How long do salmon usually live?

Most salmon species live 2 to 7 years (4 to 5 average). Steelhead trout can live up to about 11 years.

Learn more: Questions and Answers about Salmon 

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Where can I find fish consumption advisories for my state?

Most states have set fish (and wildlife) consumption advisories and recommended consumption levels. The state agency responsible for these limits varies. Examples of consumption advisory information can be found at the Environmental Protection Agency's Consumption Advisories website.

How do salmon know where their home is when they return from the ocean?

Salmon come back to the stream where they were 'born' because they 'know' it is a good place to spawn; they won't waste time looking for a stream with good habitat and other salmon. Scientists believe that salmon navigate by using the earth’s magnetic field like a compass. When they find the river they came from, they start using smell to find...

How far do salmon travel?

Salmon first travel from their home stream to the ocean, which can be a distance of hundreds of miles. Once they reach the ocean, they might travel an additional 1,000 miles to reach their feeding grounds. Learn more: Questions and Answers about Salmon

Why do salmon change color and die after they spawn?

Salmon change color to attract a spawning mate. Pacific salmon use all their energy for returning to their home stream, for making eggs, and digging the nest. Most of them stop eating when they return to freshwater and have no energy left for a return trip to the ocean after spawning. After they die, other animals eat them (but people don't) or...

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. Learn more: Questions and Answers about Salmon

Why do salmon eggs come in different colors?

Salmon eggs (roe) range in color from pale yellowish-orange to dark reddish-orange. The color varies both by species and within species and is determined by water temperature, sediment composition, age, and other factors. The eggs vary in size from the tiny sockeye roe (average ¼ inch or 5.6 mm) to the large chum roe (average almost ½ inch or 8.3...

Why are there so few salmon left?

There are many reasons for the decline in salmon populations. Logging an area around a stream reduces the shade and nutrients available to the stream and increases the amount of silt or dirt in the water, which can choke out developing eggs. Dams cause fish to die from the shock of going through the turbines and from predators that eat the...

How many species of salmon are there and how large can they get?

There are seven species of Pacific salmon. Five of them occur in North American waters: chinook, coho, chum, sockeye, and pink. Masu and amago salmon occur only in Asia. There is one species of Atlantic salmon. Chinook/King salmon are the largest salmon and get up to 58 inches (1.5 meters) long and 126 pounds (57.2 kg). Pink salmon are the...

Where are salmon most endangered?

Certain populations of sockeye salmon, coho salmon, chinook salmon, and Atlantic salmon are listed as endangered. Sockeye salmon from the Snake River system are probably the most endangered salmon. Coho salmon in the lower Columbia River may already be extinct. Salmon are not endangered worldwide. For example, most populations in Alaska are...

Are salmon endangered worldwide?

No, salmon are not endangered worldwide. For example, most populations in Alaska are healthy. Some populations in the Pacific Northwest are much healthier than others. These healthy populations usually occupy protected habitats such as the Hanford Reach on the Columbia River and streams of Olympic National Park. Learn more: Questions and Answers...

What is the largest freshwater fish?

Sturgeon are the largest of the freshwater fish. The beluga sturgeon in Russia is the largest freshwater fish in the world. The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America. White sturgeon have been reported to reach lengths of 15-20 feet and weights of nearly one ton. The second largest freshwater fish in North America is the...

What are the differences between endangered, threatened, imperiled, and at-risk species?

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), plant and animal species may be listed as either endangered or threatened. “Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. “Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.' States have their own ESA-type...
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Date published: April 20, 2016

Community flood protection may also help endangered salmon to thrive

Building a river setback levee to reduce the risk of flood for a community may also help endangered fish species to thrive, according to the results of a novel computer model reported by the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Date published: January 5, 2015

Endangered Salmon Population Monitored with eDNA for First Time

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Washington State University have discovered that endangered Chinook salmon can be detected accurately from DNA they release into the environment. The results are part of a special issue of the journal Biological Conservation on use of environmental DNA to inform conservation and management of aquatic species.

Date published: June 6, 2013

New Method Monitors Riverbed and Flows to Protect Spawning Salmon

USGS scientists took high-tech sensors typically found in devices such as smart phones and embedded them into a new method to monitor riverbed movements that can help protect spawning habitat for endangered salmon. Developed in cooperation with Seattle Public Utilities for the Cedar River, the new method is published in the Journal of Hydrology.

Date published: August 19, 2009

Wild Atlantic Salmon Found in New York's Salmon River

Scientists recently discovered wild young Atlantic salmon in New York's Salmon River. This is the first time in more than a century that salmon produced naturally in the wild have been found in what was once New York's premier salmon stream. Forty-one wild Atlantic salmon were collected in June and July. All of the salmon were under one year old and ranged in length from about 2 – 2.5 inches.

Date published: March 6, 2001

Removal of Obsolete Forest Roads Can Reduce Erosion and Sediment That Impair Salmon-bearing Streams

Removing abandoned forest roads and restoring the natural characteristics of slopes and stream channels in the Redwood National and State Parks in northern California have substantially reduced the delivery of sediment to salmon-bearing streams, according to a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Brown bears (Ursus arctos) and Chum (Salmon Oncorhynchus)
December 31, 2017

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) and Chum (Salmon Oncorhynchus)

Bear predation on salmon can be high in many Alaskan rivers.  Brown bears Ursus arctos and Chum Salmon Oncorhynchus keta are managed concurrently in McNeil River State Game Sanctuary by Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game to benefit the salmon, bears, commercial fishers, and provide unparalleled close-up bear viewing and photography opportunities for the public. 

Chinook Salmon
December 22, 2016

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon. Photograph courtesy of Michael Humling, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

Acoustic-tagged juvenile Chinook salmon being released.
September 29, 2016

Acoustic-tagged juvenile Chinook salmon being released

Acoustic-tagged juvenile Chinook salmon being released.

A Spawning Coho Salmon
December 31, 2015

A Spawning Coho Salmon

Coho salmon fins just above water surface. Female coho select breeding sties based on specific characteristics that offer protection and desired habitat for juveniles. Photo courtesy of Steven Clark, BLM

Coho salmon
November 30, 2014

Coho salmon

Coho salmon spawning on the Salmon River in northwestern Oregon. This photo was taken during a coho spawning survey conducted by the Bureau of Land Management in November 2014.

Image: 7,000 Atlantic Salmon Transported in Tank
September 1, 2011

7,000 Atlantic Salmon Transported in Tank

About 7,000 young Atlantic salmon are transported in a large tank from the USGS Tunison Laboratory in Cortland, N.Y., to Beaverdam Brook in Altmar for release.

Thousands of young Atlantic salmon are being released into Salmon River in an effort to restore this diminished Lake Ontario fish population, extending the sport fishing season by at least two months in

Image: Black Bear Surveys Sockeye Salmon
July 28, 2011

Black Bear Surveys Sockeye Salmon

A black bear surveys sockeye salmon as they migrate up river to reproduce in Auke Bay, Alaska in 2011. Salmon are an important food resource for bears in Alaska. Credit: Evan Barrientos

Attribution: Ecosystems
Animated image of a Sockeye Salmon swimming
November 30, 2000

Sockeye Salmon

Animated GIF of a Sockeye Salmon swimming in the water. This image comes from a video that depicts adult Sockeye Salmon in Drano Lake, WA on July 15th and 16th 2015.