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Atlantic Salmon fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.

Atlantic Salmon are known as the kings of fish for many reasons including the massive migrations during their lifes, their beauty and that they are tremendous fighters. Atlantic salmon are amphihaline species, spending most of its life in freshwater. They prefer cool temperature, stay active during the day. Adults inhabit cooler waters with strong to moderate flow. Young remain in freshwater for 1 to 6 years, and then migrate to the ocean where they remain for 1 to 4 years before returning to freshwater. Adults return to the river of their origin to spawn, and then return to sea after spawning. Some die after spawning but most survive to spawn on the next spawning cycle. Juveniles feed mainly on aquatic insects, mollusks, crustaceans and fish; adults at sea feed on squids, shrimps, and fish. Larger salmon feed on fishes such as herring, alewives, smelts, capelin, small mackerel, sand lance and small cod. Adults in freshwater prior to spawning do not feed. Growth in freshwater is slow whereas very fast in the sea. Several lake populations are landlocked. Atlantic salmon are marketed fresh; it is delicates dried or salted, smoked, and frozen; it could be eaten steamed, fried, broiled or baked.

Atlantic Salmon Fishing Atlantic salmon, also known as Salmo salar, СЕМГА in Russian, Bay Salmon, Black Salmon, Caplin-scull Salmon, Fiddler, Grilse, Grilt, Kelt, Landlocked Salmon, Ouananiche, Outside Salmon, Parr, Sebago Salmon, Silver Salmon, Slink, Smolt, Spring Salmon or simply Winnish, is a species of fish in the Salmon family Salmonidae, which is found in the northern Atlantic Ocean and in rivers that flow into the north Atlantic and the north Pacific.
Offering excellent table fare, the Atlantic salmon's original range is from northern Quebec in Canada and Connecticut in USA to Argentina. They are found in the Ireland, United Kingdom, the Faroe Islands, Iceland Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, France and Spain.In eastern Atlantic Ocean they distributed from the Baltic states to Portugal. The Atlantic salmon is largely an anadromous species, except in some Canadian northeastern lakes, in Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and in North America where small populations are landlocked. In Canadian lakes, resident landlocked salmon are called Ouananiche.

Description
    Atlantic Salmon have elongate, slightly laterally compressed body, streamlined shape, white mouth and gums, X-shaped or "Y"-shaped and round black spots above lateral line and on gill cover, concave tail, but less forked than that of
Lake Trout, no spots on tail, unlike Rainbow Trout, no spots under lateral line. They are a graceful fish with fusiform body and little scales, deepening rearward from a small pointed head to the deepest point under the dorsal fin, and then tapering to a slender caudal peduncle, which supports a spreading and slightly emarginated caudal fin. Their mouth is moderately large, the jaws are short reaching and extends only to area below rear of eye and has well developed teeth (their vomerine teeth are weak).
    This member of the Salmon Family is distinguished from its relatives by having large, silvery scales (94 or less), no parr marks in young, teeth absent from the jaws and roof of the mouth, forked tail fin, 2 flaps of skin between the nostrils, the upper and lower jaws are about equal, giving the front of the head a pointed appearance (and the mouth is not under the snout), and gill rakers from 38 to 64, usually 46-50. The lower jaw is usually about the same length as the upper jaw which extends back to the anterior eye margin, there is a knob at the lower jaw tip, the premaxilla bone of the upper jaw curves backwards, the body is deepest at the middle and is elongate and rounded in cross section. The anal fin base is short and the dorsal fin is centrally located with a short base.
They have 3-4 dorsal spines with 9-15 soft dorsal fin rays, 3-4 anal spines with 7-12 soft anal rays, 14-18 pectoral rays, 8-12 pelvic rays. Lateral line scales 63-94. Pyloric caeca number about 100. Males have one nuptial tubercle in the centre or near the edge of each scale. Atlantic salmon are distinguished from the Pacific salmon because they have fewer than 13 rays in the anal fin. Atlantic Salmon Identification
    Atlantic Salmon are an anadromous species who start their lives living in fresh water and later migrates to the ocean. The shape, length of head, color and depth of body vary with each stage of sexual maturity and with age. Adults are brown or blue-green colored with a silvery coating on the sides and silvery-white on a belly and a few black spots in salt water.
Atlantic Salmon Spawning When spawning, in fresh water, it loses the silvery coat and becomes bronze-purple, greenish or reddish brown mottled with red or orange spots on the head and body, certainly the males. Few black spots on body, caudal fin usually unspotted and adipose fin not black bordered. After spawning, the Kelts are so dark that these fish are also called Black salmon.
Juveniles have 8 to 12 blue-violet pigmented bars on the flanks with little red spots in-between along each side of their body. These markings are lost with age. Sea-run Atlantic Salmon usually attain a larger size than salmon are living in entirely fresh water. The average size of Atlantic salmon is 28-30 inches (71-76 cm) long and 8-12 lbs (3.6-5.4 kg) after 2 years at sea. Although uncommon, adults can grow to be as large as 30 lbs (13.6 kg).

Habitats
    Atlantic salmon have a relatively complex life history that includes spawning, juvenile rearing in rivers, and extensive feeding migrations on the high seasons. This why Atlantic salmon go through several distinct phases that can be identified by specific changes in behavior, physiology, and habitat requirements.
    Atlantic salmon occur naturally in cool and cold waters, temperature 2C - 9C which flow into the North Atlantic Ocean, from northern Spain through eastern Europe to Iceland, Greenland, and along the north-east coast of North America. Relatively large cool rivers with extensive gravelly bottom headwaters are essential during their early life. Atlantic salmon require free-flowing rivers of moderate gradient that remain cool in the summer and contain clean gravel particles suitable for spawning. Juvenile salmon feed and grow in rivers for 1 to 3 years before migrating to the ocean. Atlantic salmon are highly migratory.
    Juveniles in freshwater will stake out and defend territories in streams and rivers and feed aggressively on fish and insects for 1 to 3 years before migrating to the ocean. Young fish in streams eat mainly the larvae of aquatic insects. Terrestrial insects may also be important, especially in late summer. At sea salmon eat a variety of marine organisms. Plankton is important food for pre-grisle but amphipods and decapods are also consumed. Larger salmon eat a variety of fishes such as Atlantic herring and alewives, rainbow smelts, capelin, small mackerel, sand lace, and small cod. Prior to spawning, salmon stop feeding; they do not eat after re-entering fresh water to spawn.
    Atlantic salmon of U.S. origin are highly migratory, undertaking long marine migrations between the mouths of U.S. rivers and the northwest Atlantic Ocean where they are widely distributed seasonally over much of the region. Most Atlantic salmon of U.S. origin spend two winters in the ocean before returning to freshwater to spawn. Those that return after only one year are called grilse. In the United States, most adult Atlantic salmon ascend the rivers of New England beginning in spring and continuing through the fall, with migration peaking in June.
Landlocked salmon spend their entire lives in freshwater. They generally are found in large, cold, oxygen-rich lakes. Youngs (parr) usually stay in the nursery streams for 1 to 2 years before migrating into the lake where they feed on insect larvae and other small aquatic creatures. Adults feed on smelt, minnows and other small fish. Landlocked Atlantic Salmon Fishing
In freshwater adults feed mostly alewife (a non-native member of the prey fish community), and occasionally on rainbow smelt. Young feed on invertebrates and small fish. At sea salmon feed mostly on amphipods (small, shrimp-like crustaceans), euphasiids (krill), decapods, other crustaceans, fish such as sand lance, smelt, alewives, herring, capelin, mummichogs, small mackerel and cod. Prior to spawning adults do not feed. Young salmon in streams feed on aquatic insect larvae and terrestrial insects.

Spawning
    Adults navigate upstream, leaping over obstructions, to spawn in shallow tributaries in late fall. Spawning starts from fall through the whole spring to early winter, from September to December, earliest in the north, when large schools form, usually at 6C or less, optimally at 3-4C. The spawning ground is often gravel shallows at 1-3 m but can occur pelagically at 9-42 m over deep water, it may also occur under a thin ice cover. Atlantic salmon spawn in medium and large rivers.
Male Atlantic Salmon As spawning time nears, males head shape is changing: the head elongates and a pronounced hook, or kype, develops on the tip of the lower jaw. Males arrive on the spawning grounds first, 2-5 days before females. As many as 12 males will follow a single female but at spawning time the female is usually accompanied by 2 males.
    Female is choosing the nesting site, usually a gravel-bottom riffle above a pool. The female digs the nest, called redd, by flapping strongly with her caudal fin and peduncle while on her side; redd is formed by her generated water currents. The female rests freely during redd preparation while the male continues to court her and drive away other males.
    When redd is finished, the male aligns himself next to the female. She descends to 15-20 cm above the bottom, leading the males whose heads are level with her anus. The eggs and sperm are released, and the eggs are fertilized during the intermingling of the gametes. Each female deposits 700-800 eggs per pound (1500 eggs/kilogram) of her body weight on average (can produce up to 29,000, 2.1 mm diameter eggs). The eggs are pale orange in color, large and spherical, and somewhat adhesive for a short time. The female then covers the eggs with gravel, using the same method used to create redd. The eggs are buried in gravel at a depth of about 5 to 10 in (13 to 25cm). The female rests after spawning and then repeats the operation, creating a new redd, depositing more eggs, and resting again until spawning is complete. The male continues to court and drive off intruders.
    Complete spawning by individuals may take a week or more, by which time the spawners are tired. Some Atlantic salmon die after spawning but many survive to spawn a second time; a very few salmon spawn three or more times. Spawning completed, the fish, now called "kelts," may drop downriver to a pool and rest for a few weeks, or they may return at once to the ocean. Some may also remain in the river over winter and return to sea in the spring. Some Atlantic salmon may survive the spawning event (Pacific salmon do not) and return to the ocean to spawn again.
    The eggs incubate in the nest over winter and hatch about 110 days later in April. The following spring, thousands of tiny Atlantic salmon with yolk sacs still attached, called alevin, emerge. When the yolk sac is nearly all gone the young fish enter the water and are called fry until they are about 5 8 cm long. Later they acquire vertical markings which identify them as parr. Juvenile parr require shallow, moderate to fast flowing waters with adequate cover known as nursery habitat. At length 12 24 cm, or 1 - 8 years depending on the region, parr undergo a transformation into a smolt in preparation for the sea or lake. Smolts have a silvery colouring without horizontal bar parr marks for better camouflage and their internal organs adapt for salt water if they belong to a sea-run population. Juveniles can spend up to three years in streams and rivers before they migrate to the sea where they then spend up to three more years before returning to their birthplace to spawn and continue the cycle. After one or more years at sea or in lake, they miraculously follow a reverse route to their natal rivers. Smolts that spend only 1 or 2 years at sea and then return to their original rivers are called grilse. Grilse generally weigh from 2 to 4 lbs. Some rivers have runs consisting predominantly of these returning fish, while others have a mixture of grilse and mature salmon, weighing from 10 to 30 lbs. Atlantic Salmon life span: 4 10 years. 1 female lays 7600 eggs - 4500 eggs hatch - 650 fry live on - 200 parr persist - 50 smolt swim - 10 fish successfully migrate - only 2 return to spawn. Atlantic salmon may reach weights of almost 100 lbs.

Fishing Methods.
    Atlantic salmon are great fighters. They'll run, jump, and thrash wildly when hooked. They also are the least likely to bite. Fishing for Atlantic salmon in salt water is a waste of time. Even in fresh water, you often have to hit a red right in the face with your lure several times just to get it to bite.
    58 to 62F (13 to 15C) is ideal for Atlantic salmon. Try fishing next to cold water inlets under these temperatures as you will both catch and easily revive more fish. Salmon often will rise from the bottom and hit the warmest band of water near the surface (top 6 inches to 2 feet) and turn back down to the cooler water. The fish may want a fly but are not willing to swim through the hot water to get to it. The metabolism of the fish is in overdrive in the warm water and the oxygen levels are much lower.
    Better to cast to a lay such that the fish does not have to look at the bright sun to see your fly. The sun is on our backs as I approach the lay and the fish is blinded. Some of the fresh fish don't even leave the lay as we approach to within feet. Fresh running fish are usually much easier to hook than holding fish. The day before the rain (fish feel barometric pressure changes) and the first days of the rising water usually produce great fishing. Dirty or raging water is very bad for fishing. On days of brassy sunlight when fish are reluctant to move close to the surface it can pay to run a big plastic tube fly on a fast sinking head through any pool with sufficient depth. When using this method hand-lining is again a pre-requisite and stripping the fly fast can also excite the predatory instinct of the fish.
    A wind coming into the mouth of an inlet or outlet of a lake will allow the salmon to lay in shallower water in the river. The wind can lessen the flow rate of the water and provide cover for the fish via the waves. Similarly, a very clear and calm pool will sometimes fish best on a windy day. I believe the fish are more relaxed and they are far less scared by birds flying over head and other sound stimuli drowned out by the noise of the wind/waves.
    Skating involves hitching a small fly behind the head so that it retrieves at an angle to the current creating a wake on the surface. The same effect can also be achieved by boring a hole in the side of a small tube fly. This method is at its best in glides and V's where a strong current begins or ends. Polarized Sunglasses often enable the angler to see fish following the fly and can help to increase the catches.
    Dibbling is the method of dapping or skating a fly on a very short line and lends itself to extracting fish from small lies and otherwise impossible spots. The essence of dibbling is getting close to the fish whilst using background or cover and hanging a bouncing, bobbling fly over their nose. Takes are usually explosive and every fin can be seen as the fish slashes and lunges at the fly.
    Bombing is the method of using Big Bomber dry flies in sizes 2 -6, that can be tremendous fish attractors with all sorts of antics being displayed from fish jumping out the water and grabbing the fly on re-entry to tail slapping and other attempts to drown the fly. The bomber can be fished dead drift, skating, dibbling or swinging in a regular manner and all methods have their day. Remember a fish moving to the Bomber is on the alert and as mentioned above a small fly pulled over the same fish will often result in a firm take.
    The best overall fishing is in the evening and morning when it is Flat Calm. Calm weather virtually always produces more fish unless the fish in the pool are very spooky.
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