Fisheries and Land Resources

Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon

Salmo salar


Native to both Newfoundland and Labrador


Rocky runs, and pools of small to large rivers and lakes. Atlantic Salmon are anadromous, living in the sea and entering rivers to spawn, although several lakes contain landlocked (ouananiche) salmon. Salmon spawn in the fall in rocky streams, with most young remaining in fresh water for two to three years, then migrating to the ocean for one or more years before returning to fresh water to spawn.


Found in the Atlantic Provinces and as far inland as Lake Ontario.


At sea, salmon eat a variety of marine organisms, including crustaceans and other fish such as sand lance, small cod, smelt, herring, capelin and small mackerel. Salmon do not feed when they enter fresh water before spawning. Young salmon in streams feed mainly upon aquatic insect larvae and terrestrial insects (larvae include mayflies, blackflies and stoneflies.)


Brown, green or blue above, silver sides at sea; in freshwater, adults lose silver appearance and becomes darker.

Breeding Biology

Atlantic Salmon spawn in October and November, depending on the region. Marine salmon move first into estuaries, then into fresh water in the spring and summer. Landlocked salmon (ouananiche) leave the lakes in which they live and head upstream in the fall. Salmon are incredible fighters and can surmount falls and other obstacles to return to their spawning grounds.

As a male salmon prepares for spawning, its head will elongate and the lower jaw will become enlarged and hooked. The female chooses the nesting site, usually a gravel bottom riffle. The male will drive off intruders from the chosen site while the female digs out a redd, or pit, with her caudal fin. When the redd is prepared, the female will settle herself into the nest. The male will align himself beside her and the eggs and sperm are released. The female will then cover the eggs with gravel.

This series of events is repeated several times until spawning is complete. Eggs are adhesive and stick to the gravel bed. On average the female will deposit about 700 eggs per pound. After spawning, the parent fish move back down river and rest for several weeks (these spawned-out fish are known as kelts)In general it takes 110 days for eggs to hatch when water temperatures are around 3.9oC.


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