Salmon Life Cycle
In most fisheries, acceptable harvest levels are determined by test fisheries conducted by fisheries managers. Alaska salmon harvest levels are established differently because of the salmon's life cycle. As they mature and return to the rivers of their birth, salmon are physically counted. Fisheries managers allow a certain number of fish to pass into the rivers to spawn before any fishing can begin. This escapement creates strong salmon stocks for the future
- In the spring, salmon eggs hatch and salmon fry begin their journey downstream.
- Coho, sockeye, and some chinook salmon stay in fresh water for 1-3 years. Chum, pink, and some chinook migrate directly to salt water.
- As smolts, the salmon adapt to salt water. They spend from 2 to 4 years maturing in the Pacific Ocean depending on the species. As they grow to adulthood, they travel thousands of miles.
- During the summer months, adult salmon instinctively return to the same river or stream where they were hatched.
- The female lays her eggs in the gravel of the streambed, and the male salmon fertilizes them. After spawning, all Alaska salmon die, providing nutrients to the newly hatched fry and the environment.