Atlantic salmon can be referred to as Rawners, Baggots, Kelts, Springers, and Grilse. Hopefully, this article will help you understand the various terms used to describe their remarkable life cycle.
This article will help you identify these various stages and life cycle of the salmon
The salmon is born in the river and spends the fist few year of its life as a salmon parr. Basically, salmon parr behave, and feed like trout and feed on fly life, shrimp, larvae and other insects. As they gain weight in the second year and approach early spring, a chemical change occurs in their scales, and they start to turn silver.
This change from a brown lustre to bright silver, is in anticipation of migration to the ocean. From this point forward, the young salmon will feed and gain weight in the ocean. Afterwards, and depending on the term spent at sea, the salmon will return to the river to spawn, as a Grilse or a mature salmon.
How to indentify a Grilse – Atlantic Salmon
Firstly, Grilse are salmon that has spent one winter at sea feeding and return to the freshwater river to spawn. They usually enter the rivers in early summer, between July and Mid August. However, this can vary from region to region and also river to river.
Girls arrive in the summer and late summer. Good number of these salmon enter the river systems and can make for some great sport. Remarkably, they fight very hard, often we have hooked and landed smaller fish, between 6-8lb, which seemed much bigger.
Typically these Grilse can range in weight from 2lb to 7lb, depending on the quality of their ocean diet.
Springer – Spring Salmon
Firstly “Springers” are the ultimate prize for any salmon angler. Secondly, these fish are strong, well conditioned and bright silver. “Springers” are strong and well conditioned, after sea feeding. Finally, their strength is needed for spawning and the arduous challenges ahead.
Generally Springers will enter the Scottish rivers from January to May. Understandably, catching a Springer in Scotland, is on every serious salmon anglers bucket list.
Springers are salmon that have spent 2 or 3 winters at sea, before returning to the river to spawn. Commonly these are know as Multi-Sea-Wintered Fish.
Autumn salmon can look completely different in many ways to a fresh silver salmon. Some of these Autumn fish have been in freshwater for months, and therefore take on the colour of their environment. In addition a chemical change occurs within the pigmentation of the salmon’s scales, prior to spawning.
Firstly male salmon, develop a Kype, as you will see in the image above. Secondly this is a sex like characteristic, causing a curvature of the lower jaw in cock fish. Secondly, the salmon in the photo above, has also developed spawning colouration. Also, in Scotland, we call these salmon, “Tartan Fish” and this fish is almost in full breeding dress.
How to identify a Kelt – Atlantic Salmon
A kelt is term given to a salmon after it has spawned. Usually they display a distended vent. In addition they are much thinner than a fresh fish, having used their reserve in the process of spawning.
Atlantic Salmon Kelts, usually have gill maggots. Of course, these fish must be returned to the river safely and quickly, so they can return to the ocean, to regenerate, repair and gain weight.
Finally, a returned 2 sea winter kelt can return to the river again in the future as a real trophy salmon.
What is a Baggot?
A Baggot is a female Atlantic salmon who has failed to spawn. Sometimes, a salmon who has also started but not finished the spawning process. Typically, they can be identified by a soft under carriage, a darker head and enlarged anal fin.
What is a Rawner?
A Rawner is a male Atlantic Salmon that has failed to spawn.
Atlantic Salmon Parr
The Salmon Parr lives, feeds and grows in freshwater rivers for a couple of years. Naturally, its prime concern is in escaping predation, from Trout, Goosanders, Cormorants, Herons, and Kingfishers. Hence the camouflage marking it adopts.
Lastly, salmon parr do look similar to trout parr, and the two often get misidentified. Uniquely, the Parr, has a longer shape to its body, no orange on its adipose fin, a sharper snout, smaller mouth and a more pronounced fork in the tail. Thanks to Lizzie Harper for the two beautiful illustrations below.
Smolt – Young Salmon
To begin with, after a few years feeding in the river, the your parr goes through something akin to puberty and a physical metamorphosis. Secondly, this change is preparing it for the migration to sea. Also, this smolt migration happens in early spring and with good river levels, the smolts can get safely to the ocean and escape the mouths of hungry predators.
There’s a remarkable chemical change which occurs. Guanine crystals form a layer in the skin, and the scales change to a silver colour. Brown trout fisherman know only too well, that there are some very big predatory trout caught during the smolt migration.