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Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) recognition, identification and pictures

 
 
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Atlantic Salmon

Salmo salar


Atlantic Salmon salmo salar

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


Kelt

Kelt

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.


Maturing Cock

Maturing Cock

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.


Maturing Hen

Maturing Hen

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

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

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.


How to identify salmon from sea trout

How to identify salmon parr from tout parr

How to identify grilse

To 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
Pitlochry
PH16 5JQ
Tel. 01796 473 439

 
 
 

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