists work to find the cause of the decline of the king salmon on this week’s River Fish: Salmonzilla. Working to rescue the declining king salmon population and hoping to see the legendary river giant for himself, Zeb Hogan is on an epic search for “a waterway teeming with giants – a red river of kings.”
Check out more Salmonzilla Facts here.
Tune into River Fish: Salmonzilla FRI JUL 12 10PM ET