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Atlantic Salmon

Updated on November 10, 2014

Atlantic Salmon Information

The Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is one of the most highly sought after gamefish in the Northeast USA.

Atlantic salmon spawn in rivers, hatch and grow before returning to the ocean to reach adulthood.

Atlantic salmon were once native to nearly every American river north of the Hudson. Wild populations have since been reduced to only 11 rivers in the Northeast.

Restoration and rehabilitation efforts, in the form of stocking and fish passage construction, are underway in the Connecticut, Pawcatuck, Merrimack, Saco, Kennebec, Penobscot, and eastern Maine rivers.

Gulf of Maine Atlantic salmon has been on the endangered species list for almost a decade, yet the population has not shown signs of recovery. Tagging data for New England stocks indicate that US salmon migrate as far north as Greenland.

Although wild Atlantic salmon are in decline, the species is one of the most common types of farm raised fish. Atlantic salmon aquaculture operations exist in the USA, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Chile and other countries.

The landlocked Atlantic salmon is the state fish of Maine.

salmon eggs
salmon eggs

Atlantic Salmon Life Cycle

Unlike Pacific salmon species which die after spawning, Atlantic salmon may spawn two or more times during their six or seven year lifespan.

After spending two to three years in the ocean, adult salmon return to spawn in their natal freshwater streams, where the eggs hatch and juveniles grow through several stages.

When the juveniles develop into smolts, they migrate downstream to the ocean where they remain for several years until returning to spawn.

Maine Atlantic Salmon Restoration

In 1994, Salmon Habitat and River Enhancement (S.H.A.R.E.) was established by a coalition of private companies, organizations, individuals, and state and federal agencies.

The organization was created to help conserve and enhance Atlantic salmon habitat and populations in Downeast Maine.

Since its inception, the organization has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to restore Atlantic salmon in Maine.

photo credit NOAA

Gulf of Maine Atlantic Salmon Protection

On June 15, 2009, NOAA's Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extended Endangered Species Act protection to more Atlantic salmon by adding fish in the Penobscot, Kennebec, and Androscoggin rivers and their tributaries to the endangered Gulf of Maine population first listed in 2000.

Endangered status under the ESA will now apply to all anadromous (sea-run) Atlantic salmon whose freshwater range covers the watersheds from the Androscoggin River northward along the Maine coast to the Dennys River, an area which includes the Penobscot and Kennebec rivers. It also applies wherever these fish occur in these rivers' estuaries and marine environment.

Listed species receive the full protection of the Endangered Species Act, including a prohibition against take. Take is defined to include harass, harm, pursue, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect.

Hatchery fish used to supplement these natural populations are also included under this rule. Landlocked salmon and salmon raised in hatcheries for aquaculture are not included in the listed population.

Atlantic Salmon - Fresh or Smoked

Farm raised Atlantic salmon has a milder, more delicate flavor than wild salmon. The flesh is lighter colored than wild salmon, moderately firm and flaky. Atlantic salmon steaks, fillets and whole fish can be baked, broiled, poached or grilled.

Landlocked Atlantic Salmon

A number of landlocked Atlantic salmon populations exist in Canada, especially in Newfoundland, Labrador, and Quebec.

Atlantic Salmon of the Great Lakes

Atlantic salmon were once a top predatory fish in the Great Lakes although they are now considered to be extinct in the region. Efforts to re-introduce the species and establish breeding populations are underway in several American lakes.

Miramichi River Atlantic Salmon

The Miramichi River in New Brunswick, Canada, is known as "The King of All Salmon Rivers". The river sees some of the largest Atlantic salmon runs in the world.

According to the Miramichi Salmon Association, the Miramichi river system has more miles of salmon angling water and holds larger and healthier populations of Atlantic salmon than any other river in North America. The organization promotes releasing Atlantic salmon.

Recently, about half of recreational catches of Atlantic salmon in North America are landed on the Miramichi River and its tributaries. Atlantic salmon fishing is restricted to fly fishing only and all large salmon caught must be released alive to protect the spawning population.

Salmon Feedback

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    • Trixiesmom2u profile image

      Trixiesmom2u 5 years ago

      Very interesting lens, thank you.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 7 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Lots of great information about Atlantic salmon that I didn't know. Nicely done lens.

    • profile image

      michigancharterfishing 7 years ago

      I run a michigan salmon charter, out of St. Joseph michigan, and I have to say that above all, beyond the lake trout, the steelhead, I love to eat the Salmon the most! And how fun are they to catch huh? They are by far my favorite river fish! Thanks for your article.

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      Obominog 8 years ago

      Nice, very informative how about adding me to your links.

      We grow atlantic here on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

      Check out my blog at

      leave me feedback as to how I can improve my blog please.