When do salmon go upstream to spawn?

Young Atlantic salmon spend two to three years in their home river before going on a one to three year journey in the North Atlantic where they grow into an adult. They travel over 6,000 miles before coming back home to spawn. They sometimes swim 200 miles up the river to find their preferred places to spawn.

Many people know that salmon spend most of their adult lives in the ocean and that they swim upriver to spawn in freshwater. But when exactly do salmon spawn once they have entered a river system? Most salmon start to swim upriver during late spring and summer but won’t spawn before fall or early winter.

What types of salmon swim upstream to spawn?

There are 5 main types of salmon that swim upstream to spawn. The two most common species of salmon targeted by sports fishermen are king salmon and coho salmon. King salmon can be identified by their large size, silvery sides, and dark greenbacks. They also have small black spots on their tails and the upper half of their bodies.

How long does it take for salmon to swim upstream?

It usually only takes salmon a few weeks to travel from the ocean all the way upstream to where they spawn. Sometimes this can be over 2 miles from the ocean! They wait until the first big rain in late September or October, then swim upstream when the rivers are high.

When can salmon be seen migrating to their spawning area?

Most Pacific salmon can be seen migrating from spring though fall, depending on the species. Most adult Atlantic salmon migrate up the rivers of New England beginning in spring and continuing through the fall as well, with the migration peaking in June.

How old are salmon when they return to spawn?

In Minnesota, most of the chinook salmon that return to the North Shore to spawn are 3-5 years old. Typically they move near shore in mid-September and wait for October rains before they run up the streams. Actual spawning usually occurs in October and sometimes into early November.

Spawning for a salmon is when they lay eggs to hatch, otherwise known as roe, or salmon roe. Most wild salmon is caught and killed post-spawn and therefore eaten after spawning. However, a dead salmon is a dead salmon is a dead salmon.

How do salmon know where to swim?

Young salmon learn the smell of their home stream, possibly even memorizing it at various points along the way, as they migrate toward the ocean. As adults returning to freshwater, when they encounter that familiar smell, it stimulates them to swim upstream. So there may be some “testing of the waters” as salmon migrate home.