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What are the life stages of the salmon?

Learn about the life stages of the salmon and when salmon reproduce.

Salmon have interesting and complex life and reproductive cycles. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Salmon have interesting and complex life and reproductive cycles.

Below are the life stages of the salmon:


A newly hatched translucent salmon with a yolk sac. Less than one inch (2.5 centimeters) long, it remains in the redd (gravel nest on the stream bottom) for several weeks until it exhausts the yolk sac.


One- to two-inch (2.5- to five-centimeter) salmon that has depleted its yolk sac and has emerged from the redd.

Parr or Fingerling

Young, two-inch (five-centimeter) salmon with visible markings known as parr marks. It feeds voraciously on insects and small freshwater crustaceans.


Young salmon about two months old that has undergone physiological changes and is ready to migrate to sea. Only 30 percent of the smolts make it to the ocean.


Atlantic salmon that spends only one year at sea before returning to spawn (reproduce).


The mature stage of the fish when it returns to the river to spawn, usually in the fall. It stores up oils and fats to sustain it on its upstream trip.


Atlantic salmon that has spawned and returned to the ocean. Pacific salmon die after spawning.

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