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Sakhalin taimen (Parahucho perryi)

This migratory fish belongs to a separate genus and is not a close relative of the Siberian taimen. Sakhalin taimen has rather small range: it is found in Primorye, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, and outside of Russia - in the northern Japan. The numbers are constantly decreasing. The species is listed in the Red Book of Russia and needs protection.

Russians call this fish taimen, or marine taimen; the old name chevitsa is not in use any more. Indigenous people of the region call it goi. The head of Sakhalin taimen is comparatively bigger than any salmon species, and the jaws are much more powerful. But, in general, it looks rather similar to a steelhead. This is a mighty, heavy-bodied, silvery fish with numerous black dots of irregular shapes; at the head these dots are normally bigger and rounded. The belly and throat of many specimens are pink or reddish. The spawning occurs during spring flood; normally at the end of May. At this time the males are bright reddish-brown.

The species range is not large. Sakhalin taimen spawn in the rivers of the Russian Far East and some nearby islands (Sakhalin, Southern Kuriles, and Hokkaido), and feed in the Sea of Japan and in the south of the Sea of Okhotsk. Many of the species’ populations are connected with brackish lakes, estuaries, or to river drainages with big lakes situated on the plains.

Sakhalin taimen differs significantly from other species of taimen (genus Hucho), therefore, scientists distinguish it in a special genus Parahucho. It is believed that this fish is generally not a close relative of other taimen, and is closer in origin to Atlantic salmon. Taimen have strict homing instincts — the fish spawn only in the river where they were born. This is why this fish cannot stand serious fishing pressure and disappears first from a watershed.
Sakhalin taimen grows rather slowly; it matures with a length of at least 70-80 centimeters, so most fish in the sport catches are immature. The largest fish, 210 centimeters long (!), was caught in one of the rivers of Hokkaido Island in 1937.

By way of life, Sakhalin taimen resembles the sea-run chars. The first years of life (usually 2-4, rarely up to seven years), taimen is spending in the rivers or lakes. Later, it begins to go into the estuary or into the sea for feeding, which can last from May-June to October or November. However, many fish come back into the river in August. Anadromous taimen spawn in spring, in April and May. Young Sakhalin taimen are found near the gravel bars, in the current. Some fingerlings of this species were found under log jams, in schools of similar size juvenile Pacific redfin.

In Sakhalin Island there are still several stocks of taimen with rather big numbers — they dwell in the rivers Val, Dagi, Nabil, Langeri, Melkaya, Bogataya, and Poronai. Some of these streams (Val, Dagi and Nabil) empty into shallow, productive bays that provide the fish with excellent summer habitats. The taimen from the listed rivers feed in the Sea of Okhotsk. On the west coast of Sakhalin Island the sea-run taimen is present in many rivers, but none of these stocks are in the good shape. Taimen are most numerous in the Agnevo River and in the Ainskoe lake-river system.

It is a big pity that nowadays because of overfishing the “marine” taimen are becoming rare or disappearing throughout the whole range. In many waters, this species has disappeared completely. Its numbers have drastically decreased in the rivers of the southern Kuril Islands (Kunashir and Iturup). On the Sakhalin Island all stocks are listed as endangered. On the mainland coast of the Sea of Japan the species is almost extinct in its southern range. Several quite numerous stocks remain in the north of its former range, in the Tumnin, Koppi, and Samarga Rivers, and in several smaller drainages. The biggest river with taimen is the Tumnin. In Japan this fish is still common in some of the streams of Hokkaido Island. In Hokkaido even an 8 kg fish is considered good size. If you are ever lucky enough to catch this fish, please, release it!

Ilya Sherbovich