The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Salmo salar
Salmo salar
(Atlantic Salmon)
Native Transplant
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Salmo salar Linnaeus, 1758

Common name: Atlantic Salmon

Synonyms and Other Names: Lake salmon, freshwater salmon, sebago salmon, ouananiche (MacCrimmon and Gots 1979), Salmo brevipes Smitt, 1882; Salmo caerulescens Schmidt, 1795; Salmo gloverii Girard, 1854; Salmo goedenii Bloch, 1784; Salmo gracilis Couch, 1865; Salmo hamatus Cuvier, 1829; Salmo hardinii Günther, 1866; Salmo nobilis Olafsen, 1772; Salmo nobilis Pallas, 1814; Salmo ocla Nilsson, 1832; Salmo renatus Lacepède, 1803; Salmo rilla Lacepède, 1803; Salmo salar biennis Berg, 1912; Salmo salar brevipes Smitt, 1882; Salmo salar brevipes natio relictus Berg, 1932; Salmo salar europaeus Payne, Child & Forrest 1971; Salmo salar lacustris Hardin, 1862; Salmo salar nobilis Smitt, 1895; Salmo salar ouananiche McCarthy, 1894; Salmo salar saimensis Seppovaara, 1962; Salmo salar sebago Girard, 1853; Salmo salar tasmanicus Johnston, 1889; Salmo salmo Valenciennes, 1848; Salmo salmulus Walbaum, 1792; Salmo sebago Girard, 1853; Salmo strom Bonnaterre, 1788; Trutta relicta Malmgren, 1863; Trutta salar (Linnaeus, 1758); Trutta salar relicta (Malmgren, 1863)

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Small pointed head with body deepening rearward to the deepest point under the dorsal fin, then tapering to a slender caudal peduncle. Mouth is moderately large with 4-6 small but well-developed teeth and a narrow pointed tongue and extends to the area below the rear of the eye. Body shape, head length, and body depth vary with each stage of maturity. Caudal fin is slightly emarginated with 19 rays. Possess 3-4 dorsal spines, 9-15 dorsal soft rays, 3-4 anal spines, 7-11 anal soft rays, and 58-61 vertebrae. It can be distinguished from congeners in the Atlantic and Baltic Sea basins by the 10-13 scales present between the end of the adipose base and the lateral line, and by its possession of 17-24 gill rakers. Juvenile salmon smaller than 20 cm can be distinguished from juvenile sea trout by the former’s deeply forked caudal fin. Atlantic Salmon possesses fewer than 13 anal fin rays, as compared with Pacific salmon. Coloration varies greatly with the age of the fish. Non-reproducing adults are blue-green with a silver coating. In saltwater individuals, X-shaped black spots are present along the body above the lateral line. The caudal fin is usually not spotted and the adipose fin lacks a black border. During the reproductive period, Atlantic Salmon loses its silvery coating and develops a bronze and/or dark brown coloration with red-orange spots. This distinct coloration is especially exaggerated in reproducing males, which also develop a distinct “hook” on the tip of the lower jaw. Juveniles possess 8 to 12 blue-violet pigmented bars along each side of the body, alternating with a single row of red spots along the lateral line (Bigelow et al. 1963, Eddy and Underhill 1974, Scott and Crossman 1973).

Maximum length 120 cm (females) - 150 cm (males) (Robins and Ray 1986). Maximum recorded weight 46.8 kg (Daymond 1963). Average size 75 cm long and 4.5 kg after two years at sea (Fay et al. 2006). Modern Great Lakes individuals average 2.7-6.8 kg, with the record standing at 104 cm and 14.8 kg.

Size: 140 cm.

Native Range: North Atlantic Ocean basin, from the Arctic Circle to Portugal in the eastern Atlantic; Iceland and southern Greenland; the Ungava region of northern Quebec south to the Housatonic and Connecticut Rivers, Connecticut (possibly formerly to Delaware) and inland to Lake Ontario (where native population has been extirpated) (Page and Burr 1991, Scott and Crossman 1973). Nonanadromous lake or landlocked form (described by some authors as S. salar sebago) found in Grand, Green, Sebec, and Sebago lakes, Maine; also lakes Quebec, Newfoundland, Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia (MacCrimmon and Gots 1979; Behnke 2002).

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Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Salmo salar are found here.

StateYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Alaska1990200618Admiralty Island; Baranof Island; Burroughs Bay; Chilkat-Skagway Rivers; Eastern Bering Sea; Glacier Bay; Gulf of Alaska; Icy Strait-Chatham Strait; Ketchikan; Lower Copper River; Lower Kenai Peninsula; Lynn Canal; Pribilof Islands; Prince of Wales; Stikine River; Thomas Bay; Yakutat Bay-Gulf of Alaska; Yukon Delta
California187419508California Region; Clear Creek-Sacramento River; Lower Sacramento; Mad-Redwood; Russian; Smith; Trinity; Upper Coon-Upper Auburn
Colorado188518951Arkansas Headwaters
Connecticut187019141New England Region
District of Columbia190319031Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan
Idaho190619957Lower Boise; North Fork Payette; Pend Oreille Lake; South Fork Payette; Upper Snake; Upper Snake-Rock; Upper Spokane
Illinois187319862Lake Michigan; Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau
Indiana187319921Lake Michigan
Iowa187519872Little Sioux; Winnebago
Maine1870200813Fish; Lower Androscoggin; Lower Penobscot; Maine Coastal; Mattawamkeag; New England Region; Passamaquoddy Bay-Bay of Fundy; Piscataqua-Salmon Falls; Piscataquis; Presumpscot; St. Croix; St. Francis River-Saint John River; Upper Kennebec
Maryland187718943Mid Atlantic Region; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Youghiogheny
Massachusetts1869200510Blackstone; Cape Cod; Charles; Chicopee; Concord; Middle Connecticut; Narragansett; Nashua; New England Region; Quinebaug
Michigan1873200016Betsie-Platte; Clinton; Detroit; Great Lakes Region; Huron; Kalamazoo; Lake Erie; Lake Huron; Lake Michigan; Lake St. Clair; Lake Superior; Manistee; Muskegon; St. Joseph; St. Marys; Upper Grand
Minnesota187319927Beaver-Lester; Cannon; Lake Superior; Lower St. Croix; Twin Cities; Upper Mississippi; Upper Mississippi-Crow-Rum
Nebraska187518832Big Papillion-Mosquito; Middle Niobrara
Nevada194620011Lake Tahoe
New Hampshire186619794Black-Ottauquechee; New England; Pemigewasset; Winnipesaukee River
New Jersey187319785Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Great Egg Harbor; Hackensack-Passaic; Mid-Atlantic Region; Raritan
New York187319924Lake Erie; Upper Delaware; Upper Hudson; Upper Susquehanna
North Carolina18811881*
Ohio187318853Lake Erie; Lower Maumee; Sandusky
Oregon195120113Deschutes; Pacific Northwest Region; Upper Deschutes
Pennsylvania187119835Lake Erie; Lower Juniata; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Upper Delaware; Upper Delaware
South Carolina190219021South Atlantic-Gulf Region
Vermont187619751Lamoille River
Washington1980201711Dungeness-Elwha; Lake Washington; Lower Chehalis; Lower Skagit; Middle Columbia-Lake Wallula; Pacific Northwest Region; Puget Sound; Queets-Quinault; San Juan Islands; Strait of Georgia; Upper Columbia-Entiat
West Virginia189218921Potomac
Wisconsin187319923Beartrap-Nemadji; Lake Michigan; Lake Superior

Table last updated 3/29/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for states where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

Ecology: Salmo salar is an anadromous species, living in freshwater for the first 1 to 3 years of its life before migrating. The Atlantic Salmon prefers temperatures of 4°C to 12°C, with optimal spawning temperature ranging from 7.2°C to 10°C (Jordan and Beland 1981, Peterson et al. 1977). The lower lethal temperature limit of this species is -0.7°C, while the upper limit is 27.8°C (Bigelow 1963). Atlantic Salmon exhibits strong homing tendencies, leading to the formation and maintenance of stocks in undisturbed areas (Ricker 1972, Stabell 1984, Utter 2004). Spawning migration destinations vary between ocean-going and landlocked Atlantic Salmon strains. Of the ocean-going strain, approximately 86% of individuals go to sea after spending two years in freshwater, while approximately 10% complete the migration after 1 year (USASAC 2004). These ocean-going salmon then return to streams to spawn. Landlocked strains may be either outlet-spawning (migrating downstream to lake outlets to spawn) or inlet-spawning (migrating upstream into tributaries to spawn) and typically return to tributaries between May and November.

The streams to which salmon return to spawn are generally characterized by gradients of moderately low (0.2%), to moderately steep (1.4%) gradient (Fay et al. 2006). Upon entering freshwater, adult salmon stop feeding and darken in color (Fay et al. 2006). Females choose the nesting site, typically in a well-oxygenated, gravel-bottomed riffle above a pool (Peterson 1978). Water depth at the spawning site is typically 30 to 61 cm with an average water velocity of 60 cm per second (Beland 1984). The female then forms a nest in the substrate (known as a “redd”) by strongly flapping her caudal fin above the sediment. On average, redds are 2.4 meters long and 1.4 meters wide (Jordan and Beland 1981). Female Atlantic Salmon produce 1,500 to 1,800 eggs per kilogram of body weight, and, once fertilized, these eggs remain buried in about 12 to 20 centimeters of sediment until hatching (Baum and Meister 1971). This spawning process is repeated over the course of one week or more until the spawners are exhausted. While some individuals die after one spawning cycle, the majority survive to spawn at least one more year; very few salmon survive to spawn for three or more years. Lake-run adults may rest in the river for a while after spawning, with some males not returning to the lake until spring.

Peak spawning occurs in late October through November, eggs hatch in late March or April following deposition, and the fry remain buried in the substrate until usually mid May (Fay et al. 2006, Gustafson-Greenwood and Moring 1991). Over 95% of fry emerge from the substrate at night (Gustafson-Marjanen and Dowse 1983). During this early life stage, the fry’s preferred habitat consists of relatively large and cool rivers with extensive gravel substrate. Young salmon in streams feed on mainly the larvae of aquatic insects, including blackflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, and midges. In late summer, salmon begin to incorporate terrestrial insects into their diet. When these young individuals reach a length of 12.5 to 15 cm (2-3 years), they are ready to migrate out to sea (Schaffer and Elson 1975) or to their parental lake. During migration, smolts must contend with changes in salinity, water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, pollution levels, and predator assemblages (Fay et al. 2006). Small individuals at sea, known as postsmolts, feed mainly on euphausiids, amphipods, and small fish (Fraser 1987, Hislop and Shelton 1993, Hislop and Youngson 1984, Jutila and Toivonen 1985). As individuals grow, their diet shifts to include a greater proportion of fishes, including smelt, capelin, herring and alewife, small mackerel, and small cod (Bigelow 1963, Fay et al. 2006, Scott and Crossman 1973).

Lake-run Atlantic Salmon may be found close to shore in the spring, where the water is warmer and food more abundant, but move offshore to feed on Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax) and Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) once water temperatures climb above 12°C. They may spend 1-2 years in the lake before returning to spawn.

Means of Introduction: Attempts were made to restore declining salmon populations in the species' native range. Soon this led to introductions outside its range for sportfishing. In Connecticut, only anadromous salmon were historically recorded. In the late 1800s, both anadromous and landlocked salmon were stocked in the state (Whitworth 1996), and in Massachusetts (Cardoza et al. 1993). Landlocked salmon were first stocked in the Great Lakes in 1874 (Parsons 1973). A total of 743,000 anadromous Atlantic Salmon was stocked in the Great Lakes between 1873 and 1947 (Parsons 1973). The Atlantic Salmon's popularity has led to unauthorized stocking in some areas, such as the Mississippi River in Illinois, where a specimen was collected in 1978 (Burr 1991). In Alaska and Washington, introduction resulted from escape of cultured fish from aquaculture in British Columbia and Washington. Although most of the releases are a result of small "leakage", occasionally large releases occur. More than 50,000 fish were released in British Columbia in March of 1997 when someone cut the fish pens open (Vovscko 1997). In 1996, 100,000 fish escaped from pens in Cypress Island, Washington (D. Seiler, personal communication). In July 1997, approximately 300,000 fish escaped while pens were being moved in Puget Sound (Associated Press 1997). Atlantic Salmon have been cultured in Puget Sound since 1985 (Dodge 1997). Culture of Atlantic Salmon is illegal in Alaska (Heard, personal communication). Courtenay (1993) reports that culture pens on the west coast have been ripped apart by pinnipeds, freeing the fish.

Great Lakes
For over 100 years, unsuccessful attempts have been made to establish this species within the Great Lakes. Thus far, three different strains of this species have been introduced to the Great Lakes, including an ocean-going population from rivers in the province of Quebec, a landlocked strain from Maine, and a strain from Sweden known as “Gullspang” salmon, which has been landlocked for thousands of years (Behmer et al. 1993, Emery 1985, Keller et al. 1989).
As native Atlantic Salmon populations were first beginning to decline in Lake Ontario between 1867 and 1883, hatcheries stocked juveniles in numerous Lake Ontario tributaries. These attempts failed to reestablish self-sustaining populations (Fox 1930, MacKay 1969, Smith 1890). In 1873, failed attempts of introduction by both the American and Canadian governments occurred in multiple locations of Lakes Erie, Michigan, Huron, and Superior (Crawford 2001, Emery 1985, Keller et al. 1989). An unsuccessful stocking of Atlantic Salmon occurred in Lake Ontario in 1867 in an attempt to restore native populations (Schultz 1983).

A landlocked Atlantic Salmon strain was first stocked in Lake Michigan in 1874 (Schultz 1983). In 1876, a failed attempt of introduction occurred in Lake Erie (Parsons 1973), and in 1884 stocking attempts were made in multiple unspecified locations of the Great Lakes (MacCrimmon and Gots 1979). Further stockings were made in 1910 and 1913 into various Lake Superior and Georgian Bay tributaries (MacCrimmon 1977). Atlantic Salmon was once again introduced to the Great Lakes between 1935 and 1939, and the only self-sustaining population to result from these introductions was in Trout Lake, Ontario, which drains into Lake Huron (MacKay 1969, OMNR 1995). A total of 743,000 anadromous Atlantic Salmon were stocked in the Lakes between 1873 and 1947 (Parsons 1973).

In 1953, New York State again released Atlantic Salmon into lakes and headwater tributaries of Lake Ontario (Parsons 1973). These introductions were able to support a small recreational fishery but the fish were not self-reproducing (Emery 1985). By 1958, all introduced Atlantic Salmon in the Great Lakes were either extremely rare or extinct (Hubbs and Lagler 1958). For the first time in recent years, the Atlantic Salmon was again introduced to the Great Lakes in 1972 through the release of 20,000 young individuals in the Boyne and AuSable Rivers (Michigan DNR). Between 1972 and 1978, 2.7 million Atlantic Salmon have been reintroduced into Lake Ontario and approximately another 1.5 million have been introduced into the upper Great Lakes (Crawford 2001). In 1979, unsuccessful introductions occurred in Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior (Emery 1985, MacCrimmon and Gots 1979). Collections were reported from Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior in 1986, and by 1992, stocked populations were considered to be established in Lake Michigan along the northwestern Indiana coast (Simon et al. 1992).

Between 1983 and 1998, both the United States and Canada continued to stock this species in Lake Ontario, with a combined maximum introduction in 1996 of about 450,000 individuals (Crawford 2001). As of 1998, stocking of this species had ceased in all of the Great Lakes except Lake Ontario and very small numbers (<80,000/year) in Lake Huron (Crawford 2001). In 1999, this species was reported in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Leelanau County, Michigan, as well as within the waters of Isle Royal National Park in Lake Superior, Michigan. In 2000, failed stocking attempts were made in Lake Saint Clair, Michigan and in Lake Ontario, New York (Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman 2000).

Status: Most attempts to establish populations have failed. Atlantic Salmon are common and widely dispersed in Alaska, although there is no evidence of reproduction. All captures have been from marine waters. The salmon are found west to the Kodiak peninsula (B. Heard, personal communication). Atlantic Salmon have been reported in the commercial fisheries of Washington since 1988 and in Alaska since 1990 (A. J. Thomson, personal communication). Although many hundreds of thousands of Atlantic Salmon have escaped from west coast aquaculture facilities there had been no evidence of reproduction (D. Seiler, personal communication). However, in 1998, evidence of reproduction was found in British Columbia (Howard 1998). A researcher in British Columbia found that after 3 weeks 14 percent of escaped farm raised Atlantic Salmon had fed. Atlantic Salmon were collected outside a fish farm feeding on the pellets that drifted through mesh. These fish were ripe with eggs and sperm ready to spawn (Morton 2004). Many escaped Atlantic Salmon do feed well, grow, and migrate throughout the Gulf of Alaska. Some are caught in troll fisheries in Alaska attempting to feed on herring or articial squid (J. Seeb, pers. comm.).

Great Lakes
This species was native to Lake Ontario and its tributaries up until 1896, but has been extirpated completely (Crawford 2001, Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman 2000). Any individuals currently present in Lake Ontario are the result of reintroductions (Crawford 2001). The Atlantic Salmon has been introduced into and reported in all five of the Great Lakes (Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman 2000). In 2006, the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon restoration program was launched by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) in an attempt to establish reproducing Atlantic Salmon populations in Lake Ontario. In the first five years of the program, more than 2.5 million Atlantic Salmon had been stocked into three tributaries of Lake Ontario (Credit River, Duffins Creek, and Cobourg Brook), and within four years, wild-born Atlantic Salmon were collected in one of the those tributaries for the first time in over a century (OFAH 2011). In 2009, 41 wild Atlantic Salmon were collected from Salmon River in New York, also for the first time in more than a century (Figura 2009). It is estimated that these restocking programs will take an additional 10-15 years for populations to become completely self-sustaining (OFAH 2011). Lake Superior State University continues to stock Atlantic Salmon in the Saint Mary’s River, which travel to Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Trout Lake, near North Bay, ON in the Lake Huron drainage currently has a small, naturally reproducing population that is the result of stocking (OFAH 2011).

Impact of Introduction: Volpe et al. (2001) examined competiton between Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead Trout. There were a number of complexities in the way the interacted. However, the final conclusion was that Altanic Salmon are capable of colonizing vacant or underutilized habitat and of successfully defending that against subsequent challenges from Steelheads.

Dietrich, et. al (2008) found a decrease in Rainbow Trout with an increase in Atlantic Salmon in a Lake Ontario tributary.

Infected Atlantic Salmon stocked into Puget Sound were apparently responsible for introducing a new disease to the west coast, viral hemorraghic septicemia (VHS). This disease has since been found in two Puget Sound salmon hatcheries (Dentler 1993). Salmon farming operations (primarily for Atlantic salmon) have been shown to increase the prevalance of sea lice infections in wild juvenile Pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and Chum (O. keta) Salmon (Price et al. 2010; but see supporting and detracting arguments in Jones and Beamish 2012, Price and Reynolds 2012). Atlantic salmon are also highly susceptible to infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV); infection of Atlantic Salmon in marine hatchery pens could provide a source of IHNV to infect migratory Pacific salmonids (Neumeyer 2012).

There are no reported cases of hybridization between the Atlantic and Pacific salmonid species in the wild in North America, South America, New Zealand, or Europe (Waknitz et al. 2002).

Much of the impact literature deals with the effects of escaped farmed salmon on their wild conspecific counterparts (e.g., Thorstad et al. 2008).

Remarks: Atlantic salmon have been stocked in native areas in Connecticut and Massachusetts to restore extirpated populations there (Cardoza et al. 1993; Whitworth 1996). States where "inland" locations are given, "inland" is assumed because the landlocked form was stocked. Even if the state is in the native range, the species was not native to inland areas in these states (Webster 1941; Cardoza et al. 1993). Stockings to restore and enhance fisheries in historically native areas were common in the late 1860s to early 1870s, with plantings of salmon eggs and fry from Miramichi River, New Brunswick and Lake Ontario into a variety of waterbodies in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont (MacCrimmon and Gots 1979).

Fisher et al. (2014) used snorkel surveys and occupancy models to examine occurrence and residency of Atlantic Salmon in streams on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. They observed Atlantic Salmon in ~36% of surveyed streams (including 97% of streams with high Pacific salmonid diversity) but with a detection rate of ~66% in occupied streams, suggesting a larger abundance, spatial extent, and residency time than indicated by strict observational data and the potential for increased competition with native salmonids.

References: (click for full references)

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Associated Press. 2003. Fisherman nets an Atlantic salmon. Anchorage Daily News. October 7, 2003.

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FishBase Summary

Author: Fuller, P., M. Neilson, K. Dettloff, A. Fusaro, and R. Sturtevant

Revision Date: 1/26/2016

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., M. Neilson, K. Dettloff, A. Fusaro, and R. Sturtevant, 2018, Salmo salar Linnaeus, 1758: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=926, Revision Date: 1/26/2016, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 4/19/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [4/19/2018].

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