Fresh Run Salmon
Recognised by the pristine condition and bright
silver flanks. Fish straight from salt water have
loose, easily detached scales and many carry sea
lice which drop off within a few days. Hen salmon
(illustrated above) have a tiny kype on the lower
jaw, but unlike cocks they retain normal head
proportions while in the river. Fresh run salmon
make the best eating
Kelts are salmon which have spawned. Usually
identified by the thin shape, distended vent and
presence of "gill maggots" on the red filaments,
they are often encountered by anglers in spring
when they regain a silvery appearance and can
be mistaken for fresh run Springers. Kelts must
be returned unharmed to the water.
Recognised by the enlarged jaws, cocks often
become coloured soon after leaving salt water.
This one shows typical appearance after a few
weeks in fresh or brackish water: some are more
reddish, others less so, but all will have the
partially developed kype. At this stage cocks
are still good to eat.
These are usually less coloured than cocks of
similar age and they never have enlarged jaws.
This one will have spent a few weeks in river
or estuary - note the coloured head and lack of
true silver flanks. Hens should not be killed
on the basis of colour alone - autumn fish are
closest to spawning regardless of colour. For
conservation purposes hens are the most important.
Cock in Breeding Dress
The combination of "tartan" colours is typical
although shades vary - the fully developed kype,
used in fighting rivals, is the most consistent
indicator of maturity. Condition can be gauged
by viewing from above - if the back is still thick
a fish is in better condition (and more likely
to be edible) than a thin "kipper" which, unless
it is a first salmon, is best returned. (editors
note: by law it should be returned.)
Hen in Breeding Dress
This is a summer fish - Springers
are often darker by spawning time, while late
entrants may still be silver flanked. Fully mature
hens have soft, swollen bellies and spawning is
imminent if they also have protruding vents.
to identify salmon from sea trout
to identify salmon parr from tout parr
to identify grilse
Estimate Weight from Length
Published courtesy of the Atlantic Salmon Trust
and Robin Ade. The above information is printed
by the Trust as both a wall poster and post cards.
Reproduction is much better than can be achieved
on the web. The poster in particular is a must
for fishing huts and educational establishments.
The Atlantic Salmon Trust
7 Kirkmichael Road
Tel. 01796 473 439