TIPS SALTWATER By: WorldFishingNetwork.com Staff Atlantic Salmon Maximum Size A salmon that has spawned multiple times can weigh as much as 30 pounds (13.6 kg), although fish of that size are uncommon. Growth Rate Growth rates are variable, depending on a combination of season, habitat quality, age, sex and population density. Marine growth is much faster than freshwater growth, allowing adult salmon to reach lengths averaging 28 to 30 inches (71-76 cm) and weights averaging 8 to 12 pounds (3.6-5.4 kg) after two years at sea. Geographic Range There are three generally recognized groups of Atlantic salmon: North American, European and Baltic. The North American group, including the Canadian and U.S. populations, historically ranged from northern Quebec southeast to Newfoundland and southwest to Long Island Sound. Most adults from these three populations migrate to feeding areas off the west coast of Greenland. Habitat Adult Atlantic salmon spend their entire adult life in open ocean habitat migrating along the coast of North America to Greenland to find suitable forage. Juvenile Atlantic salmon hatch in the spring and spend the first two years of life in fresh water rivers and streams. These young of the year fish, or parr, spend the first year of life in habitat that is typically characterized by "riffle" areas (shallow water depth and moderate to fast water flow with adequate cover). This habitat is often called nursery habitat. Parr are very territorial and move into habitat with larger substrate as they grow; typically these areas tend to be faster flowing with deeper water depths than nursery areas. Life Span 4 to 10 years. Food Juvenile Atlantic salmon mostly prey upon invertebrates and terrestrial insects while in freshwater, and amphipods (small, shrimp-like crustaceans), euphausiids (krill), gammarids and fishes while at sea. Larger adult Atlantic salmon mainly prey on fish such as Atlantic herring, alewife, rainbow smelt, capelin, mummichogs, sand lances, flatfish and small Atlantic mackerel. Reaches Reproductive Maturity Most U.S. salmon return home to spawn after their second winter at sea; they are known as 2 Sea Winter (2SW) fish. A small portion (about 10%) of U.S. salmon, typically males, become sexually mature and return to natal rivers to spawn after one winter at sea (1 SW) and are often referred to as grilse. Reproduction Adult Atlantic salmon return to natal rivers each spring and throughout the fall to spawn in cold headwater streams. Females will lay an average of 7,500 eggs, of which only about 9-20% will survive to the fry stage. Fry remain buried in the gravel for about 6 weeks. Eggs incubate slowly due to cold winter water temperatures. The fry emerge from the gravel about mid-May. Emergent fry quickly disperse from nests called redds, within the gravel. They develop camouflaging stripes along their sides and enter the parr stage. Salmon parr spend 2-3 years in freshwater (after which they are about 6 inches long) and then undergo a physiological transformation called smoltification that prepares them for life in a marine habitat. During smoltification, fish imprint on the chemical nature of the stream or river to enable them to find their way back to where they were born. In the spring, after smoltfication is complete, smolts migrate to the ocean. Spawning Atlantic salmon spawn in freshwater in the fall. Suitable spawning habitat consists of cold water with gravel or rubble substrate, typically toward the tails of pools or in areas of moving water. Migration New England stocks travel vast distances across the open ocean to return to spawning grounds in rivers and streams. Tagging data for New England stocks indicate that U.S. salmon migrate as far north as Greenland. Predators Predators of Atlantic salmon include birds, marine mammals, native and non-native fish species, and humans. Information Credit: NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey.