Fly Fishing Ireland



Lifecycle of the Salmon

Wild Atlantic salmon vary in appearance during their lifetime. Until the early 19th century the life cycle was not understood and documented, and Parr and Smolt were assumed to be different species of fish.

EGGS - Pea-sized orange eggs are deposited in riverbed gravel in autumn, and hatch the following early spring. As the eggs develop, the eyes of the developing wild salmon can be seen through the semi-transparent membrane.

ALEVIN - The partly transparent alevin hatch and remain hidden in the riverbed gravels, feeding from the attached yolk sac. They are about 2 cm or less than 1 inch in length.

FRY - Wriggling up from the gravels, fry begin feeding on microscopic life in the stream. They eventually reach a length of 5 to 8 cm./2 to 3in. before transforming into parr.

PARR - The vertical markings, called 'parr marks' appear, with a single red dot between. Parr remain in the river for 2 to 6 years, depending on water temperatures and food availability.

SMOLT - At a length of 12 to 24 cm/4.7 to 9.5 in. a springtime transformation of the parr takes place into smolt. A silvery sheen replaces the parr marks, and internally they undergo a complex transformation to survive in saltwater. On the downstream journey the odors of the smolt's native river are imprinted on its memory, to be recalled when it returns to spawn.

Salmon terms you might not have known or understood!

Salmon – A fish which has been to sea for more than one winter!

Kelt – a fish which has spawned and is starting its return to the sea. Generally caught at the beginning of the season it is likely to be lean, have gill maggots, a distended vent and have some damage to the bottom of the tail (from cutting redds). A well mended kelt is likely to look like a lean fresh fish.

Grilse – a fish which has been at sea for one winter (single sea winter), early season it will be smaller than a salmon at around 2 -3lb in May but by October it could be 12 – 15lb in weight. Scales readings are the only true way to tell.

Baggot – a female fish which hasn’t spawned and has remained in the river. It will have a soft belly and be a slightly off-silver colour. Baggots are usually caught in the spring.

Rawner – a male salmon which hasn’t spawned and has remained in the river. Rawners are usually caught in the spring.

Springer – a salmon that has entered the river early in the year to spawn in the autumn. These are very beautiful and highly prized fish.

Stale fish – a fish which has been in the river for some time and has lost its silver colour. It will get darker in colour the longer it remains in the river and the closer it gets to spawning.

Anadromous – the word used to describe any species of fish which lives at sea but enters fresh water to reproduce.


Salmon Fishing

Salmon Overview
Lifecycle of the Salmon
The Salmon of Knowledge
Catch & Release an Anglers Guide

7th July 2008 Bill Canning from Kilkenny was spinning with a "Blue Fox" spinner on the River Bandon club waters when he hooked this magnificent salmon. It weighed an impressive 28 lbs. 3 oz.

© Copyright 2016